Working from home isn’t anything new, but it’s reaching new heights. Remote work surged amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and now that so many companies have supported it, it looks like it’s here to stay. However, that doesn’t mean it’ll always look like it does now.
Remote work, like on-premise workspaces, is evolving. With that in mind, here are eight interesting trends shaping remote work in 2022.
1. Remote Work Becoming a Permanent Fixture
First and least surprisingly, more companies will solidify remote and hybrid work as a permanent fixture in 2022. While the share of fully remote workers has dropped from 41.7% to 26.7% between 2020 and 2021, hybrid work is thriving. Roughly two-thirds of the U.S. workforce works from home at least part-time, and businesses expect to maintain this trend.
More than 80% of workers expect their employers to continue supporting remote work. Similarly, 85% of managers believe it will become the norm. With both employers and employees taking these assumptions, it’s a safe bet that flexible workspaces will become the norm long-term.
If nothing else, growing pressure from the workforce will lead more businesses to embrace flexible workspaces. More than half of workers say they’re more likely to choose an employer that enables remote work, and 74% say remote work makes them less likely to leave a company.
2. Freelance Specialists Rise With Remote Work
As remote work becomes more common, the U.S. workforce will see a growing shift towards freelance specialists. The increasing availability of remote work platforms and freelance websites makes it easier for skilled workers to find contracting opportunities. Companies benefit from these arrangements, too, as generalists are typically better-suited to onsite work while hiring specialists on a contract basis is more cost-effective.
In 2020, freelancers accounted for 36% of the workforce, up 8% from 2019. Their economic impact grew even more, with freelancers contributing $1.2 trillion to the U.S. economy, 22% more than in 2019. As these trends continue, expect to see more companies relying on remote contractors for specialized work.
3. Cybersecurity Taking Center Stage
Another remote work trend emerging in 2022 is a growing emphasis on cybersecurity. Cybersecurity as a whole is becoming a bigger concern for businesses, with data breach costs averaging $4.24 million in 2021, more than any other year. Remote security is even more pressing, as remote work-related breaches cost $1.07 million more on average.
Cybersecurity vendors will market remote work solutions more heavily in 2022 to meet this issue. Similarly, businesses will likely spend more on things like endpoint security solutions and zero-trust cloud architecture. Of course, not every company will, which could result in massive, costly breaches for some remote companies this year.
4. Increasing Home Office Investment
Since remote work saves people money on gas and eating out, employees will have more to spend on their home offices. As more companies embrace hybrid work, these people will also spend more time at home. These trends will come together to push more workers to invest more in their home office spaces.
Home offices will become a staple, replacing an empty garage or guest rooms. Office supply retailers will start marketing to this demographic more heavily, and the trend may seep into the real estate market, too. Realtors may start promoting rooms in homes that could easily serve as a home office as houses become the new workspace.
5. Businesses Focusing on Worker Wellbeing
As remote work has become more common, it’s raised awareness about employees’ mental health. Issues like loneliness seem to be more common, or at least more prominent, among remote workers, and one in five Americans experience a mental health issue each year. As home offices replace on-premise workspaces, mental wellbeing will become the leading workplace health concern.
In 2022, businesses will do more to address these issues. That could look like providing counseling or other mental health resources, improving remote communication or hosting more employee events to help build camaraderie. Workers may also start looking for mental health support benefits when job searching.
6. Remote Work Expanding Globally
In the past two years, remote work has expanded businesses’ workforce across the nation. In 2022, it will go further, crossing national borders and growing international workforces. Companies are realizing that remote work technologies let them access leading talent from across the globe, so more will capitalize on that opportunity.
This trend will be especially prevalent in the tech industry. Tech companies are the top H-1B visa sponsors, relying heavily on foreign talent, but visa programs and travel restrictions can be complicated. Remote work removes these obstacles, making it easier to hire experts in other countries.
As remote work tools improve and become more common, more companies will be able to access top talent, regardless of where these employees live. Workforces as a whole will become more international and diverse.
7. More Industries Enabling Remote Work
Office jobs make up most remote work positions today, as these involve more work that’s possible to do remotely. More hands-on sectors like manufacturing haven’t been able to embrace hybrid work like other industries, but that’s changing. In 2022, technological advancement will bring remote work to more sectors.
Tech like virtual reality (VR) and remote-controlled robotics let people perform physical, hands-on tasks from miles away. As these technologies improve and become more accessible, even industries like manufacturing will be able to capitalize on remote work. This shift may take time, but it’ll grow in 2022.
8. Fairness Questions Becoming More Prominent
As all industries rely more on remote work, questions about fairness in these flexible arrangements will grow. Differences in who gets to work from home and who has to come into the office will become more evident, possibly revealing inequality. Businesses will have to address how their flexible work policies affect workplace equity.
Research reveals that 40% of female workers can’t work remotely because of what their company allows, compared to just 25% of men. This divide will become more prominent as hybrid work becomes the norm, hopefully leading to reform. Companies must ensure that as they expand remote work, they do so fairly.
Remote and Hybrid Work Are Expanding
Not long ago, working from home was a rare luxury. Today, people are coming to expect it in some jobs and industries. Remote and hybrid work are taking over, and as they grow, these flexible working arrangements will shift.
These eight trends are just a sampling of the ways remote work could change in 2022. As more companies embrace and expand their remote workforce, entire industries could evolve.