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The Future of Remote Work: Trends and Predictions for 2025


7 min read

April 5, 2024

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, some estimates show that only 5% of total work hours in the U.S. were remote before the pandemic, and a whopping 50% of work hours were remote between April and December of 2020. From 2019 to 2021 shutdowns related to the global pandemic pushed businesses to transform their operations and structure. This more than tripled the remote workforce.

Key Takeaways

The shift to remote and hybrid workplaces was largely driven by the pandemic. Now that the world is mostly back to business as usual, the question of whether businesses will return to the "normal" from before the pandemic or continue the "new normal" established during the pandemic has been on everyone's mind. Will businesses abandon the remote workplace and return to the office or not?

According to a 2023 survey from Buffer, 71% of companies have chosen to permanently allow some form of remote work, and only 8% are not allowing any remote work. 

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How Effective Is Remote Work?

Remote work can offer several benefits to businesses and workers alike. For example, remote work offers greater flexibility, access to a larger talent pool, and reduced costs. However, the potential drawbacks of remote work are concerning for many business leaders who worry that remote work could affect workplace culture, communication, efficiency, and productivity. 

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Is Remote Work Better for Employees?

To answer this question, Buffer goes straight to the source, each year, in their State of Remote Work Report which delivers a survey to thousands of remote workers to find out how remote work has impacted their lives, careers, and well-being. 

The 2023 State of Remote Work report reveals the experiences of 3,000 remote workers located around the world to determine what it's like to be a remote worker while identifying the benefits and challenges presented by the remote work life. Notable findings from the most recent report include:

  • Remote work is viewed positively by remote workers with an astounding 98% wishing to work remotely (at least part of the time) for the rest of their working lives. Plus, 98% of respondents recommend remote work to others. 
  • 91% have had positive remote work experiences, only 1% have had negative remote work experiences, and 8% felt neutral about remote work. 
  • Flexibility, in general, is the greatest benefit of remote work (22% in how time is spent, 19% in where they live, and 13% in choosing a work location).
  • Other notable benefits include having more time as a result of not having a commute (12%), better financially (11%), increased focus on work (8%), ability to work in one's own space (7%), flexibility in career options (4%), and feeling safer (3%).

Despite these benefits, 71% of remote workers emphasize the importance of setting boundaries around work. However, remote workers are only moderately successful at keeping these boundaries. For example:

  • 81% report checking their emails outside of their work hours (including weekends and vacations).
  • 48% frequently work outside of their set work hours. 

Most of the drawbacks of remote work for employees are not as strongly pronounced as the benefits:

  • 1/3 of remote workers report spending too much time at home because they don't need to leave for any particular reason.
  • 23% report feeling lonely, which is understandable given that isolation can occur when one is not forced to leave the home and interact in person with coworkers at an office.
  • 14% find working across time zones challenging.
  • 11% struggle to unplug from the workday.
  • 11% struggle to maintain motivation.
  • 9% have difficulty maintaining focus.
  • 8% encounter challenges with communication and collaboration.

Despite the feelings of isolation reported by some, 75% of remote workers feel connected to their colleagues - even when they work across time zones.

The impacts of remote work on career growth are looking up, too, as 36% say that career growth is more easily achieved while working remotely (compared to 22% in 2022's survey). Plus, in 2023, only 28% said that career growth was more difficult compared to 45% in 2022. 

According to the survey, 1/3 of the participants were looking for new jobs. Of those, 76% are prioritizing remote work opportunities over others. 

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Are Remote Workplaces Less Expensive?

The answer to this question is different for every business. It depends largely on the size your office would need to be if you required all of your employees to work in the office. It also depends on the cost of office space in your area and desired business location. 

Typically, remote work saves businesses on rent and utilities. Remote work can also save on relocation costs for employees, if your business covers these costs for employees that must relocate to work for your business.

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Whether or not remote work saves your business money overall can also depend on how many costs related to remote work your workplace covers for remote workers (i.e. computer hardware, office supplies, office equipment and furniture, coworking memberships, or home internet connections). Another factor in the cost of working remotely compared to working in the office is the technology and communication tools that remote work requires you to acquire. 

According to the Buffer survey:

  • Respondents' companies cover the cost of computer hardware items (64%), office equipment and furniture (40%), home internet (28%), and coworking memberships (22%). 

Each of these factors must be considered carefully when weighing the financial pros and cons of offering remote work opportunities to your employees. 

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Does Remote Work Increase Productivity?

Some businesses experience increased productivity as a result of remote work, and others experience a decrease in productivity. Unfortunately, statistics regarding the effect of remote work on productivity do not provide a clear answer to this question, with some disparate studies showing spreads of more than 30 percentage points in results. 

Despite these disparities, according to Buffer's survey cited above, 48% of remote workers report feeling more energized than they did last year, and 58% feel engaged with their work. Engagement and the prevention of burnout are key to achieving and maintaining high productivity. 

What the disparate statistics on productivity reveal is that it is possible to increase productivity with remote work - as long as you implement a remote workplace in the right way. 

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How to Maximize the Benefits of Remote Work in Your Business

To maximize the advantages of remote work so that your employees and your bottom line reap the benefits, you must implement the remote working model in a way that actually works for your business. Consider the following tips:

  • Survey your organization; above all- it’s important to make sure any major decisions have your employee’s best interest in mind. 
  • Define clear communication channels such as messaging tools, email, and project management software. 
  • Delineate between synchronous and asynchronous work (i.e. jobs that are performed alone or require collaboration) for better facilitation of meetings and collaboration. 
  • Communicate clear expectations, goals, and objectives using the SMART goal system. 
  • Define performance expectations such as deadlines, quality standards, and productivity targets. 
  • Outline and provide a set of workplace policies and procedures regarding equipment, communication, etiquette, cybersecurity, and data protection. 
  • Offer ample support and resources for employees so that they have the tools and technology they need to do their jobs. 
  • Limit meetings and the times when meetings can be scheduled to ensure remote workers have ample time to do their work. 
  • Foster team-building, connection, and strong workplace culture with opportunities for in-person socialization, video meetings, 1:1 meetings, networking, company retreats, and more. Promoting micro-breaks is a great way to achieve this!
  • Focus on flexibility (the biggest benefit of remote work) by providing flexible working hours or even considering a move to a four-day work week. 

In addition to focusing on your remote workplace strategy, you should implement the systems and tools to measure your company's ongoing performance and employee-related metrics. With these systems in place, you can measure and track the success of different strategies to understand how remote work is affecting your business and how you can ensure it has a positive impact on both your company and your employees. 

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