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The global phenomenon of work flexibility has grown in leaps and bounds. From communications to healthcare to tech, industries are offering more and more job positions for remote workers.

Whether this growing trend reflects companies’ desires to reduce expenses or to accommodate employees, the benefits are out there for both parties to reap.

For companies, the benefits come in the form of reduced rental costs, while employees enjoy flexible working hours and shorter commutes (or none at all). Put it all together, and you have more productive individuals working in more dynamic organizations.

We must appreciate the new technologies that have made all this remote work possible. Cheap broadband internet, instant messaging, video conferencing, group chats, and streamlined project management tools have been at the forefront of the remote work revolution.

But what does the future hold for remote work? In this article, we are going to explore the current market trends and how they will likely shape the future of remote work.

Who is a Remote Worker?

A remote worker operates from home, coffee shops or co-working spaces—as opposed to a traditional office. Depending on the nature of their job, a remote worker may be required to occasionally visit the office.

Some companies maintain an absolute remote workforce, while others employ a mix of office workers and remote workers. For instance, a company looking to build a large mobile e-commerce platform may hire a “hybrid workforce,” which helps to reduce downtime and maintain efficiency even during peak seasons.

Remote Work Today

According to a 2018 report by OWLLabs, it is estimated that 52% of the global workforce works remotely at least one day per week. Of those, 18% work remotely full-time. What’s more, the global remote workforce is expected to match if not surpass the contemporary working arrangement by 2025.

Not surprisingly, the country with the highest number of remote workers is the United States. Since 2005, numbers of remote workers in the country have increased by 44% to reach 7.9 million as of 2019.

India shows similar growth, with almost 50% of its workforce telecommuting. Other regions like Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America are also starting to see an upsurge in the number of remote workers, with some even expected to surpass the U.S. in the next few years.

Despite this global shift in favor of telecommuting, some big companies like IBM, Yahoo, and BOA have been quick to backtrack, recently recalling all their employees working remotely. Research shows that another 44% of global companies would never consider allowing their employees to work remotely.

It remains to be seen whether their skepticism will influence other employers. However, it is certain that the number of remote workers will continue to grow.

So, what does 2020 have in store for us?

Here are 4 changes to expect in the remote work ecosystem by 2020:

1. Embracing Remote Work Arrangements

Some of the key technology trends that continue to enable the rise of remote work likely originated in the tech industry, where employees only needed internet connectivity and a competent device to work from home. However, these trends are poised to expand into other industries as we move into 2020.

A report by Gallop shows that even some of the most conservative industries like Health and Finance are slowly opening up positions for remote workers.

It is also important to note that some positions demanding highly desirable skills will only be filled through remote workers. For instance, in the UK alone, more than 10,000 software development and mobile app development companies were incorporated in 2018. Meanwhile, an estimated 338,000 software developers were working in the country in the same period. With numbers of tech startups continuing to rise, employers will have no choice but to rely on offshore software development.

2. Demand for Specialized Skills

For both office and remote positions, the current job market dictates that a candidate have basic technological fluency. However, in our ever-evolving professional landscape, future remote employees will be required to possess advanced digital proficiency—especially if they are looking for remote tech jobs.

Key among the areas expected to see a steep demand curve are digital marketing, web development, and software development. As such, remote workers will need to possess high proficiency in complex communication tools, project management tools and more in order to keep projects running smoothly.

While this may seem like a lot to ask, specialized remote roles will also open up new opportunities for professionals. For instance, a remote developer will be able to leverage their specialized skills to demand a higher salary and other benefits. Moreover, as organizations continue their hunt for specialists, ongoing training and continuing education will become more popular methods of retaining specialized workers.

3. Artificial Intelligence (AI) Management

AI continues to disrupt communication and established norms of work. In the future, however, we expect AI-driven platforms to be deployed to manage and monitor remote workers.

Given the nature of remote work, efficiently managing a remote team can be a challenge. Be it the lack of instantaneous feedback or a sense of displacement, something is always working against your business goals.

However, productivity increases when companies can stay connected to their remote workers via game-changing solutions like Glint or Teleopti.

4. Enhanced Cybersecurity

Over the years, we’ve seen a rise in cases of cyber attacks and data breaches. And while established corporations have almost foolproof security policies governing their remote workers, smaller organizations take relatively few precautions. According to a 2018 survey by Help Net Security, 38% of remote workers working for SMEs had none of the technological support required to safely operate remotely. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that 72% of data breaches typically occur at companies that employ less than 100 employees.

In 2020, SMEs will be looking to seal the loopholes in their IT security by developing unified security policies for both in-house and remote employees. Additionally, more companies will be looking to restrict access to sensitive data as long when remote employees are using public WiFi networks.

The Future of Productivity

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Speculation ensues as to whether these changes in the remote work landscape will reshape or affect productivity in the future. The truth of the matter is that all of these changes will improve productivity. However, it all hinges on how and where an organization implements the new technologies available.

When workers operate remotely, they have the opportunity to control their workspace and eliminate distractions, which leaves them more time to work in their zone. Moreover, they have more energy to work as they won’t be exhausted from commuting on a daily basis. According to recent research conducted by Jell, 13% of workers felt more productive when working remotely.

Lastly, technology gives employees the freedom to come together and discuss any fresh ideas they have, find solutions to complex problem, and even collaborate on new, creative endeavors.

How to Prepare for the Remote Work Ecosystem

In a working environment where everyone is demanding more flexibility, employers who ignore the potential of a remote or a hybrid workforce do their companies a disservice. Insisting that every single employee be physically present in the office could lead to a loss of talented individuals.

Remote work has contributed quite a few contemporary job positions. However, it is always a wise policy to retain current, engaged workers whenever possible. As remote work continues to grow in popularity, companies looking to outsource remote tech positions or hire remote developers will discover plenty of options. Of course, greater freedom comes with greater risk.

Anastasia Stefanuk is a passionate writer and a marketing manager at Mobilunity. The company provides professional staffing services,…