One thing that's exciting about our rapidly changing world of work is that technology is lifting the geographical restraints that have limited job seekers for so long.
Between 2005 to 2017, there was a 159% increase in remote work around the United States. In 2015, 3.9 million US workers were working remotely, while today that stands at 4.7 million, and that number is only expected to rise. 23% of the US workforce works remotely at least part of the time, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Remote work is certainly more prevalent in certain industries, including marketing and tech positions, but this Flexjobs.com list of “The Best Jobs of 2020 That Can Be Done Remotely” includes everything from the more traditional work-from-anywhere positions like a java developer and freelance writer, to a speech pathologist, sales manager, and a wide breadth of customer service and account management positions. Teachers, personal trainers, and interpreters are other positions you might not think about that have high remote success. This Business Insider article, "9 Traditional Fields That Are Hiring More Remote Workers Than Ever,"explores this shift in greater detail.
Remote work not only widens career options for job seekers but can be more beneficial for them. Remote workers are shown to have less stress and make more money. They've been found to be more satisfied in their careers, citing a healthy work/life balance, increased productivity, and less distractions. The lack of commute is environmentally friendly, and saves both time and money (the average commute costs Americans 55 minutes every day and $2600 annually).
Studies show that working remotely is also good for getting ahead. Remote workers are 40% more likely to get promoted and 27% more likely to feel there's job growth potential in their companies according to one study. This same study found it could give women the upper hand in the workplace. Another group who can benefit from working remotely? Individuals with disabilities. Remember, diversity pays.
Technology is also impacting the way some companies hire. Amazon recently started doing more virtual meetings to begin their hiring process. While critics have said it’s harder for potential employees to ascertain if they’d be a good fit through an online meeting, the good news for job seekers is this widens the candidate pool. Conventional wisdoms says that if a company is very impressed during a remote interview with a candidate located somewhere they don’t have an office, why not give that qualified person a remote position? Then there's LinkedIn. You don't have to go to an industry mixer or professional organization happy hour anymore to network—you can do so from home, with an infinitely larger, much more diverse group of people.
With the right supports, remote work can be a real lifeline for rural areas with less job options. Despite unemployment sitting at a record low, there's still a disparity between urban and rural locales, the latter of which hasn't bounced back from the recession with the same strength. Take rural Eastern Kentucky, for example, whose unemployment rate is double that of the rest of the country. They've started to see successes getting people hired for remote customer service jobs. To encourage more companies to offer remote positions to its rural residents, the state of Utah piloted an initiative to start letting more state employees work remotely. Vermont went a different direction, offering $10,000.00 to anyone who moves there to work remotely, and helps bolster the state's population. Remember, while we're focusing on rural locales, remote jobs are just as helpful for those living in cities or suburbia.
As with most things, it's not all pros and no cons. There are plenty of jobs where remote work just doesn't cut it: nurses, carpenters, and chefs are just three examples. There's also something to be said for face to face meetings and interactions when it comes to building trust, establishing rapport, and being able to read those oh-so-important non-verbal cues that can be hidden behind a computer screen. Working remotely means a lot of diligence and fortitude on the part of the employee. Gone are the days when working from home meant a chance to goof off. Technology means it's easier to track metrics, productivity, and monitor exactly what an employee is doing on their computer all day. It takes a certain amount of self-motivation to keep oneself on track.
The concept of working remotely should absolutely be one that's introduced and discussed with students and job seekers getting ready to step into the modern workforce. It can open a whole lot of doors, widen the opportunities they have (especially for those job seekers who aren't planning to relocate for work), but also comes with a specific skill set that needs to be nurtured. It also requires high speed internet, which we recently discussed, could be a real barrier to certain populations, but if one understands and knows their barriers early, they're more likely to come up with a viable plan to work around them.