- The majority of workers were disengaged and unhappy at work pre-pandemic, according to a report by Adobe; however, they were hesitant to quit.
- Currently, more workers are working remotely than ever before, and they have more leverage and options about where they choose to work.
- The future of work will be more worker-centric, skill-based, remote, and flexible, according to the report.
Before the pandemic, attempts to capture a picture of the long-term future of work were largely unsuccessful. Today, by contrast, the prospects of work going forward look much more straightforward.
The general morale among workers before the COVID-19 pandemic was in stark contrast to how it is now. Comparably, the relationship many of us have with work has improved considerably.
The changes we are beginning to see as the pandemic recedes are promising on many fronts, but most crucially on worker independence, freedom of choice, freedom of expression. So it’s worth considering what the future might look like if this trend continues indefinitely –even more so considering that many experts believe it will.
How remote work has changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic
“The Great Resignation” is a term that would have sounded outlandish if uttered before 2020. At that time, most workers felt disengaged with their work. Yet, for the most part, they stuck around for their jobs, with little to no plans of leaving.
Most of us plainly got used to the idea that work isn’t something that can or should be enjoyable.
Indeed, before 2020, only about 6 percent of workers worked full-time from home, and three-quarters of workers never worked from home.
41.5 percent of these workers had advanced degrees, and 33.9 had a bachelor’s degree. Hence, before the pandemic, only the vast minority of mostly educated workers engaged in remote work.
The pandemic altered this scenario drastically.
Now, 62 percent of workers aged 22 to 65 report having had to work remotely at least occasionally. Likewise, according to Owl Labs, as opposed to the 6 percent before the pandemic, roughly 18 percent of people work remotely.
How have these changes been positive? What does this mean going forward?
Adobe recently released its State of Work report for 2021. They study how the massive shift in work modalities that came as a result of the pandemic has impacted workers. And their results are pretty encouraging.
The expectation from a pandemic, where many lost their jobs, would be that workers would experience a loss of confidence. But, according to the Adobe report, quite the contrary happened.
Employees generally feel more confident in their ability to communicate ideas and collaborate with colleagues. Likewise, their confidence in commanding better outcomes from their workplaces has improved considerably.
Half of new remote workers report having more flexibility in comparison to when they worked F2F. Employees report feeling far less micromanaged than when they were working in the office.
Likewise, workers are now experiencing a peculiar sort of confidence that was virtually absent before the pandemic. Workers now feel uncompromising in the face of poor work conditions. Roughly half of U.S. workers state that they’re likely to leave their job if they are not happy with the technology their workplace uses.
In terms of what “technology” means, it mostly boils down to having a remote option. But, it also has to do with general technological challenges that come with in-person work. I’d also, for instance, want to leave my desk job if the computers ran on Windows XP or Vista. Outdated technology is an inconvenience for employees that can easily be fixed by finding a new job.
Now that workers know that things could have been better, they have the power and mentality to make things better.
The most salient of the markers that the Adobe report surveys are on work engagement. As mentioned earlier, work engagement was beyond poor prior to the pandemic. But, globally, very few people felt engaged in their work –and that’s still the case as far as jobs as a whole go.
Eighty-one percent of digital workers report feeling very invested in their work. This is an unprecedented feat we cannot afford to lose.
What does this mean for things going forward?
The pandemic fostered a workforce that’s more independent, creative, and satisfied with their work than ever. The goal is to retain this and expand it to as many people as we can. And it looks as if we’re on the trajectory towards meeting that end.
Remote work is here to stay. The fact that millions of workers are now willing and able to leave their jobs en masse if remote work options are not offered is evidence enough for this claim.
Thus, adaptation on the part of us all will be of great necessity. In addition, companies that have otherwise rested on their laurels will be required to update their technology frequently to retain workers.
Likewise, most companies will need to provide support for workers’ newfound gains in individual
autonomy. The freedom workers have gained over the past two years is not something they’re willing to give up, and as a result, many will follow that example. In light of that, companies may be required to switch from a hierarchical system of power to an egalitarian one, as the Adobe report suggests.
Thus, a world where more workers are engaged and happy with the work they do –along with improvements in flexibility and autonomy—is over the horizon. All the while, these workers will be more productive than ever, facilitating the revamping of the technological and creative engines of the companies they work for.
According to an Upwork study, by 2025, 22 percent of American workers will be working full-time remotely. In sum, the trend of remote work is going to increase as time goes on. This is no longer an experiment or temporary fix: it is a reality for an indefinitely increasing number of workers that has the potential to make all of our lives better.
There’s no downside to empowering more of our population’s workforce towards greater productivity and job satisfaction. Let’s make sure we don’t leave anyone behind as the ship sets sail.