What is the future of remote work & collaboration? 5 biggest trends to watch

In the past year, we’ve seen the Covid-19 pandemic introduce many changes, none bigger than the shift in where work takes place. Once a niche segment of the job market, remote work (as well as remote collaboration) has broken through the cultural floodgates and become an accepted norm.

This wasn’t totally unprecedented. What we’re seeing is a rapid continuation of a decade-long break away from the traditional office work environment.

While it’s unlikely that office life will be completely eradicated, many people have acquired a taste and sense of comfort working remotely. Even once we’re all vaccinated and a bit of normalcy returns to our lives, this change is here to stay and will only continue to evolve with technological improvements.

So, what does this mean? More changes are on the horizon – from the way we onboard new employees to how we manage our workplace productivity. We’re already seeing some employers take the initiative, announcing that they will offer multiple ways to work going forward.

Where we were

To understand where we’re going, we need to recognize what came before.

For the longest time, there was this belief that employees would be too easily distracted at home, without constant supervision. As such, remote work and collaboration was limited to certain occupations (i.e., call centres) and exceptional circumstances.

With the advances in teleconferencing and telework technology in the last decade, however, we’ve been able to maintain constant contact, mitigating some of these fears over productivity.

Moreover, studies have found that remote workers are in fact more productive, with remote employees taking longer breaks than their office counterparts but working an additional 10 minutes a day.

Where we’re at

We’ve had to rethink our preconceived notions of work environments. Many people have gotten used to the idea of working out-of-office, while using remote collaboration technology to keep in touch with their peers and clients.

During this crisis, remote work has been primarily out of homes but that will likely change once we’re all inoculated. Businesses need to be prepared, as many still only have rudimentary work-from-home policies.

There’s a lot of room for improvement. A recent survey showed that 75 per cent of remote workers do not have their internet costs covered by companies, while 71 per cent said employers don’t pay for coworking space for their employees.

It’s important that businesses adapt, less they miss out on potential talent. Over 37 per cent of remote employees would take a 10 per cent pay cut to continue working from home, with many refusing to accept an onsite position if another opportunity offers more convenience and flexibility.

Where it’s going

While we certainly can’t predict the future, here are five more trends we believe you should watch out for in the remote work and collaboration space.

1. Advances in AI will improve remote connectivity

Remote collaboration and conferencing technology has made great strides in the last 10 years, but it will only continue to get better. This will enable us to connect with one another more seamlessly.

For example, experts are predicting that AI will play a large part in managing remote staff. Some possible future developments in this area include:

  • Automating communications using chatbots to resolve workforce issues (i.e., IT problems, scheduling conflicts).
  • Not only compile meeting transcriptions but tailor them into meeting minutes for specific employees.
  • Data mining of collaboration tools to find patterns in networking and areas for improvement.

2. Virtual reality conferencing ups the ante for immersion

How often are you mentally present during an online meeting? As much as remote collaboration software such as video conferencing approximates the dynamics of face-to-face interactions, it still lacks some of the subtleties (i.e., body language to keep us constantly engaged.

Virtual reality conferencing promises to fill some of these gaps, by providing a real-time experience for users in a world with entirely digital elements. It creates a dynamic, immersive environment for interaction, learning and connectivity.

Granted, there are still some tech limitations as well as questions of cost and proper implementation in the workforce. However, once these are worked out and more companies get comfortable with virtual reality conferencing, it could be a game changer.

3. Hybrid models of remote work

Once we all receive the Covid-19 vaccine, it’s unlikely that remote work will look the same as it does today. For one, it won’t be strictly confined to the home.

Secondly, it’s likely to take on a hybrid model, giving employees the option to split time between the office and working remotely, depending on their needs. This will largely depend on what country you live in. For example, 22 per cent of employees can work remotely between three to five days a week in the United States without losing productivity, while only 5 per cent could do so in India.

It’s important to keep in mind that for certain industries, due to the nature of the occupation, working remotely hasn’t been and will continue to not be an option. Those that use specialized machinery or make deliveries fall into this category.

4. Changes in consumption habits

The shift to remote work and collaboration will impact where we spend our hard-earned money.

With less people travelling to work, we’ll see a decline in spending for transportation, lunch or even formal office attire. Instead, as we’ve already seen, that money will go towards investing in home office equipment, digital tools (such as remote collaboration software) and solutions that boost internet connectivity.

5. Condensed weeks and gigging

Now that the barriers to where we work are being overturned, the restrictions for how we work seem next to fall. For decades, the standard has been going to work, sitting at a desk for eight hours and going home, five days a week.

However, the younger generation of workers carry a different mentality to employment. Wanting to live their best life, they’ve pushed for condensed weeks and gigging. Now that we’re not tethered to the office, there’s an opportunity to work your job from home for say four days with similar results but also have time to do freelance or part-time work.

In these situations, it will be important to create standard key performance indicators (KPIs)  for both management and employees to maintain expectations and keep track of performance wherever they may be.

If you need help choosing a remote collaboration solution and optimizing your out-of-office productivity, the experts at Wish Collaboration have you covered. We are vendor agnostic and offer a wide range of options. For more tips on remote success, read our breakdown of the skills your workforce needs to succeed working away from the office as well as the ways to create team culture when working remotely.

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