Workforce trends shaping the professional landscape in 2024

Workforce trends shaping the professional landscape in 2024

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the evolution of the distributed workforce and set the world on a trajectory that has continued ever since. A shift toward remote work trends that was likely inevitable over time became necessary immediately and has since become the new norm in many industries. Understanding the power and potential of remote employees across a distributed workforce is critical for companies that want to stay competitive.

Optimizing the distributed workforce

Remote work increased 85% between 2020 and 2023. While many of the pandemic's remote employees have since returned to the workplace, a significant percentage have not. Of 5,700 people surveyed about distributed workforce trends, 56% were primarily office-based employees who went remote during the COVID-19 outbreak and never returned. Thirty-eight percent of those surveyed went remote during the pandemic but have since returned to the office.

While the pandemic was a catalyst, many organizations have realized that a distributed workforce offers significant benefits. Seventy-seven percent of organizations across all industries admit that their remote work capabilities were underutilized until recently.  

Many of the fears about remote work have been neatly disproven. Though some companies were fearful of a drop in productivity when workers reported from home, the opposite has occurred. Over two-thirds of respondents said productivity either increased or remained the same after going remote, and 62% indicated that their collaboration either improved or stayed the same. Meanwhile, 76% indicated feeling a greater connection with some of their colleagues, and an impressive 14% said they feel a better personal connection with all their colleagues.

With these concerns out of the way, organizations have a clear view of the many benefits of a distributed workforce.

Leveling the playing field for small businesses

"The distributed workforce helps small businesses stay competitive with their behemoth big brothers in many ways."

Bigger businesses often have a natural advantage over their smaller counterparts, but the distributed workforce is helping to change that. Organizations with 500 to 999 employees see greater benefits from a distributed workforce than those with 5,000 employees or more. Among those smaller organizations, 66% believe that remote work options make recruiting easier while this is true of 57% of organizations with 5,000 or more workers. Smaller organizations are also more likely than larger ones to reinvest the savings from remote work in their employees via higher salaries, better benefits, and more employee programs.

Some small businesses can downsize or eliminate their brick-and-mortar facilities by utilizing remote employees. A distributed workforce also provides access to a greater talent pool. Small business owners aren't confined to their locale when it comes to recruiting top talent for remote work, which makes it more likely that they can build strong teams of highly qualified individuals. A geographically diverse workforce offers other benefits as well. When workers are spread across different time zones, it's easier for customers and clients to contact the organization no matter where they're located or when they reach out.

In a small company, employee absences have a much larger impact on the team. Offering remote work opportunities can help minimize this weakness, as remote workers have lower overall absenteeism. It's easier to get to your desk in your pajamas than it is to commute to a workplace outside the home. Working from home also reduces the spread of illness, which can keep the flu from moving like wildfire through the company, wreaking havoc on productivity. The distributed workforce helps small businesses stay competitive with their behemoth big brothers in many ways.

Integrating satellite offices and remote teams

As distributed workforces become more common, companies are finding that this approach often improves integration across the organization. Businesses that have long operated with a central headquarters and several branch offices are gaining better traction and creating more integrated teams thanks to the functionality of remote work systems. Utilizing the distributed workforce model, 75% of companies have found that employees on regional or satellite teams feel more empowered to make decisions, and 76% report greater utilization of shared resources between offices. 

Many employees report feeling more confident and comfortable in a remote work system. According to 70% of respondents, advantages such as physical stature are less meaningful when work is done remotely. Sixty-five percent of survey respondents said they feel more empowered to speak up in video conferences as opposed to in-person meetings, and 69% of respondents indicate that remote teams feel more empowered to speak up to leadership.

Reshaping the business model

As individuals become more comfortable with remote work systems, technologies are expanding beyond the bounds of inter-office communications. A growing number of industries are using the same or similar technologies to communicate remotely with customers as well.

In the education industry, students and teachers are following remote work trends. The transition was bumpy, with a whopping 86% of survey respondents saying that the move to distance learning created significant short-term challenges. However, 79% believe that there's a bright future for remote learning. Distance learning improves accessibility for students with disabilities, lowers the cost of higher education, and opens new revenue streams for universities that are willing to make their offerings accessible to remote learners.

The distributed workforce is changing the face of the health care industry as well. Eighty-six percent of respondents believe that telehealth will offer greater opportunities to patients and providers as they adjust to this new system of operations. Eighty-seven percent believe that remote checkups and consultations will accelerate, and 80% anticipate new specialties and job opportunities emerging. Though telehealth hasn't likely reached its zenith yet, 44% of respondents in public health care reported greater employee productivity due to remote work trends, compared to just 32% of employees across other industries.

Altering job-seekers' expectations

Current workforce trends are seeing a growing number of job seekers actively pursuing remote work opportunities. This isn't surprising, with 68% of remote workers reporting reduced stress and 77% reporting a better work-life balance. Remote workers have also added an average of 59 minutes to their day. This is likely because these employees no longer have a daily commute and can spend less time getting ready each morning.

The distributed workforce is especially beneficial for employees in certain subsets. Remote work options are particularly effective at recruiting and retaining working parents, employees with disabilities, and minority candidates. Companies that are actively looking to diversify their workforce may find remote work opportunities an extremely effective means of doing so. 

Before the pandemic, just 30% of job seekers considered remote work a prerequisite for a job opportunity. Today, this is true of 42% of job seekers. A whopping 98% of workers want to work remotely at least part of the time, which makes a distributed workforce critical for nearly all companies to stay competitive.

Across all industries, there's an overwhelming consensus that the workforce will never fully return to its pre-pandemic state. For most, this is a great benefit, as the new shape of the distributed workforce has contributed to greater integration, efficiency, and opportunity. Employers poised to facilitate better remote work opportunities will have a distinct advantage in a competitive hiring market. A full 90% of employees see it as the employer's responsibility to equip remote workers with the proper tools for success. These employees have nearly unlimited potential for organizations dedicated to fully utilizing them.

More tips for keeping up with the latest workforce trends:

Consider highlighting how your remote work practices contribute to the company's eco-friendly paradigm.

Make sure your recruiting priorities align with the latest hiring trends so you can stay competitive with other companies that are courting the same potential employees.

Incorporate AI into your candidate screening system and see how this trending practice can improve your hiring process.

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