2021 remote work trends to watch in 2022

by Time Doctor
Remote Work Trends

With the COVID pandemic still raging in most parts of the world, it’s safe to say that remote work is here to stay. 

And why not?

There are many attractive benefits of remote work, like reduced costs, access to a greater talent pool, greater flexibility, and more. This has led to reduced office spaces and a rise in remote job postings.

So, what other trends did the remote working world see in 2021?

In this article, we’ll highlight the top nine remote work trends 2021 and how businesses can adapt accordingly.

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Here’s a detailed look at the top remote work trends that’ll give you a better insight into how things worked out in 2021: 

1. Productivity tracking for remote employees

With an increasing number of employees working from home due to the pandemic, many employers were concerned about productivity.

To ensure that remote professionals work for the same hours as in the office, employers adopted some productivity tracking measures. This includes using time tracking apps, monitoring computer activity levels, and more.

According to Gartner, 16% of employers use technologies more frequently than in the pre-pandemic era to monitor their employees by tracking working hours and monitoring computer usage. 

These technologies can be used to track productivity and monitor employee engagement and well-being to better understand employee experience. 

Another study by Digital.com says that 60% of employers with a remote workforce are currently using an employee monitoring tool, while another 17% are considering it.

How can you maintain this trend in 2022?

Whether you manage remote employees, freelancers, or full-time employees, using a productivity monitoring tool like Time Doctor is the best way to track productivity.

Time Doctor offers various advanced employee productivity management features like silent and interactive time tracking, comprehensive reports, productivity ratings, work schedules, and more. This way, you’ll be able to gain a complete and accurate view of employee productivity. 

Explore other Time Doctor features here.

2. Flexible work arrangement

Maintaining work life balance was one of the major challenges of working from a physical office. 

Add long commuting hours to that, and you end up spending most of your time in the office with barely any room for hobbies, interests, or small breaks. 

While people were initially skeptical about remote working, they saw the perks of flexible work options as it became the new normal.

And today, according to Buffer, 32% of employees feel that the ability to have a flexible schedule is the biggest benefit of remote work, whereas 25% feel it’s the flexibility to work from any location.

Moreover, Microsoft’s Work Trend Index states that 73% of employees want the flexible remote work option to stay. 

With a flexible schedule, the remote workforce can change how they work to maintain a better work-life balance. For instance, starting work early and finishing late became a more popular option as it enabled employees to span their work throughout the day with proper breaks in between.

Employees can use this break to hit the gym, have some snacks, or simply step out for an evening stroll.

How can you maintain this trend in 2022?

Here are a few best practices for effectively maintaining a flexible company culture:

  • Be sure to communicate clear deadlines, collaboration expectations, and measures of success.
  • Identify the best communication methods for your organization, such as Slack for instant messaging or Asana for project management. 
  • Offer an arrangement that supports workplace flexibility for everyone.
  • Establish benchmarks and measure work outcomes to keep employees inspired, engaged, and accountable.

Discover 8 types of flexible work schedules for the modern workforce.

3. Change in office space

74% of Fortune 500 CEOs expect to reduce office space.

Moreover, according to this McKinsey survey, office space managers expect a 36% increase in work time outside their offices, leading to companies needing less office space. 

As a result, employees have started spending more on their home office to get in the right mindset to work. 

However, for many, working at home proved somewhat difficult. That’s why more coworking spaces are now emerging, acting as an all-in-one solution. 

With coworking spaces, employees can have an office setting while enjoying a workplace feel without being in the office all the time.

How can you maintain this trend in 2022?

Most companies are now well aware that they could make do with less office space. But this also led employers to realize that they need to create a more flexible office space. 

And coworking spaces have been a leader on this front.

In 2021, 20% of office workers continued to use a coworking space at least once a week – a 14% increase compared to 2019.

Employers, on the other hand, can make changes to their workplace to suit a hybrid work model. This can be a move in the right direction as there’s a significant shift towards hybrid work.

4. Reliance on online software

The 2019 COVID outbreak made businesses prioritize clear and efficient communication as well as a transparent working process. 

To do so, they had to reconfigure their communication frameworks. And that’s when the search for the right remote work tools became a pressing issue.

As the pandemic lockdown continued, organizations started relying on tools for video conferencing, productivity monitoring, and more. Their frequent use became a remarkable remote work technology trend.

For instance, Zoom has become a core part of workdays, replacing the traditional face-to-face meetings. 

According to a Zoom report, at the end of the first quarter of 2021, the video chatting app was being used by approximately 497,000 companies with more than 10 employees, resulting in an increase of 87% from 2020.

How can you maintain this trend in 2022?

Moving forward, the remote workforce will continue to rely on online tools to maintain smooth business workflows. This means you’ll need to ensure that new hires maintain the same remote work practices as others.

Here are some tips to help you achieve that:

  • Add more tools as needed.
  • Update existing software as your business needs evolve.
  • Train new employees with the tools during onboarding. 

5. Need to retrain employees

Remote work has opened up more possibilities in terms of career paths – for both employees and employers.

However, according to a 2020 study by Gartner, only 16% of the new people hired have adequate skills for their current as well as new jobs.

This has led to a growing remote work trend in reskilling and upskilling as people continue their search for new work. It includes learning new skill sets or building on current roles to become more competitive against others.

Simplilearn’s State of Upskilling 2021 report shows that 65% of respondents upskilled themselves in the past year.

Most respondents learned or planned to learn new skills such as:

  • Data & AI: 48%
  • Project Management and Scrum: 34%
  • Cloud Computing or DevOps: 32%
  • Digital Marketing: 21% 

How can you maintain this trend in 2022?

Today, organizations have shifted their focus from replacing the workforce to shaping them by acquiring new skill sets from a diverse skills market.

To acquire these new skills, recruiters need to make some critical shifts to their current recruitment strategy:

  • Define talent needs by prioritizing skills instead of hiring profiles.
  • Create responsive EVPs to attract better talent.
  • Explore the total skills market rather than targeting known talent pools.
  • Adopt upskilling programs along with internal personnel training.

6. Change in performance management

With growing digitization and flexible work schedules, companies are also experimenting with their performance assessment approach.

Companies are now shifting towards cloud-based tools, making performance management virtual and more progressive.

Here are some findings from a study by Engagedly:

  • Over 50% of business leaders reported that their employees were more frequently participating in check-ins, performance review assessments, etc.
  • 64.8% of employers reported higher employee engagement in ongoing check-ins with managers in the COVID Era.
  • 73.8% of employers believe that these changes would continue even post-COVID.

Additionally, many companies have adopted a fluid performance assessment model in which reviews are ongoing rather than annual.

They are also increasingly focusing on the work completed rather than the total hours worked.

How can you maintain this trend in 2022?

Here are some tips for creating a balanced performance management model: 

  • Conduct evaluations with more flexibility, empathy, and compassion.
  • Be clear in your mind what you’re basing your assessment on.
  • Appreciate employees who are engaged and hard-working.
  • Step in to help your employees whenever needed.
  • Replace employee ratings with an achievement and improvements list.

Read our ultimate guide on remote employee performance assessment.

7. Enhanced cybersecurity

Working from home and the rise of telecommuting tools have triggered the demand for advancements in cybersecurity.

According to a 2021 UK government report, 39% of businesses and 26% of charities have reported cyberattacks within the past 12 months.

Moreover, a 2020 Cisco survey revealed that 85% of the respondents felt that cybersecurity was more crucial than before the pandemic.

As a result, organizations are investing in additional cybersecurity awareness training for anti-phishing, password security, and social engineering. This will help employees implement these measures in their home offices for an extra layer of protection.

How can you maintain this trend in 2022?

You need to develop a strategy that allows your remote team to collaborate from anywhere in the world without compromising security.

You can take measures such as:

  • Offer cybersecurity training.
  • Robust measures such as firewalls and VPNs. 
  • Build awareness around compliance and security.
  • Ensure employees are connecting the office devices from known networks.
  • Establish an effective BYOD policy.

Here’s a detailed guide for creating a secure BYOD policy.

8. Change in HR practices

Working from home is beneficial for both employees and employers, but it still has some challenges, like a lack of employee interaction.

As a result, a 2021 McLean & Company report states that companies are now taking measures like:

  • 46% are training on virtual communication and teamwork.
  • 38% are providing training on virtual people management.

Additionally, mental health and well-being have become an increasingly important initiative for HR to ensure remote workers remain happy at home.

According to a 2020 study by Oracle, 51% noted their companies had added mental healthcare services or support due to COVID-19.

How can you maintain this trend in 2022?

As you can see, the shift to working from home put HR managers on the verge of a major transformation. They have to use innovative approaches to improve their hiring, training, and other processes.

Here’s a quick look at what you can do:

  • Digitize paperwork to shorten the number of paper-based processes.
  • Use cloud-based HR technologies for providing a seamless experience for all their remote job employees, keeping them engaged and productive. 
  • Search for new approaches to perform daily tasks.
  • Create a worker’s virtual journey to get things done.
  • Use HR tools with built-in support such as remote hiring, employee onboarding, employee learning, etc. 

9. Shift towards hybrid work 

According to a Microsoft study, 66% of business leaders are working towards changing their office spaces to suit a hybrid work model.

Some common steps taken to create a hybrid work environment are:

  • Changing office layouts and business workflows.
  • Using new technology to connect remote and in-office employees.
  • Creating safer rooms for virtual communication.

This is the safest attempt at making new work demands suit everyone. 

On the other hand, a McKinsey report highlights that 40% of employees say that their organizations haven’t yet communicated a vision for post-pandemic work, and only 32% of them are aware of how their work will be.

How can you maintain this trend in 2022?

This hybrid approach considers everyone’s opinions, supporting the well-being of every team member. 

Improving workspaces will significantly increase employees’ experience and support high-performance levels with minimal effort. 

Here’s how you can prepare for it:

  • Compile a comprehensive status of your current employees like how many want to return to the office, how many are reluctant, how many moved out of office range, etc.
  • Schedule your employees’ returns on certain days and plan for engagement activities.
  • Leverage this time to hire from any location and bring in the top talent.
  • Look at real estate portfolios and realign your workplace locations.
  • Provide the right tools for your hybrid workforce to help them choose when to work remotely.

Wrap up

Remote work brought benefits like greater flexibility, job satisfaction, reduced costs, and better work-life balance. This resulted in some emerging trends like flexible work arrangements, use of various remote work tools, change in HR practices, and more.

While employers and employees are now leaning towards a hybrid work model, you can still maintain some of these trends in 2022.

For instance, investing in advanced employee productivity tools like Time Doctor can lead to increased productivity and employee engagement.

Go through the trends we covered here and take measures to align your business needs with the changing remote work world!

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