2020 may have been the worst year to start work remotely, although many of us have tried. Here's how things will get better in 2021.
This has been a year ... oh well, forget it. We record the smartworking boom, amidst a thousand difficulties of adaptation. The new year is upon us, however, and smartworking 2021 is set to be better for those who will continue to work remotely.
History of a trajectory
Most of those who work remotely today have been forced to leave their offices and faced the challenge of managing sudden change, along with the other obstacles caused by the pandemic.
Despite this, however, a (good) part expresses interest in working in smartworking also in 2021, and even when the crisis is over.
An ISTAT research of June it is clear. The 90% of large Italian companies (with more than 250 employees) and the 73% of medium-sized enterprises (50-249 employees) have introduced or extended smartworking during the emergency, against 37% of the small (10-49 employees) and the 18% of micro-enterprises (3-9 employees). In all, businesses in smartworking went from 15% to 77%.
The year is about to begin when many expect vaccines to bring the pandemic under control. In any case, smartworking 2021 should become easier and fairer, less isolating and perhaps even more profitable.
I don't think there will be radical changes like in 2020, but there are still what it takes to make it an important year for remote work. I say more: the very foundations of what remote work will be for the next 5-10 years will be decided in the next 12 months.
Here are some of the ways experts expect smartworking 2021 to expand and improve.
1 Politicians will have an incentive to support remote workers
Before the pandemic, remote workers were a niche market. Smartworking in 2021 will represent a much larger percentage of the population.
This will push politics to contemplate their needs. We will see new incentives or even new tax and employment rules.
2 Remote workers will have access to more tools and resources
The higher percentage of remote workers will also give companies an incentive to design products that enhance the experience. Employers themselves will have more incentives to invest in these solutions. Companies will invest heavily in manager skills enhancement and technology that will help them better understand employee engagement when working remotely.
I also expect better tools for remote security, expense management, collaboration, communication to emerge.
Some companies have even hired dedicated staff to manage the needs of their remote workforce. When you only have 5% of your workforce working remotely, it is difficult to justify such investments. If the employees who work remotely become 50% it becomes more justifiable.
3 Remote work will feel more natural
The hardest part of the remote work was the initial transition out of the office. Now that more is done, it will be a lot easier for everyone in the next year.
We had to drastically change daily habits and routines to fit the remote work lifestyle, but some of these routines are now more natural.
4 Distance workers will finally be able to grasp the positive aspects of the separation between work and private life
Many of those who started working remotely in 2020 had a lot more to deal with at home than those who did before. Because, let's face it, smartworking 2020 was a remote work without alternative and with an entire family in co-presence. Most remote workers have yet to experience the true lifestyle benefits due to stay-at-home orders and mobility restrictions.
Smartworking 2021 will allow more people to grasp some positive aspects. If it is possible to move again, the know-how and tools acquired will also allow you to travel or move and work equally freely. The kind of freedom that "real" remote working can give, exactly the freedom that is missing right now due to the pandemic.
Any slowdown of the restrictions will improve the conditions of smartworking for those who decide to stay in smartworking anyway.
5 Remote working will become less alienating
For the same reason, many remote workers who today struggle with loneliness and isolation could improve their condition. These problems are more a function of the pandemic than of the remote working itself. Remote working doesn't necessarily mean working away from other people. I know many people who prefer to work in a coworking space, for example, which is currently not allowed.
This is why I think that, for almost everyone, remote working will improve significantly next year as the restrictions gradually ease.
6 Remote workers could earn more
Just as employers can hire talent from anywhere, employees can now seek out job opportunities outside their geographic area, accessing higher-paying jobs in multiple markets.
Large companies have already smelled this possibility, and in fact some of them (for example Facebook) think of modulating the remuneration to the physical position, giving less to those who work from a location with a lower cost of living.
It wouldn't work: these policies will quickly yield to competitive pressure. In smartworking 2021, those with skills could be well compensated, regardless of their position.