What the Rise of the Remote Workforce Means for IT

IT professionals around the world are wrestling with the challenges associated with supporting a remote workforce; ensuring security, providing training, and deploying a robust unified communications (UC) platform are among the key issues.

If your organization needs to support a remote workforce, consider attending “Remote Worker Workshop,” a Sunday morning preconference session (PRE02) at Avaya ENGAGE 2020.  IAUG member Nick Kwiatkowski from Michigan State University will lead an interactive session looking at delivery and support models for remote workers, helping organizations capitalize on this growing segment of the global workforce. (Note: there is an additional fee for preconference sessions.)

A Growing Trend

Supporting the remote workforce will become even more important in the new decade. About 40 percent of the American workforce now works remotely at least on occasion, according to an analysis that GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com conducted using the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2005-2017 American Community Survey. That analysis found that 4.7 million Americans or 3.5 percent of the U.S. population, now work remotely at least half the time.

Both employees and employers can benefit from the rise of the remote workforce.  Employees appreciate the flexibility that comes from working at home.  Workers caring for young children or aging parents, in particular, find remote work to be a valuable perk from their employer. The Global Workplace Analytics study found 80 to 90 percent of the U.S. workforce would like to telework at least part-time.

Many sales professionals also spend much of their time working remotely while traveling or meeting with prospects and customers. The same is true for many IT professionals who need to be on site to support customer projects.

There are also intangible reasons why the work remotely movement is likely to grow in the 2020s. Iwo Szapar, CEO and co-founder at Remote-how, believes that employees in their 20s and mid-30s value meaningful experiences more than possessions, and want to be able to pay attention to all the important aspects of their lives.  “Having a flexible schedule allows employees to juggle between work, hobbies, and time with friends, resulting in a positive work-life balance and also reducing workplace stress,” Szapar added.

From the Employer’s Perspective

Recognizing the importance of this trend, many employers are offering remote working arrangements. The Global Workplace Analytics study found that 40 percent more U.S. employers offered flexible workplace options than they did five years ago, but only 7 percent make remote working available to most of their employees. Other findings:

  • Larger companies are most likely to offer telecommuting options to most of their employees.
  • New England and Mid-Atlantic region employers are the most likely to offer telecommuting options.
  • Full-time employees are four times more likely to have work-at-home options than part-time workers.
  • Non-union workers are twice as likely to have access to telecommuting, but union access is growing rapidly.

The firm also found that about half the U.S. workforce holds a job that is compatible with at least partial telework and approximately 40 percent of the workforce works remotely at some frequency.

Meeting the Challenges

Providing appropriate support for remote workers will become an increasing important priority for IT professionals around the world. That includes deploying secure high-speed connectivity solutions and advanced collaboration tools from Avaya and other providers.

But IT leaders should also think about the “softer” aspects of remote working.  For instance, conferencing solutions with high-resolution video and quality audio can help remote workers feel more closely connected to their teams, promoting engagement and productivity.  Podcasts, webinars and training programs should be offered online giving remote workers 24/7 access to that content.

Looking ahead, enterprises and SMBs increasingly recognize the benefits of offering remote working options. By staying on top of this trend, IT professionals can identify the right support solutions and provide strategic guidance to their organizations.