Nearly two years into the pandemic, remote flexibility is more than a preference for many workers — it’s a central concern for them as they plan their professional futures. Some companies and business leaders, however, have been slower to embrace the change.
In fact, a recent survey showed a staggering disconnect between business leaders and their team members when it comes to remote work: nearly half of executives expressed a desire to return to the office full-time, while just 17% of employees felt the same. In the same survey, 59% of executives said their companies have plans to return to the office, either full-time or for the majority of the workweek.
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This disconnect is contributing to a number of disruptions and challenges, in both the labor market and companies’ retention and hiring strategies.
Employees who are being asked to go back to the office full-time are either quitting outright or starting their search for new roles. Companies without remote work policies are losing qualified candidates to companies that offer more flexibility. Companies that have opened their hiring process to remote candidates are navigating new challenges with finding and vetting remote candidates. All of this is unfolding against the backdrop of a historically tight hiring market.
As companies face these challenges and plan for the future, it’s important to consider: where is remote work heading? What is the current demand for remote jobs? Which industries are embracing the remote model, and which professionals are most likely to pursue remote opportunities?
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Using the latest data from Monster.com, Career Builder, and additional trusted sources, we’ve established some key insights about the evolution of the remote job market. We’re also able to get a clear picture of the current trends in the remote work landscape.
Searches for remote jobs are at an all-time high: There are a few key pieces of data that illustrate the stratospheric rise of remote work, as a topic of interest among employees and as a pursuit of job seekers.
Google Trends, an online tool that analyzes the popularity of search queries on Google, shows a huge increase in the number of searches for the keyword phrase “remote jobs” since March 2020. In October 2021, the term generated approximately 301,000 searches in the United States — its highest level of interest since the data was first tracked in 2004: from October 2019 to October 2021, searches for “remote jobs” on Google have increased by a staggering 107%.
Research from Glassdoor Economic Research confirms this trend. Utilizing their own job search data from June 2019 to June 2021, Glassdoor reported a 360% increase in the number of searches for remote positions during that time frame. Even as pandemic restrictions were lifted, job seekers’ demand for remote opportunities continued to grow.
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Another telling data set comes from Monster.com. In the latest keyword search data released by Monster, “remote” and “work from home” were both among the site’s top five most searched keywords over the previous 30-day period.
It’s important to note that this research is far from definitive, as it includes only searches for jobs that are explicitly remote and excludes searches for hybrid or flexible roles. It is useful, however, in demonstrating the growing awareness and desire for jobs that provide remote flexibility.
Remote job opportunities are at an all-time high: While LinkedIn is primarily a social networking site, it also functions as a key recruiting tool for a large portion of the estimated 58 million companies that are active on the platform. Each year, millions of paid job listings are added to the site.
According to research from LinkedIn’s Economic Graph team, the percentage of paid job postings mentioning “remote work” rose by 357%when comparing May 2020 – May 2021 to the previous year. From May 2020 – May 2021, a staggering 9.7% of all paid job listings on LinkedIn involved remote work, compared to just 2% in the year before.
The LinkedIn data also revealed which industries had posted the highest share of remote jobs during the aforementioned time frame: 26.8% of paid job postings in the media and communications industry were remote, followed by 21.8% in software and IT services. Wellness and fitness, corporate services, education, and finance each had at least 10% of their paid job listings on LinkedIn designated as remote. These numbers eclipse the percentages seen in the same data set just one year prior.
The huge increase in remote job openings is also reflected in data from CareerBuilder. On careerbuilder.com, remote job postings passed 1 million in October 2021; in October of 2019, that number was under 500,000.
The tech and finance industries are leading the remote charge: Additional data provided by CareerBuilder offers a glimpse into the most sought-after roles for remote candidates.
Java developer was the most searched role among remote candidates, while software engineer, IT help desk specialist, and cloud engineer architect were also in the top five. Project manager, quality assurance analyst and business analyst roles were also among the most searched titles by candidates seeking remote work.
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Of the top 100 most-searched-for job titles by remote candidates, the majority were tech or IT-focused. Interestingly, financial positions were also well-represented, with financial analyst and accountant each cracking the top 60.
This data falls in line with mid-pandemic research on how different industries were adjusting to remote work. In a Pew Research Survey from January 2021, only two industries saw at least two-thirds of their workforces say the majority of their job responsibilities could successfully be done from home: banking, finance, accounting and insurance and information and technology.
These trends are also supported by studies that calculate productivity loss by industry in the remote workplace.
In a McKinsey Global Institute report from November 2020, data was collected on more than 2,000 tasks across more than 800 jobs to determine which occupations had the highest potential for remote work without loss of productivity. The finance sector came out on top, followed closely by jobs in management, professional services, and IT and telecommunications.
Tellingly, many of the most searched remote jobs are also among the fastest-growing occupations in the U.S. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for software developers and quality assurance testers are expected to grow by 22% by 2030. For security engineers and analysts, job growth clocks in at a staggering 33%. Internships for financial managers and controllers, business analysts, and training and development managers are also expected to grow at a rate much faster than average over that time span.
Employees feel strongly about maintaining remote/hybrid flexibility in post-pandemic world: As we approach the two-year mark of the pandemic, remote flexibility has become a sticking point for workers as they evaluate their current jobs or begin the search for new opportunities.
In Ipsos and World Economic Forum’s July 2021 “Return to the Workplace” survey, more than 12,000 employed adults from 29 countries gave their feedback on the remote work landscape.
In the survey, 66% of respondents said employers should be more flexible about requiring employees to come into the office after all COVID restrictions are lifted. Thirty percent of respondents said they would consider looking for another job if their employer required them to go back to the office full-time. Tellingly, workers under 35 and those with children were more likely to say this.
In a September 2021 Gallup poll, 91% of hybrid and remote workers said they hoped to retain remote flexibility after pandemic restrictions ended. Among fully on-site employees whose jobs could be done from home, nearly half said they wished they could work remotely at least some of the time.
Flexible work arrangements are also highly important to job seekers. In 2021 data from Insights from LinkedIn, “flexible work arrangements” was consistently listed by candidates as a top priority when considering a new job.
Companies that haven’t permanently established remote or hybrid work policies have faced consequences. Recently, a global tech giant announced a post-COVID remote work policy that required all employees to be on-site at least three days per week. The company faced immediate backlash from their workforce. Several employees were vocally and publicly critical of the policy, and some even organized internal petitions to formally request reconsideration. Many simply resigned.
A similar response has occurred in thousands of companies around the country. As voluntary resignations hit a 20-year high in the U.S. in 2021, lack of flexibility was often cited as a key reason why employees were quitting.
Adjusting to the new normal
With each passing month, it’s becoming clear the desire for remote work isn’t going anywhere. Employees value work-life balance, flexibility and the power to do their jobs outside of the traditional office space.
Thousands of companies have responded with updated policies and a progressive stance on allowing their teams to work from anywhere. Others have doubled down on their back-to-the-office plans, insisting that collaboration, mentoring, and team building can only happen on-site.
In the current labor market, this hardline stance is proving costly to retention and recruiting efforts. Internships far outpace available workers, and remote opportunities are more plentiful than ever before. Workers are leaving their jobs at record rates, often to pursue opportunities that more closely align with their new expectations for flexibility and work-life balance.
As the post-pandemic work world continues to take shape, the conversation around flexibility and remote/hybrid work models will only get louder. Companies must address these changing expectations if they want to maintain a strong workforce and recruit the critical talent they need to grow.