At the end of 2020, what have we learned about remote work so far?

Reactive Remote Work

Covid19 hit the economy at the beginning of the year, disrupting many strategies and plans. The world responded by working flexible and remotely to limit the loss of productivity and guarantee the safety of the employees.

Yet there are severe local differences in the Benelux. In Belgium for instance, 11% of employees was working remotely during Covid19, says SERV research during the first wave. According to the numbers of our member Attentia, 25% of “white collar” employees was working remote during the first wave. I also found a TechPulse inquiry for their Belgian audience that had a generous 75% outcome which proves numbers can be relative.

Before Covid19 this general number of remote workers was about 7-8%, so it will probably depend on various factors. SERV concludes that for 60% of all jobs in Belgium it would be impossible to work remotely. Yet that still leaves a theoretical 40% of jobs where it could be possible to work remote – and a 29% potential productivity to be gained. So, the question for Belgian organizations and companies is not whether to roll out remote work or not, it is where to roll out remote work. They better make it fast too, because The Netherlands already are much more adopted to remote work and can show better numbers for it too (from 20 to an actual 40%), depending on the job level and expertise.

Unless there is still belief that things will get back to Normal, the learnings we had by suddenly implementing remote work in 2020 can only improve the further experience and productivity in 2021 (and beyond). Covid19 was an eye opener for those who did not believe in change, for those who held on to ancient ways of working or for those who never experienced the need of organizational agility and flexibility.

Not only did local retail shops face the 20-year lag they had against e-commerce stores like or Zalando when they (finally) decided to add a web shop to their website. Other companies and organizations experienced the same kind of lag on another level, with a customer or employee focus, or in worst case both.

Therefor Covid19 has put HR Tech in pole position to offer solutions in remote hiring or managing the workforce. Moreover, technologies that offered support in engagement or productivity were exactly where they wanted to be: in the spotlight. Actually, the entire HR Tech Market gained a lot of attention in 2020.

The world has taken a turn towards digital and there is no way back now that the majority has tasted its benefits. Let us face it, vaccine or no vaccine, going back to Normal is not going to happen anymore. Call it a Hybrid Normal or a New Normal, fact is that constant change and flexibility will always be part of the program and so does the digital evolution.

Benefits of Remote Work

Lowered business expenses

According to the Global Workplace Analytics Telework Savings Calculator, a single company can annually save $11,000 per remote worker who telecommutes 50% of the time. Remote-enabled companies can save money on the costs associated with onsite business operations like office space, equipment, and travel reimbursement. Depending on the size of your business, this could equal significant savings without radically changing your company structure. As a bonus, the entire carbon footprint of the organization will improve.

Access to more diverse candidates

Remote work removes geographic obstacles separating employers from the best applicants for their vacancies by eliminating hiring limits and crossing borders. Eventually it will lead to a more diverse workforce. Recruiting has become fully digital and remote selection is perfectly possible in a virtual environment. This new approach prioritizes aptitude, widens the hiring net, and allows employers to mitigate skills gaps that may be present in their immediate area.

Increased Productivity & Retention

Remote workers are not lazy pseudo-professionals without real jobs. In fact, people who work remote have shown to be more productive than employees who work in an office all day. The increased efficiency of working remote is linked to have the autonomy to work during more productive hours with reduced workplace distractions. The 2020 Airtasker survey report of 1,004 workers’ daily habits proves this increase in efficiency and stated that while remote employees spent more time taking breaks throughout the workday, they also devoted more time on work tasks.

According to Mom corp research, remote work is one of the most desired offerings employers can extend to job seekers, so much so that employees would even take a salary cut to have more flexible work options from their employers. On top of that, Owl research tells us that remote workers are 13% more likely to stay at their job over an extended period.