Remote Rewind: A Year of Work in the Pandemic

Do you remember where you were when everything changed? I had been working remotely, and was in an airport lounge in Mexico City. Suddenly, an announcer on the television was explaining that an NBA game just got canceled because of a contagious virus. I instinctively knew at that moment it would be my last time at an airport for a very long time. It felt serious. I enjoyed the mediocre lounge snacks and sipped from my beer as I watched airplanes take off into the sky. That was March 11th, 2020, and the world would never be the same. 

It’s been almost exactly a year since that day in the airport lounge, and a lot has changed. Things might adjust back eventually once the vaccine is widely distributed, but in large part—this is life now. This is how we work now.

Remote work had seen a massive increase throughout the start of the 21st century. According to an article published by Flexjobs in 2019 (pre-pandemic), “since 2005 remote work has grown 159%.” Well, then. If that seemed like a pretty massive jump over just a 12 year period, wait until you meet 2020.

Every industry that could, has transitioned to working remotely over the past year. We’ve figured out how to run companies, schools, and government agencies through our computer screens. Not everyone likes it, but the coronavirus doesn’t care about your feelings. Here we are, so what have we learned? What has the last year taught us, and how can we use that to build a better future? 

Remote On The Rise:

According to the “Future Workforce” report by UpWork, the world’s largest work marketplace, “nine months into the pandemic, 41.8 percent of the American workforce remains fully remote.” The report goes on to predict that “22% of the workforce will be working remotely by 2025. This is a staggering 87% increase from the number of remote workers prior to the pandemic!”

The ubiquity of remote work should not be a surprise, but even still—87% is a pretty drastic change. It was the direction we were headed in, but there is no doubt that the mandated quarantines of 2020 worked as a fast-forward button and propelled the entire workforce some 20 years into the future when it comes to the acceptance of having a distributed workforce. 

It’s Getting Easier: 

“68 percent of hiring managers say remote work is going more smoothly now than when their company first made the shift to at the start of the pandemic,” according to Upwork’s Future Workforce report. It was largely trial-by-fire, but with nearly a year of remote work under our collective belts, we’ve become not only accustomed to it—we’ve gotten better at it. 

We’ve managed to figure out the right processes, tools, and work-flow to still be effective in a distributed work environment. To a large part, the greater autonomy remote work has created, has resulted in better outputs. We like to be trusted, and it turns out when workers are given greater freedom and more responsibility—they generally respond by proving that they deserve even more. 

Remote Workers are Not All Traveling Nomads:

When someone mentions remote work, the image conjured for most is still some jet-setting traveler collecting passport stamps. The type of person who posts a photo with his laptop on a yacht in Greece on Monday, then another pretending to work at the pyramids in Cario on Friday. The term digital nomad and remote work are thought of in the same breath, but the truth is that since the start of the pandemic the majority of remote-workers are the “stay at home” variety. 

A pre-pandemic GitLab report even showed that “38% saw lack of commute as a top benefit, with that time instead spent with family (43%), working (35%), resting (36%), and exercising (34%).” The office is now everywhere. Some take that freedom and book a one-way flight, but most have responsibilities and stability. Most remote workers have a home-office setup and relish in the comfort of familiar surroundings while they work.  

Async is the future: 

In less than a year, the phenomenon known as “zoom fatigue” (also referred to as being “zoomed-out”) has become a widely established workplace pitfall for remote organizations. Zoom fatigue is very real—for a number of very legitimate reasons. The primary way to combat the drain that an overabundance of video calls puts on our emotional and mental well-being is simply to navigate work to async platforms. 

In short, async work is a way of communicating, whether written, voice, and now video, that is spread out over time. The companies that are still struggling with their remote setup are largely those who haven’t made this shift. In fact, 67% of employees complain about spending too much time in meetings. It’s not that all meetings are totally useless, it’s just that there are often far too many meetings. 

The idea that “creativity only happens when everyone’s together at the same time with whiteboards and post-it notes” is literally thinking inside the box. Async allows for everyone on a distributed team—even the introverts or employees half-way around the world—to participate when they want to. To jump in when they have a new idea they’re excited about. Or, when they’re most motivated to do their best work. 

Now, if you’re still wondering what I was referencing when I mentioned “and now video,” when discussing types of async work platforms—meet Voodle. It’s a brand new remote work platform that combines the best of zoom and slack. It’s an async playground for short 60-second videos, which are organized and archived so you can find and reference them any time. It allows remote teams to maintain connection and intimacy across oceans, while simultaneously preventing zoom fatigue. Turns out you can have your remote-cake and eat it too.

Remote Rewind Recap:

So here we are. You’re likely reading this from your current remote work setup. Hopefully, it’s a nice view. Hopefully, you’re not zoomed out from endless work calls. 

Over the next few years, countless offices will be converted to apartments, multi-purpose spaces, and co-working offices. There’s no going back from the impacts that coronavirus has had on our workplace culture. The good news is, for the most part—we like remote work. There have been growing pains, but along with the proliferation of its acceptance, we’ve gotten better at doing it.

The Future Workforce report concludes, “that businesses say remote work continues to be going better than anticipated and it’s even improved since the start suggests that businesses are learning that they have underestimated the potential benefits and perhaps overestimated the costs of working remotely.”

Into The Future:

Remote work has become the norm—not something that you’re one nomad friend is always posting about on their Instagram. It’s not something you have to pitch to your manager, hoping to create a life with greater agency and flexibility. It’s here, and it’s here to stay. The data is in, and offices are out. 

Finally, so many of the benefits we are experiencing through the remote work revolution are actually being miscredited. What we really love is not remote work, but async work. We love having the flexibility to participate when and how we’d like to at work. Remote work is the future, async is the future, and Voodle has the power to make the future so much better for your team. 


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