Adapting Ahead - How Remote Work Will Change in 2024

January 17, 2024

In the current business landscape, the adoption of remote work has become a necessity. This has become especially critical for small businesses, where the proper integration of this strategy lets you optimize both productivity and flexibility.

However, the conversation around remote work has changed quickly since the pandemic. More workers are now starting to transition back into the office. Meanwhile, employers and employees often find themselves on opposite sides of the debate over remote work. How should your startup deal with this potential controversy in the new year?

This blog explores lingering questions around remote work. We'll look at how the work-from-home transition has changed every aspect of the workplace environment. At the same time, we'll detail how companies and employees may (or may not) want change in 2024.

What is remote work and how has it impacted small businesses so far?

The pandemic forced many companies to turn to remote operations to survive. Given COVID restrictions, employees in many areas could not come to the office for long stretches. As a result, companies quickly adopted the necessary infrastructure to let their key team members work from home.

This wasn't possible in many industries. However, for a large number of companies, allowing their employees to work from home kept business going during a difficult time. Thanks to the internet and cloud-based collaboration tools, team members were able to continue contributing, even though they couldn't come together in a centralized location.

This sparked a massive sea change. A government study showed that the number of people primarily working from home tripled between 2019 and 2021. The total jumped to 27.6 million people, or more than one in every six workers.

This proportion has moderated a bit since the depths of the pandemic. For 2023, about 12.7% of workers primarily operated from home — close to one in every eight. However, another large chunk of the workforce — about 28% — have a hybrid model, meaning they spend part of their time at home and part at the office.

How will remote work change in 2024?

Hopefully, nothing like the COVID outbreak will ever happen again. Still, the pandemic triggered a seismic shift in people's perception about what the workplace should feel like. The sudden rush toward remote work can't be completely walked back, and 2024 will likely make that fact even more clear.

As companies look to the new year, many employers are looking for a further return to the previous status quo. However, there are signs that this won't be possible. At the same time, evidence has accumulated showing that remote work has some significant benefits and that a complete return to the office would have serious drawbacks.

Generally speaking, companies are looking for a return to the office. One survey conducted by Resume Builder found that 90% of companies want their workers to return to the office in 2024. Meanwhile, only 2% say they have no plans to make their employees come back to the office.

On the other side of the equation, workers have clearly indicated their preference for remote work, at least some of the time. Data published by FlexJobs showed that 95% of workers desire some form of remote work. Meanwhile, 51% want a fully remote job, while most of the rest would like a hybrid position.

95% of workers desire some form of remote work. Meanwhile, 51% want a fully remote job, while most of the rest would like a hybrid position.

How to frame the debate around remote work

The appeal of remote work for individual workers might seem obvious. Still, as you discuss your remote work plans, it’s important to understand the details. Here are a few of the benefits your team members get from conducting some of their operations away from the office:

  • Lack of commute

  • More casual work environment

  • Increased control over workflow

  • Potential for better work/life balance

  • Easier to arrange things like childcare

  • More flexible schedules

Now, let’s look at the employer's perspective. As we’ve noted, most companies are looking to unwind at least some of the remote options they gave their employees during the pandemic. There are plenty of reasons why these firms prefer having their teams together at the office.

Here are some of the upsides of in-office work:

  • Easier teamwork

  • Improved training possibilities

  • Better networking

  • Stronger bonds between employees

  • Heightened oversight over process

  • Increased visibility in evaluations

Still, even with these advantages, it’s important that business leaders keep an open mind about remote work. Managers shouldn't ignore the potential benefits of a remote strategy.

While there are trade offs to consider, your business can also see a boost from facilitating a work-from-home situation. Here are some upsides to consider:

  • Broader pool of candidates during hiring

  • Potential for lower salaries as you can hire from different geographical areas

  • Higher retention, thanks to improved work/life balance

  • Increased productivity, facilitated by improved work-from-home tools and techniques

  • Reduced overall costs, as office expenses are minimized

Flexible work trend predictions for 2024

Now that we've outlined the conversation that has surrounded remote work recently, it's time to look ahead to the future. How will the thinking around this critical topic change in the next 12 months? Here are some of the key themes to keep in mind for 2024:

Hybrid work environments will continue to become the "new normal"

As we've seen, there's a split between workers and employers about the ideal mix of remote work. Companies have shown an obvious preference: they want their teams in the office as much as possible. However, concessions will need to be made, given the overwhelming preference for most employees.

The negotiation over this issue will probably take a long time to resolve, with plenty of back and forth along the way. However, 2024 will likely see a continued cementing of hybrid models as the norm. This compromise will let everyone get the most out of the situation.

Employers will let their workers adopt more flexible schedules

Large companies need to operate at the policy level. It's difficult to leave room for individual negotiation. When you have thousands of employees, a narrow set of rules often governs interactions with workers.

A small business has more room to maneuver. Take advantage of this flexibility as you work with your specific employees. As long as they can still meet their deadlines and effectively complete assignments, offer some leeway to your employees as they balance their at-home and at-the-office commitments. This autonomy will lead to better outcomes for everyone.

It will keep getting easier to work from home

The structures surrounding remote work received a huge boost during the pandemic. Companies poured money into technology to maximize production from offsite workers. Now that this strategy has become central to ongoing operations, this investment will only continue.

As such, prepare for further advances in this area. Stay current with the evolving technology, seeking out the best communication and productivity tools. At the same time, set aside funds for training and equipment.

Firms will tailor the best remote system for them

As we've seen, there's no single model for remote work. From completely eliminating offices to instituting a sporadic hybrid schedule, employers have choices. Keeping this flexibility will be pivotal in 2024 and beyond.

Understand what mix of remote work represents the optimal system for you. Communicate with your employees and determine a framework that fits your circumstances. Meanwhile, maintain your optionality as you expand. This way, you can continue to get the most benefit possible out of your remote possibilities.

Optimizing remote options in 2024

Though remote work has revolutionized the business world in recent years, a disparity has developed. A split has occurred between what employees want and what businesses expect for the future of the workplace. Part of your challenge for 2024 will be navigating this incongruity.

A split has occurred between what employees want and what businesses expect for the future of the workplace. Part of your challenge for 2024 will be navigating this incongruity.

It is impossible to predict exactly what will happen in the next year, yet there are some projections you can make with confidence. Given what has happened since the pandemic, it's clear that the effects of remote work, including shorter weeks and flexible hours, will have a permanent impact on our society.

These factors can pose challenges for your small business as you grapple with new employee expectations. However, there's an upside as well. You can also learn to unlock some of the business advantages that remote work provides and harness these for your long-term benefit.