Top 2019 talent trends: The remote and distributed workforce

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5 mins, 20 secs read time

We can sense the end of the year is near. Holiday parties are on the calendar. Planning for next year is well under way. And some overly enthusiastic people are already talking about New Year’s resolutions. Here at Greenhouse, we want to take some time to reflect on the top trends and topics of 2019 before diving head-first into a new decade. We believe that understanding where we’ve been will help us have a clearer vision of where we’re going in 2020 and beyond. And we’re here to share everything we learn.

When we look back on 2019, one of the major topics within the talent industry was the remote and distributed workforce. Whether companies are hiring remote workers to support their global ambitions as they scale, to retain employees who are relocating or simply because they want to hire the best people they can find regardless of where they live, there’s no denying the increasing reliance on distributed employees. “What’s the difference between remote and distributed employees?” you may be asking. These terms are often used interchangeably (as they are in this post), though some people, like Upwork’s Vice President of Global Engineering Sean Kane, believe that “remote” – in contrast to “local” – has some negative connotations and prefers the term “distributed” since it sounds more inclusive.

The remote and distributed workforce by the numbers

The Greenhouse/HRWins Workplace Intelligence Report revealed a number of key trends:

  • 54% of employers surveyed say they offer employees the ability to work remotely. This includes working from home, coworking spaces or remote offices on an occasional, part-time or full-time basis.
  • 69% of employees surveyed feel working remotely would improve their work and their personal lives.
  • 80% of survey respondents agree or strongly agree that they are willing to work remotely.

Get the full scoop on our research on remote work and other 2019 trends in the Workplace Intelligence Report. Download your copy here.

Dealing with the logistics of distributed teams

Rapid expansion and the increasing number of distributed employees have created a new need in the market – flexible work spaces that can quickly expand and contract depending on team size and location. Many fast-growing companies rely on coworking spaces to fill this need. A recent survey by Clutch found that 75% of coworking employees have been in their current space for at least one year and 18% for five years or more.

The increasingly distributed workforce means that it’s no longer possible to simply stop by a coworker’s desk or catch them in the hallway – companies now rely on technology to support communication and collaboration. A survey of remote workers by Miro found that 91% have had a remote meeting within the past seven days. The entire company at Buffer has been distributed since 2012, and Director of People Courtney Seiter shares her list of essential remote work tools here, covering everything from security and scheduling to tracking time off and acknowledging achievements.

Hiring and onboarding remote employees – the benefits and challenges

There’s no denying that remote work is popular with employees – according to research by Miro, 91% of people currently working remotely say it’s a good fit for them and 96% would recommend working remotely to a friend.

For employers, being open to a distributed workforce can help you expand your presence and move into new markets while keeping costs down. It also appeals to potential employees for a number of reasons. Andreas Klinger, Head of Remote at AngelList, says, “Remote teams almost have an unfair advantage in hiring. I regularly talk to San Francisco teams that lose candidates because other companies offer an opportunity to take a job, but then move back wherever they want to live and still have this international career. This has become more and more common.”

But having a distributed team brings its own set of challenges, especially when it comes to hiring and onboarding new team members. Laurie Ruettimann spoke on this topic at Greenhouse OPEN 2019, saying, “So many organizations have a great process for full-time employees (FTEs), but they don’t have any process whatsoever for their distributed workforce. This is a major problem as the freelance/contractor/temporary workforce is a rapidly growing component of the employee base.” The Let’s Fix Work creator and podcast host continued, “Talent is talent regardless of the time they spend at work. Because procurement is outsourced, you may not feel the investment that has been made in finding that right person. We need to peel back the curtain on that process to increase appreciation for the investment, resources involved and process, which will inherently increase appreciation and acknowledgment of those workers.”

Here are a few tips for creating an inclusive and welcoming onboarding experience for distributed employees:

  • Plan equipment delivery so new hires receive everything they need before their official start date.
  • Put together a care package that includes everything you’d regularly give a new hire, and maybe something extra to show that even if they don’t come into the office or headquarters, they are very much a part of the team.
  • If you know that remote employees will be visiting the office, do your best to schedule some type of social outing, even if it’s just a simple group lunch or casual happy hour. Make their presence feel special!

For more tips on onboarding remote employees, see Have Remote Employees? Here’s How to Onboard Them Correctly.

A few final thoughts

Looking to the future, the remote and distributed workforce will only continue to grow. Andreas Klinger puts it this way: “I think it’s the logical evolution of digital work. There is no future in which we will not work online, not work with other people in other countries, or in other places.”

As companies prepare to hire and onboard an increasing number of remote employees, they’ll need to be intentional about creating a positive experience for these new hires. Communication and clear expectation- and boundary-setting – along with creating a sense of belonging – take on even greater importance when employees aren’t working alongside each other.

Greenhouse is here to support you on this journey. We’ll continue to keep an eye on the trends and offer you insights from forward-thinking talent practitioners and leaders. Stay tuned for the next installment in this series on 2019 talent trends.

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Melissa Suzuno

Melissa Suzuno

is a freelance writer and former Content Marketing Manager at Greenhouse. Melissa previously built out the content marketing programs at Parklet (an onboarding and employee experience solution) and AfterCollege (a job search resource for recent grads), so she's made it a bit of a habit to help people get excited about and invested in their work. Find Melissa on Twitter and LinkedIn.