Among the many findings from the global pandemic is that many companies haven’t just survived but found ways to thrive during quarantines and restrictions. Remote and flexible working—especially for those juggling parenting, caregiving, and other responsibilities—tested limits of technology, communication, and continuity.
“The coronavirus pandemic taught employers that many jobs can be done remotely. What used to be seen as a tech industry and millennial fad by many, is now widely adopted. While it has not been by choice, many will see the merits of this and continue it long after we can safely return to the office,” says CareerCloud Founder Mike Gardon.
CareerCloud’s recent study Best States for Remote Job Seekers—leveraging data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics—shows even as vaccines become more available and the new normal emerges, remote jobs are expecting to grow by 16% by 2028, four times higher than the 4% growth rate of all U.S. jobs.
One of the many reasons for this growth is that remote working can mean flexibility, which is a benefit many employees would like to hold onto from this past year, according to Toni Frana, career coach and team lead for FlexJobs and Remote.co. Flexibility enables employees to find a balance between work and home lives, and jobs could be fully or partially remote; it can also mean part-time and alternative schedules.
“Work flexibility gives people control and freedom over how, when, and where they work, which can make a huge difference in overall career satisfaction. Specifically, remote work offers a number of benefits to employees, including better work-life balance, more time with family, time savings and less time spent commuting, less stress, and increased productivity,” Frana says.
Best States and Careers for Remote Jobseekers
While originally presumed to commonly connected to millennials and Silicon Valley, CareerCloud’s study found the best states for remote jobseekers are Utah, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Washington state, and Virginia. The most common remote job: accountant.
“Before looking at any data, I may have predicted California would be number one. I would not have guessed Utah,” Gardon says. “That is why we did this analysis because the future of remote work will be an ever-growing part of the American economy and we wanted to provide something in-depth and interesting for people to consider. We look forward to seeing how this plays out in the years ahead.”
Remote and flexible working isn’t just seen as advantageous to employees, but to employers as well. With no required ties to an office location, companies can seek, recruit and attain the best talent because they can be from, and work from, almost anywhere.
“Remote work can offer tremendous benefits to employers as well. Companies with remote workforces see reduced turnover, improved productivity, reduced real estate and operating costs, a lowered carbon footprint, and more satisfied workers,” says Frana.
“Additionally, remote work allows employers to create a more diverse, inclusive workplace by hiring people for whom remote work is a must-have in order to work, such as people with disabilities or health issues, stay-at-home parents, military spouses, and those who live in economically disadvantaged or rural areas, among others,” she tells WorkingNation.
Reliable Broadband a Must for Remote Work
The study found there are areas in the U.S. not as conducive to remote and flexible working; Mississippi, Louisiana, Alaska, Maine and Wyoming are considered the worst states. Coincidentally, Mississippi is ranked last in broadband access. Once considered a luxury, broadband has shown to be critical not just for work but even in the most basic of education needs.
“If the pandemic has shown us anything, it is that the importance and role that connectivity plays in all communities is equally as important as clean water, energy, and those types of things,” says Arthur Scott, associate legislative director and political outreach manager for the National Association of Counties (NACo).
NACo is tackling the issue of the broadband divide with a task force made up of local elected county officials, who see connectivity as a way to future-proof their economies, cities, and the nation.
“It’s an incredible challenge. When we talk about the digital divide, it’s not just rural and urban haves and have-nots,” Scott says. “It exists in cities of all sizes and the reason contributing to the divides very different. In the rural areas, we’re talking literally a lack of infrastructure and a need for investing. When we look at urban cities, where they have infrastructure, the reason could be price, familiarities and comfortabilities with the technology itself.”
Scott urges intergovernmental partnerships to help stakeholders come together to resolve the gap. But even if broadband access becomes equitable everywhere, employees and organizations that choose to continue embracing remote and flexible working still need to encourage a strong work culture, according to Frana.
“Due in part to saved time from no commute and fewer distractions, remote employees tend to work longer hours than their in-office counterparts. Depending on how often an employee works from home and the proximity of other coworkers, a remote worker can spend the majority of these long work days alone. To avoid feelings of isolation, it’s important for remote workers to prioritize social interaction throughout the week and to set healthy boundaries between work and life,” she recommends.
“Overall though, employees with flexible or remote work options generally find themselves to be happier, productive, and more loyal employees, because flexible and remote jobs create an environment better suited to manage life’s demands.”
For those seeking remote and flexible jobs, CareerCloud offers these tips:
Check your online profile. If you search your name on a web browser, what do you find? For remote and flexible working, it helps to show your digital savviness and communication skills adept for a distributed workforce.
Hone your emailing skills. Are you an effective communicator via email? Concise? Impactful? Thoughtful? Make sure to check for typos.
New tech skills are a must. Show off your ease and familiarity with tools such as
Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, Google Drive, and project management apps. Consider this: in December 2019, Zoom reported close to 10 million users. In March 2020, it had 200 million users. Companies rely on these types of tools to stay connected and get the work done.
Practice video interviews. Speaking of Zoom, video calls have replaced in-person interviews. When you’re meeting your potential employer and hiring manager, take a look at your set up, background, lighting and volume. Ask a friend to do a practice run before the real thing.
Do your research. Just like for interviews pre-pandemic times, do your homework on the job, the company, and the people you’re interviewing with. It can reinforce to them your interest and lead to a more engaging conversation.