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New report finds majority of companies are embracing remote teams, yet more than half lack a remote work policy

Over a third of full-time employees will work remotely in the next ten years

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - February 28, 2018 -Upwork, the largest freelancing website, today released the results of its second annual Future Workforce Report, which explores hiring behaviors of over 1,000 U.S. managers. As companies struggle to fill the skills gap, they’re embracing agile, remote teams to get work done. Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of companies today have remote workers, yet a majority lack remote work policies.

“To gain an advantage in this increasingly competitive talent climate, companies must think outside their offices or city limits and embrace a flexible, remote workforce,” said Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork. “While major employers like IBM have called back their remote workers, the majority of companies are leveraging a variety of skilled workers, including freelancers in addition to employees, to gain access to the skills they need to get work done. Companies that refuse to support a remote workforce risk losing their best people and turning away tomorrow’s top talent. When companies make even small shifts towards more distributed workforces, looking outside urban centers, they can make a significant impact towards building a more secure, innovative and equitable future of work.”

Remote work is on the rise, but are companies ready for it?

Companies have the resources, but lack the policies to support remote workWhile companies feel confident they have the resources in place to support remote work, many lack a formal policy. Sixty-four percent of hiring managers feel that their company has the resources and processes in place to support a remote workforce, yet the majority (57 percent) lack a remote work policy.Companies with work-from-home policies have become more lenient & inclusiveAs companies increasingly embrace remote work, they’re evolving their work-from-home policies. Nearly half (45%) of hiring managers said their company’s work-from-home policy has changed in the past five years, with 60 percent saying it has become more lenient and inclusive.

This increased inclusivity is making it easier for companies to find the talent they need. Over half (52%) of hiring managers that work at companies with work-from-home policies believe hiring has become easier in the past year.

Findings indicate remote work is likely to become the new normalOver half (55%) of hiring managers agree that remote work has become more commonplace as compared to three years ago. Five times as many hiring managers expect more of their team to work remotely in the next ten years than expect less. In the next ten years, hiring managers predict that 38 percent of their full-time, permanent employees will work predominantly remotely.Many companies like Chess.com are able to grow by leveraging a diverse array of remote talent.“When we founded the business back in 2005, we didn’t set out to build a virtual workforce,” said Erik Allebest, CEO of Chess.com, the largest online Chess community.

“We had a hard time finding qualified talent in the Silicon Valley, they were either working for another company or starting their own. Looking outside our local market became the quickest way to access the skills we needed to support growing project demands. Today, our team is entirely virtual, with team members located across 12 countries. I’m a firm believer in the remote workforce model. At the end of the day, we want to give our team members the freedom to choose how they work and the ability to live their best lives.”

Other notable findings reveal:

  • Talent is hard to find - Over three times (39 percent) as many hiring managers felt hiring had gotten harder in the past year vs. 11 percent who felt it had gotten easier. Of those who said hiring had gotten harder, over half (53 percent) cited access to skills as their biggest hiring challenge.
  • Skills are becoming more specialized - The majority (59 percent) of hiring managers agree that skills have become more specialized compared to three years ago. Sixty-one percent agree that skills will become even more specialized in the next 10 years. As new technological innovations such as artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics take hold, the vast majority (67 percent) of hiring managers agree that companies will need to invest in re-skilling to prepare workers for the jobs of tomorrow.
  • Companies are using more flexible talent - Fifty-two percent of hiring managers cited talent shortages as the key driver to adopting a more flexible workforce. Over half (53 percent) of hiring managers agree that companies are embracing more freelancers, temporary and agency workers (“flexible talent”) as compared to three years ago. A majority (59 percent) of hiring managers today are utilizing flexible talent, up 24 percent from 2017. They anticipate work done by flexible talent will increase by 168 percent in the next 10 years.
  • Agile work models are becoming the norm - A vast majority (88 percent) of companies have made progress in developing a more agile, flexible talent strategy. Six times (64 percent) as many hiring managers believe dynamic and agile team structures will become the norm, vs. 10 percent who disagree.

About Upwork’s Future Workforce Report

To see further insights, please visit the results deck here. The report was conducted by independent research firm Inavero. This is the second year the survey has been conducted. More than 1,000 U.S. hiring managers were surveyed through a third-party, independent online sample between November 8, 2017 - November 15, 2017. The study has an overall margin of error of ±3.09% at a 95% level of confidence.

About Upwork

Upwork is the largest freelancing website. As an increasingly connected and independent workforce goes online, knowledge work — like software, shopping and content before it — is shifting online as well. This shift is making it easier for clients to connect and work with talent in near real-time and is freeing professionals everywhere from having to work at a set time and place. Our company’s mission is to create economic opportunities so people have better lives.Upwork is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., with offices in San Francisco and Chicago. For more information, visit our website at www.upwork.com, join us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

About Inavero

Inavero is a global leader in human capital management research. The firm powers satisfaction and thought leadership studies for hundreds of top firms within the space and leverages more than 300,000 survey responses annually to provide insight into the millions who work in the gig economy and the companies who hire them. For more information, visit https://www.inavero.com/.


Katie Evans