Predictions for remote, hybrid and distributed work in 2024
As we enter 2024, we wanted to give you our top predictions on how companies will approach remote, hybrid and distributed work over the course of the coming year. As our research in Autumn 2023 revealed, most businesses have adopted more flexible approaches to employee work location and hybrid practices are now the norm.
To deal with changing employee expectations, HR professionals have embraced a more open stance on remote and hybrid work, with the majority saying distributed work forms a key part of their talent strategy. With many employees looking to change employers in 2024, organizations offering work location flexibility will be better positioned to attract and retain top talent.
However, new complexities have arisen as remote work has started to blur with business travel and other types of employee mobility. Increased interest from employees in taking ‘workcations’ means that HR teams have to think about their remote and distributed work programs in new ways to ensure continued compliance.
This added complexity is also giving rise to other trends including greater use of technology, a focus on upskilling and more emphasis on data-driven decision making, all of which we will delve into in the post below.
1. Hybrid work models will lead the way
Our research in 2023, ‘Adapt to the new realities of your distributed workforce’, based on the survey results of 1,800 HR professionals and employees in the UK and the US, suggested that hybrid work is now the most common setup for knowledge workers. 71% of the HR professionals surveyed reported that they offer their employees at least some form of at-home, remote or hybrid work option. And it’s what employees want, with 91% of workers feeling that they should be able to work from wherever they want as long as they get their work done. This is particularly important in 2024, given that our research revealed that 35% of employees have changed jobs in the last 12 months and 35% are looking to change employers in the next 12 months. Therefore, companies that can meet employee demand for remote and hybrid work models will be in a stronger position in terms of both talent acquisition and employee retention.
2. Greater complexity will lead to increased compliance risk
The dividing line between business and leisure travel has blurred, giving rise to new terms such as ‘bleisure’, ‘workcations’ and ‘hush trips’. Employees are increasingly keen to extend their business trips to explore new destinations or simply unwind. For instance, our research revealed that 73% of employees want the option to add a ‘workcation’ to their business trips. This typically means they want to remain in the location they’ve traveled to for an extended period, working their normal hours remotely from their new location and not using any PTO or annual leave. Our research also revealed that 4 in 5 employees had worked outside of their state or country in the last 12 months and of those, 67% did not report all of those days to HR.
These kinds of new practices pose a challenge for HR professionals, as this lack of visibility potentially opens up the company to tax, immigration and labor law risks. Companies don’t want to accidentally trigger permanent establishment or fall foul of Schengen compliance. There are also difficulties related to effectively managing state-to-state or international payroll withholding obligations. Non-compliance with key regulations and legislation can lead to fines, penalties, reputational damage, legal fees and more. Work location complexity requires cross-functional cooperation and coordination on a large scale and knowing where your employees are is the first step.
Luckily, employees are open to the idea of their companies knowing where they are working for compliance purposes. The vast majority of employees are comfortable with their location being known to their employer at both the country/state level (94%) and the city level (92%). Given the relatively low levels of employee self-reporting, contrasted with the high tolerance for their location being shared with their employer, location-sharing technology stands to play a key role in addressing the increased risk posed by these new work location practices and can help companies remain compliant in 2024.
3. Companies will need a greater focus on upskilling for remote and hybrid environments
Continuous learning and skills development will be crucial as teams adapt to become increasingly distributed. To stay competitive in a rapidly evolving market, companies will need to invest in upskilling programs and learning and development initiatives. Online learning platforms and virtual workshops will become essential tools for employees to acquire new skills and keep up with the changing demands of their roles. In the context of remote, hybrid and distributed work environments, upskilling in cybersecurity awareness, virtual communication, collaboration and goal setting will be of particular importance in many businesses.
4. Organizations will look to create remote work policies that support Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging initiatives
Research tells us that offering greater flexibility in work location can help foster a sense of inclusion and belonging among a more diverse set of workers. For example, tech giant Meta reported an increase in diverse hires since expanding its remote working options and another study showed that remote work enables higher employment levels among people with disabilities.
In 2024, HR leaders are likely to play a pivotal role in championing remote work options for greater inclusion and ensuring that their companies’ distributed work programs are designed to accommodate the unique needs and challenges faced by employees from diverse backgrounds. This means implementing measures to address issues related to virtual inclusion, acknowledging and accommodating various cultural nuances, and providing support for employees with different needs.
Furthermore, HR leaders will be tasked with developing strategies to promote equal opportunities for career advancement and professional development within the remote and hybrid work model. HR leaders will increasingly be required to provide DEIB data on their remote and distributed work programs to ensure requests are dealt with equitably. The emphasis on diversity-friendly remote work policies underscores the commitment of organizations to cultivate an inclusive workplace culture.
5. Technology will play an increasingly important role in helping to support remote work programs
Remote work processes will become more technology-driven in 2024, with businesses looking for ways to automate the management of remote work requests, pre-travel risk assessments and more. With HR teams being asked to ‘do more with less’, technology is emerging as an important ally, freeing HR professionals from tedious manual processes. This shift will allow HR professionals to allocate their time more strategically, focusing on higher-level objectives that drive business growth. As well as facilitating better automated processes, the use of technology also opens up new possibilities to use data more effectively to drive better decision-making. Rather than having information on distributed workers scattered across multiple, siloed systems, companies will increasingly want to get a more holistic view of where work is taking place. Being able to use platforms that provide an overarching picture of where distributed workers are located will allow for better reporting and a deeper understanding of the mobile workforce in 2024.
The outlook for 2024
As we navigate the dynamic landscape of remote and hybrid work in 2024, several key trends will likely emerge, reshaping both the way businesses operate and how employees experience their work environments. Hybrid work models have become the norm, reflecting the evolving preferences of both employers and employees. The demand for greater work location flexibility is not just a fleeting trend but a critical factor in talent attraction and retention.
However, this increased flexibility has introduced complexities, particularly in compliance risk management, as the boundaries between business and leisure travel blur. The rise of ‘'workcations' poses challenges for HR professionals, necessitating a cross-functional approach to mitigate potential legal, tax and immigration risks.
Additionally, a focus on upskilling remains paramount, with continuous learning becoming a cornerstone for success in remote and hybrid work environments.
HR leaders will also be called on to champion diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) in remote work policies, ensuring that they not only promote inclusivity but are also tailored to the unique needs of a diverse workforce.
Finally, technology is providing businesses with ways to automate and streamline remote work processes and empower HR teams to contribute strategically to business growth. As we embrace the complexities and opportunities of remote work in 2024, adaptability, innovation, and a commitment to fostering inclusive cultures will be pivotal for organizations striving to thrive in this ever-evolving landscape.