More than 25 million non-tech jobs expected to become work from home

A report from Upwork shows that nearly 40% of such roles will be able to be done remotely, as a result of the global pandemic.

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As COVID-19 rolls on, continuing to keep many employees working from home or engaged in hybrid work environments, it's still unclear what this kind of shift will do to the larger economy. A new report from the global marketplace Upwork, "Not Just Tech: Remote Freelancing Across Industries," explores the increase in remote, freelance and hybrid work models in non-tech industries, and what the adoption of these models will do to the overall U.S. economy.

"Not Just Tech" shows how remote freelancers may have major opportunities in this new climate -- 25.7 million jobs like this, or 37% of roles, are available in industries, such as accommodation, food services, agriculture, construction, mining, utilities, transportation and warehousing. Even in jobs that have been considered hands-on, such as construction, 10% of workers, or 1.2 million jobs, are in professional services -- in other words, able to be remote. Furthermore, these kinds of employers are increasingly communicating with remote workers: A whopping 80% of the biggest non-tech companies Upwork works with have increased spending in web, mobile, software development, sales and marketing and customer service. 

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Largely as a result of the shift to remote work in 2020,  22.9% of workers in these kinds of non-tech jobs became remote by January 2021. And freelance budgets swelled also: Total spending on these positions grew by over 44% for Upwork's major non-tech clients. And these clients have grown, surpassing 25% of Upwork's biggest clients.

Bringing remote workers onto the team has meant an increase in overall investment in business. According to the report,  total spending ballooned by 44.2% in 2020 for Upwork's 100 largest non-tech clients. "Measured by spend, we find that businesses are hiring freelancers in web, mobile, and software development (35%), sales and marketing (12.1%) and customer service (11.7%)," the press release states. Additionally, spending in 2020 increased for 80% of Upwork's 100 largest non-tech clients.

COVID-19 isn't fully responsible for the shift to remote work; traditional industries had begun the transition prior to the pandemic, moving sales teams, web developers, customer service agents, and other employees online. Still, the global pandemic was undoubtedly a major factor in the shift. 

"Typically, traditional industries outside of technology aren't considered to be remote-friendly, but our research confirms that professional services jobs exist in every industry," Adam Ozimek, chief economist of Upwork, said in a press release. "These findings reveal a significant opportunity for non-tech businesses to tap into new, highly skilled remote talent, unlocking the true potential of their businesses."

This article was updated on June 1, 2021.

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