Upwork report foreshadows a future remote workforce loaded with independent roles

More organizations have adopted flexible remote work policies due to the coronavirus pandemic. A new Upwork report highlights shifting attitudes about remote work and adding independent professionals.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, organizations have been forced to rethink their entire business models. For many, this has involved the logistical challenge that is transitioning an entire workforce from a traditional workplace to the digital office. Earlier this week, Upwork released its annual Future Workforce Report, detailing the labor trends of more than 1,500 hiring managers across the US. The findings also focus on sentiments surrounding the perceived benefits of remote work. Interestingly enough, the research driving the report was actually conducted at two different times the first in November of 2019 and the second in April of 2020. As a result, the report details how hiring managers' decisions have changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Below, we've curated a brief synopsis of some of the major key findings.

Hiring freezes and additional independent employees

As part of the second wave of research conducted earlier this spring, 45% of organizations reported hiring freezes with an additional 39% reporting layoffs or anticipated layoffs. At the same time, hiring managers were looking to add independent professional talent for both cost-efficient scaling and downsizing.

Attitudes about bringing on independent employees have changed dramatically due to the onslaught of the coronavirus. About three-quarters of respondents reported continued or increased use of independent talent. Access to top tier talent was the main reason for tapping independent talent for 47% of those surveyed.

These independent professionals were mainly tapped for roles involving writing, software development, and creative solutions. On average, the length of an independent professional engagement was about four months. When compared to pre-COVID-19 attitudes, nearly half of hiring managers reported being more likely to bring on independent professionals moving forward.

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Remote work in the long-term

While some may have viewed the transition to telecommuting as a short-term solution, many organizations will continue to operate remotely. Nearly one-third of hiring managers believed telecommuting increased overall workforce productivity. In fact, remote work has exceeded expectations for more than half (56%) of respondents.

The main benefits for remote workers include fewer "nonessential meetings," the lack of commute, and minimized office distractions. In the long-term, 62% of respondents believed their organization will operate more remotely compared to pre-coronavirus standards.

SEE: Virtual hiring tips for job seekers and recruiters (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Needless to say, not all organizations are equally thriving during the grand work from home experiment of 2020. However, many hiring managers believe adapting to these models now may position organizations for greater success in the years ahead. Nearly 60% of respondents believed that organizations that have not fully adopted flexible workplace policies are at risk of falling behind.

"Companies are just beginning to scratch the surface when it comes to the advantages of having a more remote, dynamic workforce," said Hayden Brown, president and CEO of Upwork. "COVID-19 marks the turning point for how hiring managers holistically think about their workforce and embrace the benefits of having more flexible teams. In lieu of traditional hiring strategies and fully on-site teams, the most effective companies will blend full-time employees and tap into the specialized, in-demand skills from a flexible and remote workforce."

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