Don't think of remote work as a perk: It's a lifestyle

GitLab's latest report highlights how the pandemic accelerated the workplace flexibility trend.

istock-1279977836.jpg

Image: iStock/fizkes

Over the course of three months, the DevOps platform GitLab surveyed professionals worldwide to gather data for its latest report "Out of the Office: How the world adapted to working remotely in 2020," and update to GitLab's "The Remote Work Report: The Future of Work is Remote," which was launched in March 2020.

The release of the initial remote report unexpectedly coincided with the majority of the enterprise shutting down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Depending on how you look at it, the timing made this either a good thing (detailed research on remote work) or a bad thing (with so many of the workforce quickly turned into remote workers, new developments, challenges and technology could render the report obsolete). Over the period of one year, GitLab reviewed assessments from more than 3,000 respondents. 

SEE: Working from home: The future of business is remote (ZDNet/TechRepublic special feature) | Working from home: How to get remote right (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

For its newest—How the world adapted to working remotely in 2020—GitLab surveyed more than 200 professionals worldwide, with most (86%) working in fields amenable to remote work throughout a three-month time frame. The surveys were conducted over the phone, video conference, or written questionnaire. 

"The impact of COVID-19 may have accelerated the adoption of remote work for many businesses, but trends towards connectivity and increasingly digital work laid the groundwork for businesses to succeed at pivoting so quickly," said Sid Sijbrandij, CEO and co-founder of GitLab, said in a press release. "Moving forward, remote work won't be viewed as a perk so much as it will be considered a lifestyle requirement."

Expectations, the new report found, rapidly reshaped standard expectations, and both employers and employees began to realize and discover how to optimize productivity at (for) work and in their lives as a whole. 

Twenty-five percent of respondents stated that "more time" was the benefit they're most enjoying, as they work remotely. Very few optimized their living situation to save money (12%), for better housing (9%), or to be more productive (12%), and GitLab said this suggests these "aren't serious concerns around teleworking."

More than half (56%) of the respondents shifted to remote work during the pandemic, and only 1% said they would like to go back to the office. Due to the unprecedented length of the pandemic, which is still shrouded in uncertainty, employees now "identify" as a remote worker. Identity is critical to further develop motivation "to improve fluency and embrace workflows which strengthen distributed teams." A mainstay among freelancers, creatives, and entrepreneurs, remote work has now been "democratized," and thrust into the corporate mainstream.

The most important criteria can't be found in an office: Nearly half (47%) identified nature/outdoor space as a priority; 34% said it was the value of a "pleasant environment;" and 25% said connection to family was important. Working remotely has sparked a kind of wanderlust, or at least a desire (among 28%) to relocate closer to nature, warmer weather, or a better community. 

A common theme throughout the new research is that "remote isn't the future of work, it's the future of living," with 37% of respondents saying they optimized their lives to spend time with family; 30% prioritize the outdoors or exercise or health and 26% streamline schedules to "reclaim more time in a day." Remote work, it was revealed, makes the day-to-day more manageable. 

Employees want flexibility, solid communication, and trust they'll be able to execute their work and meet deadlines. In-person politics play less of a role in praise and promotion and clock-in and clock-out times are increasingly less relevant, as long as work is completed when expected. Remote work has had a positive impact on teamwork (65%). 

Work and life boundaries are a complicated challenge said respondents (22% admitted they didn't have a designated space in their home to do their remote work) who offered advice to job seekers looking into a remote work location; 77% centered responses around four key areas: Setting boundaries (25%), staying focused and productive (20%), protecting mental and physical health (23%), and putting personal priorities first (9%). 

Remote work is a great incentive and a "boon for retention," as 74% of respondents said they're either "somewhat" or "very" likely to remain with their current employer "due to support of remote work." Given that many employers struggle with top tech professionals often leaving after the first or second year, this is good news for company leaders.

And yet 57% said they miss social interactions that are rote at an in-person workplace.

"Throughout modern history, we have fit life around the rigid confines of work," said Darren Murph, head of remote at GitLab, in the same press release. "When remote work is embraced as a competitive strategy, work complements life with greater harmony. As reflected in this report, more businesses are recognizing this reality and thinking differently about the decoupling of geography and results."

Also see