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This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.

2020 was certainly an unforgettable year. Between a global pandemic, economic uncertainty and the unprecedented transition of millions of people around the world to work from home, remote working has had a big year.

Indeed, the world of work as we know it has changed dramatically in the past 12 months. As we look forward to a new year and new beginnings, examining how the past year shaped remote working can help us see where it can grow further.

Here at FlexJobs we want to closely monitor all new trends in the work from home to see how they can benefit workers and employers everywhere. Here are our top remote work predictions for 2021!

1. Long-term remote working agreements will increase

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The end of the coronavirus pandemic is in sight, but not quite there yet. As we close 2020, companies are still working on their remote working plans for the foreseeable future. While some will undoubtedly return to the office once it's safe, many companies have made the leap to long-term remote working.

In 2021, companies will continue to officially publish their remote plans – regardless of whether they stay completely removed for the whole summer, give employees the option to work from home permanently, or whether they have a hybrid remote / in- Create an office plan. In one report, 86% of companies surveyed expect the physical and digital workplaces to coexist in the future, and 78% expect remote working to increase.

Our best guess? With so many companies realizing the benefits of remote working (such as increased productivity, better job satisfaction and cost savings) and 72% of workers wanting to work remotely for at least two days a week, more and more are opting for some form of permanent remote working integration.

2. Businesses will be on the move

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If remote working has one benefit that employers may not originally have considered, it is the fact that being able to work from home removes that high-rent office work a little. Companies that have switched to permanent remote working are taking the opportunity to get out of expensive real estate markets like Silicon Valley.

With so many employees now able to work from home and work from anywhere, companies like Oracle and Palantir are moving their headquarters from California to the cheaper markets of Austin, Texas and Denver, Colorado.

Another company making a major real estate move is REI, which traded its brand new sprawling 400,000 square foot campus for smaller headquarters in a larger geographic area to cater to the needs of newly removed employees. In its own quest to tackle the future of remote working, Facebook bought the REI campus in Washington state in order to diversify its work areas.

3. Companies can request vaccinations

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Now that COVID-19 vaccines are officially making their way through the healthcare system and a return to normal is in sight, companies inevitably have to deal with the safety of getting employees back into the office.

While companies can set health and safety working conditions that require vaccination, AARP states that they are more likely to take a softer approach and simply promote vaccination. However, high risk industries like travel and retail have the right to request vaccinations for COVID-19 as long as their policies are job-related, have exceptions, and meet business need.

Remote working enables companies to make reasonable arrangements for those who cannot receive the vaccine.

4. Remote work helps women get back to work

An accountant works from homeRoman Samborskyi / Shutterstock.com

There is no doubt that 2020 was an incredibly difficult year for working women. More than 800,000 women completely left the workforce between August and September 2020. Many have opted out while trying to balance work and domestic responsibilities.

Why were women so overly concerned? After all, only 216,000 men left the workforce in the same period. Families under pressure to have children at home or look after loved ones while trying to work full-time have decided to make cuts – and the lowest-income position is generally the one that has to leave . Unfortunately, that is usually the woman's job.

In the FlexJobs survey of 2,500 working parents, 63% of working mothers said their main job was childcare during the pandemic, and 17% quit their job to make everything work (compared to 42% and 10% for men).

The good news is that flexible and remote work can help women get back to both the careers and work-life balance they need. As opportunities for remote work increase in 2021, so should women's ability to find work that supports them.

5. Companies strive for diversity in hiring

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In 2020, in response to the call for racial justice across the country and around the world, companies reaffirmed their commitment to focus on diversity, inclusion and equity (DEI) going forward.

A report by ADP shows that employers searching for data on the cultural and racial demographics of their workforce increased by 74%. In another poll by PwC, 76% of companies say diversity is a value or priority in their workplace.

Remote working can help support diversity by giving companies access to a much wider pool of candidates. When employees can work from anywhere (or from a specific location), companies are no longer employed in their small geographic area. With more candidates to choose from, companies can improve diversity in the workplace by focusing on finding a "culture add" versus a "culture fit" when recruiting. In other words, who can fill in gaps and add value instead of just fitting into the existing corporate culture?

6. Freelance work helps fill in the gaps

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Freelance work has been immensely helpful in generating income for people who have lost their jobs or hours due to the pandemic. According to an Upwork survey conducted between June and July 2020, 59 million people (36% of the American workforce) were self-employed in the past 12 months. Twelve percent of respondents were self-employed during the pandemic – 54 percent for reasons of necessity and 75 percent looking for financial stability.

In view of the ongoing economic uncertainty and the fluctuating labor market, freelance work – and the additional income associated with it – is likely to remain in the long term. In fact, 88% of freelancers say they are likely to continue to freelance in the future.

Businesses can also benefit from a growing freelance labor market, especially if they don't have the resources to hire full-time workers. When companies assess their long-term needs, freelancers and contract workers can help them fill gaps in staff.

7. Remote work will be an alternative for retirement

Senior woman working on laptop and phone from homeBranislav Nenin / Shutterstock.com

Many people's finances have taken a hit during the pandemic, including those on the verge of retirement. Not only do 12% of older workers need to dive into their emergency savings to make ends meet, but some are adjusting their retirement contributions or making withdrawals from retirement accounts.

This means that those who thought they were ready to retire may have to put off a little longer before they can get some of their money back. As a result, 32% of older workers seek secondary employment in order to earn some income.

Statistics show that 94% of workers looking to retire would actually prefer to work flexibly in retirement – 56% are looking for flexible hours and 20% are hoping for a remote working arrangement. Remote work can help retirees or retirees base their finances for long-term stability.

8. In-demand careers offer more remote control options

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As more companies make remote working a long-term or permanent arrangement, sought-after occupations will have the best available remote jobs for job seekers.

According to the FlexJobs Flexible Job Index, these were the top three categories for remote and flexible jobs in Q3 2020:

  • Computer & IT
  • Software development
  • Medical health
  • Customer service
  • accounting

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, sometimes we get compensation for clicking links in our stories.

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