The Future of Remote Work

The barriers to remote work are falling fast.

Remote work is growing. And fast. It’s been estimated that by 2025, 70% of the workforce will work remotely at least five days in a month.

And that was before coronavirus forced most of us to start working remotely.

Large and small companies were already adopting remote work. Whether it’s flexible work with a few days of work from home, or full-on remote work without an office, it’s growing.

To understand the state of remote work around the world, we dove into data from We Work Remotely (WWR), the largest remote work community in the world.

WWR is a job board where companies can post fully remote roles

We analyzed over 11,000 jobs posted on WWR over the course of 6 years to understand everything we could about the changing landscape of remote work.

At FYI, we’ve become experts at remote work, and not just because we’re a remote company ourselves.

We’ve surveyed thousands of people about remote work over the years. Including how people feel about it (hint: they love it). What people’s tips and best practices are for working remotely. And we even dug into all the remote work stats.

Even so, we didn’t expect the trends that we found in the WWR job postings.

Remote work is a force to be reckoned with. Yet remote work hasn’t been adopted equally across the world. It’s still rare in many countries.

Currently, most fully-remote jobs come from companies based in English-speaking countries.

  • 71% of remote jobs posted on WWR came from companies based in English-speaking countries.
  • SF, NYC, and London are the most popular cities for companies posting remote roles on WWR.

In this report, we deep dive into everything we learned analyzing We Work Remotely’s data. Plus, we’ll share insights and trends about where we see remote work heading in the future.

Remote work continues to grow

Remote work has been growing each year, with people increasingly having the opportunity to work from home, or wherever they’d like.

The opportunity to work remotely and have flexibility are becoming expectations for job seekers.

Companies want to meet these expectations by offering more flexible work practices. From 2016 to 2018, the number of job posts on LinkedIn mentioning work flexibility rose by over 78%.

Over half of US companies offer remote work to their employees to increase retention. That’s because flexible work is a major consideration for over three quarters (77%) of employees when they evaluate job opportunities. The lack of flexibility can lead to employee attrition, with 62% of people leaving or considering leaving jobs because they didn’t have enough flexibility.

Remote work isn't something new, it has been growing for years.

In fact, most fully-remote workers are veterans of remote work.

Seventy percent of fully-remote workers say they’ve worked remotely for 3 or more years. Forty-two percent say they’ve worked remotely for 5 or more years.

How many years have you been working 100% remotely?

Source: ​Remote Work Report

How many years have you been working 100% remotely?

WWR has seen consistent year-over-year growth in remote jobs, with the number of jobs posted growing by an average of 30% from 2014 to 2019. Climbing from 848 jobs in 2014 to 3144 in 2019.

Number of jobs posted on WWR

Number of jobs posted on WWR

Remote work isn’t just growing with the usual departments either. Although engineering roles continue to be the most commonly posted remote roles, more types of roles are going remote too.

Departments hiring remote workers on WWR

Departments hiring remote workers on WWR

Back in 2014, 69% of remote roles posted on WWR were engineering roles. The next largest remote roles were design (10%) and customer support (8%).

Sales and Marketing roles weren’t even a job-posting category on WWR until 2015, and Product wasn’t a category until 2018, since the demand for these types of roles was so low.

Last year, engineering roles were still the top-posted roles on WWR, with programming jobs making up 47% of posted roles in 2019. But Sales & Marketing became the next largest remote role category at 18%, followed by design and customer support, each at 10%. A few years ago, Sales & Marketing wasn’t even a category, and now it’s the second-largest role category.

Product is small at 1% but it’s growing.

What types of companies hire remote workers?

Hiring for remote jobs takes a certain amount of bravery.

If you have an office, hiring remote team members means you’ll have some people in an office, and others off on their own at home, in coworking spaces or coffee shops. You’ll feel like you have less visibility into what they’re doing since you can’t tap them on the shoulder or walk up to them in the office.

And if you don’t have an office, you’ll need to manage everyone from afar, bringing the team together through video calls and via collaboration software. You might not even meet the new team members you hire in person for a year or more.

So what types of companies are hiring fully remote roles?

What types of companies are hiring fully remote roles?

What types of companies are hiring fully remote roles?

The majority of companies hiring remote roles - 78.5% - have at least one office.

But one in five remote companies doesn’t have a company headquarters at all.

Instead, when asked by WWR where their company headquarters is located, these companies use terms to describe their homebase like:

  • “Remote”
  • “USA”
  • “Worldwide”
  • “Anywhere”
  • “North America”
  • “Europe”
  • “Online”
  • “Distributed”
  • “World”
  • “The Internet”
  • “Global”

Of the 3,144 remote roles posted on WWR in 2019, 2,468 came from semi-remote companies who had an office somewhere in the world, and 676 came from fully-remote companies.

Fully remote vs semi remote companies on WWR

Fully remote vs semi remote companies on WWR

Roles posted by fully-remote companies grew by 973% between 2014 and 2019. While semi-remote grew by 214% in the same period.

Companies hiring remote workers tend to be on the smaller side.

Over 90% of roles posted on WWR in 2019 came from companies that had 250 or fewer people.

Only 7% of roles were posted by companies with 251 to one thousand people, and 1% from companies with over one thousand people.

Number of employees at remote companies on WWR, 2019

Smaller companies are more likely to have a higher percentage of remote workers.

That’s because larger companies have been slower to adopt remote work.

They’re more likely to have offices where employees are expected to come in daily, and are less used to using software that enables remote collaboration.

Although companies that hire remote workers tend to be on the smaller side, there are larger companies that have embraced either fully-remote work or work from home a few days a week.

For example, almost 60% of Dell’s employees work flexibly, and also happen to have a Net Promoter Score that is 20% higher than those that don’t work remotely.

Two thousand of Aetna’s 35,000 employees work from home at least a few days a week. And Best Buy saw increased productivity with departments that were allowed to work from wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted.

English speaking countries have the most remote workers

The United States takes the gold when it comes to which countries are hiring the most fully-remote workers.

The US is the top country hiring fully-remote workers on WWR, with 56.3% of all roles on WWR.

This lines up with data from Owl Labs, which showed that a whopping 85% of US companies were partially or fully remote. That’s 29% higher than the global average of 56%.

The UK is the next top hirer on WWR, with 6.1% of roles coming from companies headquartered in the UK. Followed by Canada (4.0%), Australia (3.1%) and Germany (1.7%).

Top five countries hiring remote workers on WWR, 2019

Top five countries hiring remote workers on WWR, 2019

English speaking countries are hiring more fully-remote roles than the rest of the world.

71% of WWR roles come from English-speaking countries

Seventy-one percent of companies who posted a remote job ad on WWR in 2019 were headquartered in English-speaking countries.

Only 7.4% of fully-remote roles came from companies based in non-English speaking countries. Including Germany, Estonia, France, Switzerland, Spain, Russia, and more.

Countries hiring remote roles, 2019

Countries hiring remote roles, 2019

Jobs posted on WWR by country, 2019

Jobs posted on WWR by country, 2019

Surprisingly, fewer than 1% of roles posted on WWR came from companies headquartered in Asia and South America.

While the high percentage of fully-remote roles in English speaking countries could be attributed to the fact that WWR is a Canadian company and the website is only available in English, WWR’s data is largely consistent with other sources.

When workers were asked if their organizations offered remote working some or all of the time, Australia was the top country (45%), followed by the US (43%).

Organizations that offer part time or full time remote work, 2019

Source: ​The Modern Workplace Report

Organizations that offer part time or full time remote work, 2019

OWLLabs polled over 3,000 employees worldwide and found that Asia and South America have 9% more companies that don’t allow remote work than the global average.

And of countries that have flexible work policies, China (51%) and Japan (32%) had the lowest percentages, compared to the global average of 62%.

Countries with flexible workspace policies, 2019

Source: ​IWG Global Workplace Survey, 2019

Countries with flexible workspace policies, 2019

So what are the cities hiring the most remote workers?

The top city hiring remote workers was - no surprise - San Francisco.

San Francisco-based companies were responsible for 7% of all roles posted on WWR in 2019.

The second-largest remote hiring city was New York (6%), followed by London (4%), Austin (2%) and Los Angeles (2%).

Top five remote-hiring cities on WWR, 2019

Top five remote-hiring cities on WWR, 2019

There are a few possible reasons for why these cities have the most remote jobs:

  • All of them have lots of tech companies which tend to embrace remote jobs more readily than other industries.
  • The higher cost of living could be preventing people from moving into these cities, forcing companies to look elsewhere for talent.
  • Population size impacts it to some degree, it’s no surprise that New York, London, and LA make the list.

What about the locations of remote workers?

Companies hiring remote roles are able to specify where they want their employees to be based.

This is typically because companies have preferred time zones for everyone.

  • 63% Location Restrictions
  • 37% Anywhere in the World

Of all the roles posted on WWR in 2019, 63% of them had location restrictions.

The rest - 37% - had no location restrictions and accepted applicants from anywhere in the world.

Role location restrictions on WWR, 2019

Role location restrictions on WWR, 2019

Note: Employers were able to select one or multiple location restrictions.

For applicants working in any US time zone, location restrictions meant that they were able to apply to almost any jobs. Those in Europe were able to apply to 50% of jobs.

For people applying from Asia and South America, about 60% of roles were out of reach. These folks are currently limited primarily to companies offering true “work anywhere” roles.

A 2017 study by Academia Internacional de Teletrabajo showed that about 10% of the workforce in Brazil and Argentina work remotely, while only 5-6% work remotely in Chile and Mexico.

That’s significantly lower than in the US, where 54% of the total workforce worked remotely in some capacity in 2016, and 20% worked remotely full time. In the European Union only 10% of people worked remotely in some capacity.

While flexible work is prevalent in many parts of the world, when it comes to fully-remote roles, English speaking countries are leading.

Best practices and tips for recruiting remote workers

We’ve gathered 17 tips from remote workers to help you with recruiting a distributed team. Here are a few of the top tips and you can view them all too.

Set expectations. For example, it’s different for folks to do a remote interview. Do you get dressed up, where do you sit, etc. lots of things whose unfamiliarity can cause stress for folks. Set those expectations up front to help calm nerves and help folks represent their best selves in an interview.
Ben Kutil
Ben Kutil
Principal Product Manager at Ad Hoc
Use a short video screener as a first or second step in your hiring funnel. We ask candidates 3 simple questions (1m each). This helps us screen for good candidates early in the process.
Akshay Dodeja
Akshay Dodeja
CEO and Co-founder of Terminal49
People who work well on remote teams: they are thoughtful, well organized, and considerate of others time and attention.
Jonathan Gheller
Jonathan Gheller
CEO and Co-founder of Metabolic
There are two types of people. Those who are 3x more effective than in a busy office – and there are those who quickly become isolated or distracted working from home. Be careful hiring middle managers from big companies into a remote role on your team as they will rarely work out. Remote teams need less talk and more rock. Look to recruit former entrepreneurs, consultants, freelancers – people who aren't afraid to roll up their sleeves, work hard, and do whatever it takes to get the job done.
Zack Onisko
Zack Onisko
CEO of Dribbble
Biggest thing to vet for is the impetus for why someone wants to "go remote". People normally fall within two buckets: 1) Wanting to do less/little work, 2) Wanting to live a more dynamic/flexible life enabling them to achieve more (both inside and outside of work). Work-life balance is important, but it's about finding people who are excited to improve with extended flexibility (ie: design their lives for the better).
Steph Smith
Steph Smith
Head of Publications at Toptal
If the main reason they want to work for your company is to be remote, that's a pass. Look for people who are passionate about your mission and vision first, and remote is just the icing on top.
Andrew Berkowitz
Andrew Berkowitz
Co-founder & Chief Creative Officer of TeamSnap
View all Tips

Where is remote work headed?

Even before coronavirus hit, all signs pointed to an even faster growth trajectory for remote work. Remote work is likely to spread not just in the US and English speaking countries, but also in countries where remote work has had less penetration.

The barriers that held companies back from remote work were already crashing down.

People have been getting used to collaboration apps like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Slack, and Microsoft Teams. These apps are making it so much easier to work remotely and communicate from afar.

This pace will only accelerate now that many of us have been forced to work remotely because of coronavirus.

We suspect that once people have a taste of remote work, they’ll want more.

That’s because people who work remotely almost all love remote work.

People who get used to working remotely often can’t envision going back. Over half of employees at small businesses said they’d prefer taking a pay cut rather than being restricted to working in an office.

What happens once a large number of people who never worked remotely experience remote work, and actually like it?

Before coronavirus forced so many people to work from home, over half of people who worked for companies that didn’t have remote-work policies said they felt frustrated and wished they could work from home.

Will even more people be frustrated? Will there be new expectations for flexibility? And will people be more likely to leave their employers in favor of companies that do offer those benefits?

Our hunch is yes. Employers will need to step up and offer more flexible work options to retain talent after coronavirus restrictions are relaxed.

The pull to remote work won’t just come from the employees themselves. Another huge benefit of remote work is productivity.

Remote workers are actually more productive than those who work in offices, reporting that they get more work done.

A study conducted by travel agency Ctrip showed that its work from home employees experienced a 13% performance increase as a result of working for longer, taking fewer breaks, having fewer sick days, and having a quieter and more convenient working environment.

The state of Utah also ran a remote work pilot across four state agencies and saw a 23% productivity increase.

Though the conditions of remote work during coronavirus are atypical, people and companies are bound to see improved productivity. No more interruptions. No more water-cooler chat or long lunches.

Why would companies want to go back?

With so many companies across the world forced into instituting remote work policies and processes, the transition to remote work in the future will be that much easier. Even if people are able to go back to work within the next few weeks, the effects on the way people work will be felt for years to come.

A note from logo

Remote has a special place in our hearts at FYI. We’re a fully remote team with folks based all over the world. We love working remotely! And we love helping our team (plus everyone else!) have a better experience with remote work. FYI is a product that helps any team - remote, distributed or in an office - find information across the company, faster.

A huge thank you to We Work Remotely, who provided us with the data. We are happy customers of We Work Remotely and think the world is a better place thanks to them ❤️.

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