Industry Analysis

Workforce of the Future: Remote Workforce Challenges for Companies


Automation and machine learning are replacing human tasks in the workforce. These technological advancements are changing the way organizations are looking for skills in the people they hire and what is considered value in terms of human capital. New technologies and ways of working disrupt jobs and the skill set needed to complete tasks. In 2017, McKinsey Global estimated 60% of occupations had 30% of work activities that could be automated by 2030— approximately 375 million workers globally would need to switch jobs or acquire new skills. Competing forces in the remote environment are forcing companies to prepare their organizations for the workforce of the future. According to PwC, the working environment will navigate to four worlds, coded as Red, Blue, Yellow and Green. In a red world, organizational structure is based on innovation rules and digitization. The blue world believes corporations are king- bigger is better- scale and influence are key to growth. A Yellow world is a social-first, community-based world in which humans are valued. The green world indicates corporate responsibility as key to putting societal purpose at the heart of marketing strategies.

Assessment of Current Challenges with Remote Working Environment

  • Most remote workers supply their own equipment, leading to inconsistencies, decreased productivity, information transfer issues, and adds time to the workday — 70% of remote workers reported that their companies do not cover these costs.
  • 54% of IT professionals think that remote workers are a greater security risk.
  • Remote work statistics surrounding cyber security issues: 83% of phishing attacks in 2019 took place outside the inbox — in text messages or in apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. 32% of companies have lost data from the Cloud, 60% of companies that lose data with close within 6 months, and 93% of companies that lose data file for bankruptcy within a year.
  • The way work is completed in response to the corona virus crisis has caused organizations to experience difficulties building working models that integrate remote workers with technologies, as 75% of millennial employees believe the traditional office will be obsolete by 2030.
  • Companies have had to adjust the approach to managing employees under the new normal, as 8-hour days do not always take place in a traditional schedule- 33% of employees say having set working hours is the most effective way to maintain a productive team.
  • The challenges of geographically dispersed employees can be difficult when a company is ill-equipped to manage the people, technology, brand, and culture across multiple locations.

Digital Platforms for Communication and Project Orientation that Enhance Remote Working Capabilities

  • Enterprise social networks are proving invaluable for companies in terms of business and cultural challenges of remote work. Unily’s customer community indicates social activity has increased by 20% since the beginning of the corona virus.
  • Demand for VPNs (virtual network providers) increased by 44% during March and remains 22% higher than levels before the pandemic.
  • The biggest technical challenge in having virtual employees using mobile devices is protecting sensitive data- 90% of employees use the smartphones for work-related activities.
  • As more personal devices are introduced into a company’s network, the challenge of balancing employee freedom, app functionality, and data security rises: 40% 0f data breaches are caused by lost or stolen devices, 50% of companies that allowed BYOD — bring your own device — were breached, and 70% of employees use company tablets to download personal apps.
  • Corporate communication platforms (intranets) have become equally vital as employees rely on these sources for updates and direction. According to Buffer’s survey State of Remote Work (2018), 21% of survey respondents believe communication is one the biggest struggles.
  • Project management can be impossible when team members are dispersed across geographic locations, yet 76% of executives say agile project management tools will be the new normal.
  • Depending on the industry and types of projects, online tools exist to align team members, assign tasks, track progress, and make changes (time stamps, communication threads, and project status updates): 56% of companies use only one project management software, is used by over 100,000 teams across 201 industries, and Basecamp surpassed 3 million users in 2020.
  • Video conferencing and online apps like Zoom, Slack, Lucidchart, Google Drive, HubStaff, Xero and MindMap help employees document projects and the development process.
  • Video conferencing statistics on remote work (2019) show that the global remote workforce has increased by 140% since 2005.
  • Video calls allow teams to have full conversations instead of using text or emails to communicate when working on large projects- 83% of businesses with over 250 employees are likely to purchase video calling tools.
  • Software platforms (with screen sharing capabilities) and collaborative tools such as Google Sheets and Google Docs, OneDrive, Microsoft.NET, and SAP for workforce planning make it possible to work together in real-time.

How Companies are Assessing their Remote Workforce to Understand their Skill Base and Future Automation Capabilities

  • Organizations need to assess current workforce skills, determine future needs, and create a road map to bridge the gaps.
  • 27% of companies believe adding the right talent to their organization is the most critical challenge they face.
  • Managing a distributed workforce is stressful, therefore, it is important to regularly evaluate what is working and what is not in terms of skill set and automation capabilities.
  • 82% of global executives at companies with more than $100 million in annual revenues expect upskilling and reskilling current employees will be 50% of the solution to addressing the skills’ gap required to implement newer technologies.
  • Remote work creates early-stage challenges for organizations across operating-model dimensions (people, structure, process, and technology) that cause increased demand for advanced technology skills.
Organizations are beginning to leverage digital talent marketplace platforms to bridge the supply and demand mismatch of skills to be competitive in a remote working environment- 49% of companies are satisfied with the on-demand talent hiring process. Global Businesses Using Flexible Workplaces to Retain Top Talent

Community and Team Building Within a Remote Workforce

  • One of the biggest challenges of working remotely is team communication that helps keep teams productive and cohesive- 2020 has seen a 9% increase in Google searches related to team-building and productivity.
  • Strategies to build cohesive teams: promote proactive communication, schedule daily huddles, set expectations, avoid micromanaging, adopt new communication tools, give more lead time, and keep an office culture in the remote environment.
  • It is important to remember different time zones and flexible schedules create problems with workflow and team collaboration- 4.3 million people in the USA alone work from home at least half the time, 3.2% of the entire workforce.
  • Four strategies to build a community for a remote workforce: promote spontaneous conversations (20% of remote workers identify communication as an obstacle), allow for social interaction in meetings, encourage collaboration at all levels, and supervise responsibly through regularly scheduled progress meetings that honor work schedules.
  • Loneliness and a bad work-life balance are two of the biggest issues that affect work (the top issue for 38% of the remote workforce); therefore, tam building activities help companies achieve better overall communication, improve creativity among teams, breakdown barriers and silos, reveal hidden talents, aid in conflict resolution, and builds trust between team members.

Outreach to Potential Clients in a Remote Working Environment

  • In a remote environment, employees must now have sales skills to screen potential clients. For most companies, the average employee has only 24 minutes a week for formal learning, 58% want to learn at their own pace and 49% want to learn in the flow of work.
  • Remote employees should recognize cues from the target audience to establish the channel of communication to be used. Asking thought-provoking questions serve as a springboard into a broader conversation about how the company can help a potential client.
  • Spending financial resources to automate sales outreach is a must, as it allows a company to maintain regular contact with customers and take advantage of various metrics- increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits anywhere from 25% to 95%.
  • The best way to build trust with strangers is for marketing departments to develop a personalized outreach strategy that employees use to build interest. Approximately 91% of organizations with above average XM (experience management) report higher profitability.
  • As remote working continues, a key factor in driving client outreach is a company’s financial capability to implement CRM software that records every interaction with a potential client, allowing employees across geographies access to all relevant data; on average, companies lose 3% of revenue from bad customer experiences.

Relevance between Consumers, Organizational Branding Strategies, and the Remote Workforce

  • A company’s brand message must be consistently delivered by every employee or it weakens company credibility with consumers; an increase in great customer experiences generates an average revenue of $823 million over a 3-year period for companies with $1 billion in revenues.
  • Implementing a central hub- an LMS (learning management system)- for branded content, and consistent training on products and services offered is key to building trust with consumers- A study shows 95% of customers are more likely to be loyal to a trusted company, while 92% purchase additional products and services from trusted businesses.
  • Leadership teams are responsible for setting the strategic vision of the company and determining if new technologies are required to gain a competitive advantage. Only 33% of leaders successfully implement a strategic direction plan, with the latest estimate that 67% of strategies fail because of poor execution.
  • Companies will need to adjust product and service offerings and geographic footprint, as the separation of local economies affects labor costs and consumer purchasing power- 65% of global customers (almost 80% of Millennial’s) favor brands with mobile-friendly customer service, 75% of customers use a search engine before calling an agent, and 74% use a self-service support portal.
  • Today’s circumstances are radically different, and as such, companies must redesign their messaging to address the customers’ new reality and engage with consideration and genuine interest- 69% of social marketers say increasing brand awareness is their number one priority.
  • Acquiring new customers is 5 to 25 times more expensive than keeping existing customers.

Focus on Social Awareness Amid Remote Work

  • The social enterprise in a remote working environment embodies a new set of attributes- purpose, potential and prospective for companies to maintain sustainability; consequently, 89% of consumers say they will buy from a brand they follow, while 75% say they will increase their spend with that brand.
  • 88% of employees say working for with a strong social purpose is more important than ever before, meaning companies should create a socially responsible mission statement by focusing on their overall vision, and scale it down, specifically, what to achieve, and how it will impact the business, community and industry.
  • The benefit to remote working is its environmental contribution- employees working from home commuting less translating to fewer carbon emissions (the U.S. uses an average of 393 million gallons of petrol every day).
  • By 2025, 75% of the workforce will be made up of Millennial’s and Generation Z who prefer flexible working patterns and are conscious about saving the planet. As a result, companies addressing sustainability and social responsibility are shifting to greener offices, diverse work-station ergonomics, and careful protection of the rights and desires of employees.
  • The remote workforce paradigm shift motivates job seekers to apply, retains and satisfies existing staff, and makes a positive impact on the socially responsible company and consumers- a study shows 60% of employees said they want some flexibility in where and/or when they work.

Incubators for Innovation

  • The remote workspace changes the nature of collaboration and creates barriers for creativity and innovation. The World Economic Findings highlighted findings from the research paper, which suggested 100% remote work could make employees 4.4% more productive than traditional setups.
  • Because of the corona virus crisis, there is a unique opportunity for organizations to build connections, paving a path forward to nurture growth and innovation- 74% of people born between early 1980s and mid-1990s have a positive perception of brands whose representatives respond to social media inquiries.
  • Companies can re-imagine the balance between collaboration and productivity to usher in a new resurgence of productivity- a research study regarding remote workers indicates 51% of all respondents said they have been able to maintain or improve their productivity on collaborative tasks.
  • Shifting KPIs to prioritize original work prompts front line managers to work with team members in identifying performance challenges: Examples of remote worker KPIs to monitor include, total monthly hours spent on submitting expense reports decreased by X%, typical response time is X amount of time, compared to X before the intranet, and duplicate or re-submitted documents decreased by X%.
  • The Nielsen Norman Group once reported that the cost of lost productivity for a company with 10,000 intranet software users can be $15 million per year for companies with low-usability intranet sites (among the worst 25%) compared with the companies in the top 25%.
  • Smart companies should embrace remote work and watch innovation grow- its potential for opportunities outweighs constraints; consequently, 85 % of 15,000+ global businesses confirmed that greater location flexibility lead to an increase in productivity.

Analysis of Larger-vs-Smaller Companies- Company Size and Influence Protects Profit Margins Against Competition through Brand Influence, Social Positioning and Technological Improvements in the New Business Normal

  • Remote work forces all companies to focus on short-term business health priorities (cash flow, operations, revenue targets, etc.), as well as positioning the business for longer-term growth opportunities- studies show an estimated $4.5 trillion in savings per year in the US alone, as a direct result of remote working by 2030 due to improving productivity, reducing fixed overheads and increasing agility.
  • Larger companies can build up cash reserves, meaning managers must act decisively to manage costs and increase productivity in a remote environment. Facts show, companies average $11,000 annual in savings for each employee allowed working at home for half the time.
  • 56% of marketers use social data to understand their target audience, meaning redefining brand identity is the best way for a startup, small or established business to compete in the new business-as-usual economy.
  • Consumers are spending less in today’s reality- consumer spending plummeted 34.1% in second quarter 2020- making it critical for smaller companies working remotely to narrow their focus to several use cases and segments with the best demand.
  • Both large and small companies need to adjust the marketing mix to refocus on the current consumer profile and brand content-for instance, 73% of advertisers have modified or developed new assets since the start of the pandemic and 53% are increasing messaging that emphasizes the mission of the company.
  • Large companies with market power can manipulate the prices of its products and services in the markets it serves, no matter the location of its employees- in the first 3 months of the corona virus, Comcast, the largest cable operator in the U.S., reported $23.7 billion in revenue and $7.9 billion in adjusted profit for 2Q2020, beating expectations.
  • The concept of the social enterprise forces organizations to pursue revenue growth and profit-making while supporting the needs of all stakeholders (investors, consumers and employees)- 32% of organizations who identify as an industry leader in terms of maturity as a social enterprise grew by more than 10% in 2019 compared to 2018.
  • Whether a large or small company, the potential for digital platforms and AI to underpin and grow the world of remote work is unbounded- the AI market will grow to a $190 billion industry by 2025, according to research firm Markets and Markets (source), and global spending on cognitive and AI systems will reach $57.6 billion in 2021, according to market research firm IDC.

Research Strategy

We begin our research by locating sources relevant to the concept of a dispersed workforce and how companies are affected by the shift to a remote workforce. The data was gathered through primary sources such as McKinsey, PwC, DeLoitte, Bain, HRTechnologists,, XMInstitute, Biz Journal and Library, Statista, Practical eCommerce, CMSWire, Virtual Vocations and business news articles and blogs. As there is much information to be found for each point, data is compiled in bullets and is meant to provide a synopsis of the problems faced and opportunities to reach potential clients and sustain profitability, within a remote environment.

Glenn is the Lead Operations Research Analyst at Simple Manifestation with experience in research, statistical data analysis and interview techniques. A holder of degree in Economics. A true specialist in quantitative and qualitative research.

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