The pandemic has forced a grand redesign of how, when, where, by and with whom work gets done, with massive implications for professionals, leaders and organizations alike. In this new reality, remote and hybrid work models have proliferated. Going into an office is becoming increasingly optional. Work hours are becoming more flexible. Managers are being retrained to focus teams more on outcomes than butts in seats.
Because of the shift to remote work, nearly 5 million Americans have already moved to a new city and as many as 19 million are planning on moving, according to recent Upwork research. Another 10 million Americans – 20% of the U.S. workforce – are considering becoming freelancers, and the ability to work remotely, or with more flexibility, is the primary driver.
For companies and executives, these changes present new challenges, but also plenty of new opportunities. There are no longer limitations around accessing and hiring talent only within commuting distance of offices, significantly widening the recruitment pool. Collaboration can happen across departmental, state, and international boundaries. A company’s go-to people don’t necessarily have to be their employees at all.
As businesses navigate these shifts, it is clear that the hybrid work model – where teams of full-time employees and freelancers or other independent professionals get critical work done together – is here to stay. Organizations can effectively use highly-skilled remote talent to grow and reinforce their teams. Hybrid, distributed, flexible work models are the future of work and a key differentiator that will drive a competitive edge for companies looking to digitally transform.
We’ve experienced this firsthand here at Upwork. Remote work has long been our default, and three-quarters of our own workforce is made up of independent talent, spread across every team – from product and experience to engineering and from marketing to finance. We now have over 2,000 team members in 90 countries, all bringing different skillsets and – importantly – perspectives, to what we do every day. It has enriched our company, culture and performance.
Rewind a decade and that would be unthinkable. But a range of modern technologies are enabling globally distributed, hybrid workforces like ours to easily form, collaborate, and get work done like never before.
Sourcing and managing the right talent in the right places is an age-old obstacle for every company. At Upwork, we’ve built a global work marketplace that connects highly-skilled talent with businesses of all sizes. Our trusted Enterprise Suite helps large companies scale teams rapidly, giving them the agility and flexibility to adjust to market demands while taking things like payroll, classification and compliance off their list of concerns. For smaller companies with specific skills needs – a developer for a website rebuild, for example – Talent Scout sees Upwork effectively step in as a hands-on recruiter, managing the entire process of finding talent with the right skillsets for that project.
With a talented, distributed team in place, other tech tools like Slack and Miro enable organizations to stay connected and collaborate productively in real-time without ever needing to step into an office. There’s also asynchronous communication like Loom, which allows you to record and share quick videos to be viewed and responded to later. It means that your software engineering team in Asia can collaborate with their colleagues in California without the time difference being a barrier.
Navigating this new frontier of remote and hybrid work may seem daunting, but there is no doubt that this will be the norm moving forward. Companies and their leaders can either choose to resist it, or embrace it. Those choosing the latter are already reaping the benefits and, ultimately, becoming stronger, future-proof businesses.
Photo Caption: Sam Bright is Chief Product and Experience Officer at Upwork, the world’s work marketplace, where he leads a team of nearly 900 people globally distributed across more than 45 countries.