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The rise of remote working. Is it here to stay?

For a change to properly take hold, sometimes it takes a shock to force people to make that change, and once we’ve made the change we wonder how we could have operated the old way. That seems to be the case with remote working. Coronavirus is the shock, and the idea seems to have taken hold.

Way back in the distant past of 2019, Buffer released a report based on a survey of 2,500 respondents where they concluded that it was here to stay. The vast majority wanted to continue to work from home, and actively encouraged others to. TechRepublic reported that there had been a 400% rise in remote working in the past decade. Clearly the momentum was there.

What’s accelerated this trend globally is coronavirus. The lockdowns in many locations across the world forced companies to adopt a work from home policy as they try to keep their workers working without an office. Firms tried to work out where they fit on Matt Mullenweg’s pyramid of autonomy

Now, 3 months into the first lockdown, companies such as Twitter, Mondelez, and Nationwide all discussing a permanent change that means closing some or all of their offices to allow remote working, it appears as though for a large number of companies, this will change.

What does this mean for hiring?

The number of vacancies for remote work on is 116,132 out of a total of 2,531,365 vacancies. That’s currently less than 5%, and if we add “Work From Home” jobs (61,115 currently) it’s potentially 7%. It’s a minority, but it’s a sizeable one. However, given that Amazon have 114,767 vacancies on at the moment, that gives you a sense of comparison.

We’ve written a guide to recruiting remotely here if you are looking to hire remotely for the first time. 

It remains to be seen whether 5-7% is the new baseline, or if it represents a peak. Hiring is down overall still in the US, so as firms start to recover, we may see that number creep up. Firms that have paused all hiring may restart with a remote-only focus. 

Alternatively, right now is the prime time for hiring remotely as there is a clear demand for those jobs (see below). With a drop in hiring from non-essential retail and other major employers, vacancies for remote workers should represent a higher-than-normal proportion of live jobs. Therefore it could be a peak in terms of proportion of live jobs, even if the number of remote jobs increases.

Candidate demand is high, but is it temporary?

There has been a marked increase in searches on for “Remote” jobs and other similar search terms since the virus hit the US. We’ve taken March 1st as a slightly convenient point to compare the before and after search volumes. What’s clear is that after March 1st, search terms are massively up. 

Search termChange (March 1st - June 1st vs. previous period)
Home Working177%
Work From Home123%
Online Part Time224%

At the other end, searches for “Full Time” work has fallen 93% and searches for “Office Clerk” are down 97%. Perhaps these are isolated, but it does suggest a general move away from the office .

Searches volumes by month. Index January = 100

The volume of searches for terms about remote working has not only gone up, their placement in the top 10 searches is more prominent. Looking at the table below, you can see that the only term that was in the top 10 searches before March 1st was “Home Working”, but now 2 out of the 4 are in the top 5, and “Work From Home” is just outside the top 10 in 11th place.

Home Working10th2nd1st4th
Work From home32nd19th29th11th
Online Part Time516th24th1000+1000+

What is also interesting is the change in prominence of each search term. “Remote” has come from behind after a slow start in March to usurp Home Working at the top spot. Meanwhile “online part time” jumped up to 24th before falling into obscurity. 

What’s clear is that demands have changed, but it remains to be seen whether these changes are temporary or permanent. We’d hazard a guess that these changes are here to stay. So perhaps overdue, here comes the remote working revolution!