Are there more remote work options during a recession? This article will address this question. The potential for tele-commuting is perhaps more viable during a recession than is believed. Despite projections of a labor market that is slowing down and adding pressures for lower wages and dis-incentivizing job hopping, Fortune reported that employers added more jobs than had been expected during the month of July 2022. This may lead to an increased need for workers, to include those working from home. This doesn’t mean that some employers are not pushing back. To the contrary. As remote workers seek to institutionalize the concept of remote work, a few employers are counteracting remote work adoption with heavy resistance. Let’s talk about the popularity of remote work.
Will remote work retain popularity during a recession?
It remains to be seen if remote work will retain its popularity during a recession. What we do know is that remote work is a trend that has been gaining popularity over recent years. There’s no doubt that despite all the difficulties the pandemic came with, expanding the availability of remote jobs has been one of the biggest benefits. The proliferation of online work and collaboration platforms like Slack, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams has allowed a lot more flexibility within the workforce. In years past, it was unheard of to have a job where you didn’t have to go into the office every day. The growing push for remote jobs started with the digital revolution, allowing employers to provide hybrid schedules for their employees, where they would have set days that they came into the office and Saturdays that they worked from home. The increasing ability of collaboration and video conferencing platforms to provide all of the conveniences and connections you would have while working in the office, despite being in your home, is allowing employers to offer full-time virtual roles.
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Reasons why employers are hesitant to adopt remote work policies
As mentioned, many employers hold negative perceptions of remote work and remote workers. People Management, cited a survey by Ricoh Europe, showing that up to 65% of top decision makers mistrusted employees who worked from home. Further, almost 40% felt that their subordinates didn’t work as effectively or as hard when tele-commuting as compared to efforts when working in a traditional in-person office setting.
Is there an element of truth found to support these negative perceptions of remote workers? Perhaps. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that people prone to alcohol and recreational drug use, particularly during the pandemic, were inclined to use these substances during their work day.
Reported drug use while working from home
Sierra Tucson, an Arizona-based mental health and drug rehabilitation treatment center with a 160 acre facility completed a self-medication research study. Its findings were striking. The data showed that 21% of American workers when tele-commuting reported to have used alcohol, cannabis, and/or other recreational drugs. Even with the possibility of detection by members of their distributed work team, 22% of remote workers divulged that when they were participating in collaborative video conferencing (Zoom or MS Teams), they were under the influence of marijuana, alcohol or other recreational drugs. Finally, during COVID-19 lockdowns and mandated closures, 52% of marijuana users reported an increase in drug use.
Interestingly, 14% of the Self-medication study participants indicated a preference for working from home ‘so that they can drink alcohol to relax’ and11% preferred remote work ‘so that they could use marijuana or other recreational drugs’ during the work day.
A recession means getting the most from remote workers
Unlike periods of robust economic activity, no more than ever, employers need to get the most from their remote workers. This means, getting the highest possible return on employee investment per outlay. Increased return on remote worker investment may be obtained through increased productivity, and lower remote worker wages in comparison to their colleagues reporting to a traditional in office environment. These two variables have already be evidenced by research completed by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) and more recent NBER study here. Additionally, another way in which remote work adoption has added to the bottom line is through reduced outlays for office space. The Atlantic quoted economist, Adam Ozimet, “reducing office square footage and going fully remote is cost-saving for many firms.”
Further, a study cited by the Human Resource Executive found that remote workers employed by technology titans such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft were more inclined to decline a $30,000 pay raise rather than give up their remote work privilege. While this data point is intriguing, caution should be exercised. These findings were not generalizable. Forty-two to 58% of remote workers surveyed that were employed JP Morgan Chase and Qualcomm would happily take the increase salary and forego the remote work option. Perhaps corporate culture, vision, and its mission greatly impacts whether a company will permanently adopt remote work and or whether it will offer the remote work option alongside hybrid and traditional in office work scenarios. To answer this, we ask the question, “what is a remote first company?”
What is a remote first company?
A new advent in the past decade, remote-first companies work oppositely from remote-friendly companies that are primarily office-based but with some availability for remote roles. The default for remote-first companies is that the majority of their workforce is remote, with only specific essential roles being office-based. Companies with remote-first cultures often strive to provide team bonding and collaboration opportunities with virtual events like happy hours and training sessions. Employee engagement is still important, but how it’s achieved looks different from traditional companies. Further, remote first companies have read research touting the benefits of remote work for the employees: work/life balance, less commuting time, more time for personal projects and hobbies, greater flexibility, enhanced scheduling options, improved relationships, and reduced stress. As mentioned, remote first companies are likely swayed by reports of increased productivity, improved employee loyalty and retention.
Some of the many employers are adopting remote work policies permanently according to FlexJobs. They include: 3M, AirBnB, Aquent,Atlassian, AWeber Communications, Blackbaud, Coinbase, Capita PLC, DropBox and Hubspot come to mind. That said, let’s identify the top remote jobs and industries most likely to hire remote workers.
What are the top remote jobs and industries?
While many careers can be adapted to remote work, some are, by nature, more conducive to this style. If your daily workflow sees you making lots of phone calls, sending emails, communicating with clients, or doing in-platform design or writing work, chances are you can easily convert it to a remote role. Some of the job titles most often advertised for remote workers are: copywriter, executive assistant, front end developer, marketing manager, product manager, recruiter, social media manager, and web designer.
Requiring a high level of trust from employers, remote jobs are often based on commission, have clear milestones and project deadlines, and are easily measured with key performance indicators (KPIs). The most common remote job titles include accountant, engineer, teacher, writer, consultant, project manager, customer service representative (CSR), business development manager and account manager. One of the great things about remote work is that there are a lot of freelance opportunities. If you’re considering a career change, you can go after entry-level roles and maintain a full-time in-office schedule until you build up enough experience to move into fully remote work.
If your position isn’t listed in this batch, perhaps your industry is. From January 2022 to June 2022, FlexJobs analyzed their job listing and identified these ten industries as top posters of remote jobs: marketing, computer and technology, writing/editing, project management, human resources and recruiting, accounting and finance, graphic design, bilingual, customer service, and education and training.
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In reading this list, one might be hard pressed to decipher. So, let’s quickly sort out the industries missing from this list: manufacturing, engineering, utilities, security, human services, investment banking, and real estate as examples.
How do you find a remote job during a recession?
Finding a remote job during a recession is no different than during an economic boom. You just need to double your efforts. You have to understand, however, that not every job will be the right fit for you just because it’s remote. The same is true during robust employment periods.
Similar to in-office jobs, each company will have its own culture and style, even if you’re remote. Taking time to learn about the company, its culture, and its expectations is critical to finding the best fit for you. There are a few apps and websites that you can turn to for opportunities. Always go through well-known websites when looking for online work, and keep an eye out for scams. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Any job offers that come from strange email addresses that don’t end in the company’s email client are likely bogus unless you can verify that they’re from a legit recruiter.
How can you be prepared for the virtual recruitment process
There are a few steps that can help you to succeed on your virtual recruitment process:
- Get your internet on point: Remote working is contingent on one central element — your internet. In many cases, employers will require you to submit verification of your internet speeds to be considered for a role. They need to verify that you have a stable and strong internet connection to be confident that you can be reliable. Even if this isn’t a prerequisite for the role, you’ll want to do this anyway since having patchy internet can make you look unreliable — the last thing you want to appear to be to a new employer.
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- Creating an online portfolio: Creating an online portfolio can be a huge factor in winning new clients if you’re a freelancer or landing a full-time remote role. Having a quick and easy way for prospective employers to check out your work history can give you a definite edge over people who only submit a written resume. Keeping your portfolio updated and organized, with descriptions of each item, is a great best practice to put your best foot forward.
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- The ultimate resume: When you’re putting together a resume to target remote roles, some key considerations will make you look even more attractive to potential employers. Making sure your resume is concise and updated is critical, but there are a few more specific things for remote roles. If you verify your internet speed, put that into an information section.
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During a recession, how do you nail an online interview?
During recessions, human resources professionals and recruiters are being asked to do more for less money and less time. This means that you’ve got to nail your interview on the first opportunity. It also means that you have to really be skilled at time management. When someone calls, be prepared. Stay focused. Memorize your elevator speech so you can regurgitate it with automaticity. And when you get the job, be ready to hit the ground running at a moments notice with little to no structured training and or supports.
That said, Doing a great job in an online interview comes with all the same advice as an in-person interview, with some additional elements to consider. Your lighting, background, and camera position all contribute to your overall image, so ensuring you have a clean backdrop and good natural lighting is essential. In addition, take time to test your video beforehand so that you can ensure your camera angle presents you in the best way.
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What factors can impact your ability to work virtually?
The key to becoming a successful tele-commuter can be summarized under the following factors: -Optimizing your wifi: If you’re finding that your home wifi connection isn’t as stable as you’d like, there are some easy fixes you can try. If you can’t move your router closer to your workspace, consider installing a wifi range extender to gain a stronger connection.
- Wifi security: On the topic of wifi, be wary of working from coffee shops and other public wifi networks. The security is minimal and you risk having sensitive data stolen from your laptop. Research the different alternatives to protect personal data when working in public wifi networks and remember that unless you can connect to a private VPN, it’s best to only work from secure networks.
- Creating a schedule: Creating and sticking to a schedule is critical for people who work from home to maintain productivity and consistency. Chances are, whatever worked best for you in the office to organize your day will also work best for you when you’re working from home. Routines help us structure our days, which applies whether you’re working in an office setting or at home. Take some time and experiment with what type of routine works the best for you and what helps you stay consistently productive throughout each day, and make an effort to stick to that. It can be tempting to stray from routines when working from home because of the increased amount of flexibility. However, doing this can result in a varying level of productivity which usually spells trouble.
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- Setting boundaries: For other work-from-home employees, setting boundaries is incredibly important. It’s an easy habit to fall into to let random and spontaneous plans guide your day, but it rarely leads to good outcomes in your work life. Whether it’s letting your family know that just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you’re available to them throughout the day or enforcing a schedule for yourself, it’s essential to set boundaries.
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Are there benefits to becoming a freelancer during a recession?
Yes, there are several benefits to freelancing during a recession. A key benefit of becoming a freelancer during an economic recession is having the opportunity to be less reliant on any one employer or client. Further, another added benefit of working as a freelancer helps one to gain experience working at home. Added experience as a remote worker (whether freelance or not) will help you in the future, obtain that perfect remote job for a Fortune 100 company that may have been elusive. However, if gaining financial independence is your ultimate endgame, outside of the purviews of a traditional employer/employee arrangement, freelancing is the way to go.
Being a freelance employee means you work for yourself and contract out timelines or projects with clients instead of working for one employer full-time. There are many benefits to freelancing, including scheduling flexibility, choosing projects that interest you, and having the freedom to work where and when suits your lifestyle the best. This isn’t to say that being a freelancer is all rainbows and puppy dogs, though. It comes with an increased risk of uncertainty and where your future income will come from, as well as the trials and tribulations of dealing with clients as a business owner daily. Learning to deal with demanding clients is a part of the freelance learning curve and you will make some mistakes and learn from them along the way, eventually finding your groove if you decide that freelance is the way to go for you.
Do digital nomads and remote workers add value during recessions?
Yes. Digital nomads and tele-commuters add value during economic downturns. However, people often mistake remote jobs for a digital nomad lifestyle, but the two aren’t necessarily the same. Well, digital nomads do technically work from home — home can be wherever they find themselves at the moment. Typical work from home employees do actually work from their homes. They have an address and a more traditional lifestyle that just happens to include working from home instead of a classic in-office space. Digital nomads, on the other hand, travel the globe while also working. This isn’t to say that they don’t have a fixed address, but they find themselves on the road in foreign countries more often than at home. That said, during recessionary periods, employers may use freelancers, remote workers living in rural and lower cost of living areas within the U.S., as well as contractors who reside outside of the US for perceived greater cost benefits.
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So in the end, whether you are a remote worker, digital nomad or freelancer; a recession may not pose an imminent threat to your financial livelihood. In fact, you may find that there may be more opportunities than you have previously be offered.
This article was written in collaboration with Teresa Siqueira of Porch.