There have been a number of predictions about the digital workplace and what will happen over the next year, but the only theme that has repeated time and time again is remote working. Analysts agree that remote working will become more, rather than less, widespread in the digital workplace.

In a recent survey of US knowledge workers, from Intermedia, one in four workers said they would not take a job that doesn’t offer certain tools for communicating that enables remote working.

Connect Distributed Teams

According to Costin Tuculescu, VP of collaboration at Intermedia, organizations that have deployed the right communication tools — like video and chat — will have the advantage of attracting (and retaining) the best talent no matter where they are located. There are many advantages of this not least of which will be that tech companies will no longer need to be in Silicon Valley to compete and win the war on talent.

In the era of digital cubicles, being able to bridge the gap between distributed teams is critical. In fact, some companies like Automattic and InVision are ditching the office entirely to support more remote work. 

“Integrated collaboration tools will allow companies to reach a new level of productivity, allowing for their staff to stay connected and share ideas no matter if they are working at their local Starbucks or working from the beach,” he said.

Related Article: 8 Tips for Effectively Managing Remote Workers

Flexibility Is Important

There are many different factors driving the need for remote work. David Hassell, CEO and co-founder at 15Five, an employee engagement company, pointed to a FlexJobs survey on remote working, in which 84 percent of working parents said work flexibility is the number one most important factor in a job, with work-life balance a close second at 80 percent.

He also cited a Harvard Business Review study on flexibility in the modern workforce, in which 96 percent of the 1,583 professionals in the US surveyed said they need flexibility. Yet only 47 percent said they have access to the types of flexibility they need — a gap of 54 percent. This gap is even more pronounced for women, only 34 percent of whom have access to the flexibility they need. “In this increasingly sparse labor market, we believe that companies will offer increased flexibility to their employees in 2019. These will come in the form of more remote work options, flexible work hours as well as paid time off,” Hassell said.

Video-conferencing has been the real enabler of remote working, said Michael Helmbrecht, chief product officer at Lifesize. “Videoconferencing solutions were the spark that really kickstarted the growth of remote work policies in the last few years. That trend is only going to accelerate in 2019, driven largely by advancements in cloud technologies and video quality,” he said.

Cloud-first has also become the dominant IT model across the enterprise, which removes the physical barriers of the office and allows workers to more easily remain connected and collaborate from anywhere in the world. Just as importantly, however, new 4K video and content sharing technologies allow remote meeting participants to connect face-to-face with such high quality that it's as if they're in the room together. “[For some workers] 4K video has even started to make remote work the preferred option over in-person, because it removes much of the stress and time waste of commuting without sacrificing the human connection you get with in-person meetings. As adoption of these technologies continues to expand in the next year, the line separating remote and in-person work in 2019 will grow significantly thinner,” he added.

Samuel Johns, human resources manager at ResumeGenius, which has a wide-reaching remote working strategy, said the key elements for enterprises offering remote work as an option are:

1. Communication

It’s no longer enough for employees to know how to use email. To contribute while working remotely, being able to use collaborative tools like Skype, Slack, Google Drive and G Suite are essential. Understanding how to enable remote networking programs, such as VPNs, is also beneficial. Expect job postings to reflect a surge in demand for these skills.

2. Co-Working Spaces

As employees move out of their offices, they’re looking for effective workspaces. Innovators are offering novel solutions such as hotel-turned-coworking-spaces — perfect for frequent travelers and those seeking a place combining work, home and leisure — that show remote working is here to stay.

Learning Opportunities

3. Remote Team Working

However, it’s not only individual employees who are making use of their privilege to work remotely, but also groups of people. To a certain extent, this alleviates senior management’s worries about remote working leading to workers slacking off without supervision. Since leaders can accompany their team while working remotely, they can keep an eye on their output.

Expect the competition to heat up as Generation Z takes its place in the workforce. “These ‘digital natives’ are supremely confident using technology, and love the freedom and independence associated with remote working,” Johns said.

Related Article: Bringing Your Remote Workforce Into the Fold  

Developing Remote Working

While many companies still resist the growing trend toward remote work, with millennials and Gen Z leading the charge, remote work opportunities will only continue to develop, according to Rebecca Corliss, VP of marketing at Owl Lab.

As companies continue to build their digital workplace toolkits, they’ll be able to increase productivity for both their in-office and remote employees. “Historical pain points for remote workers like lack of visibility, communication delays and technology hiccups will decrease tremendously as businesses continue to recognize the importance of adopting the necessary tools to assure their valuable remote workers have a seat at the table,” she said.

In the growing digital workplace, online communication and collaboration tools like Slack and Trello will become increasingly common. Furthermore, it's essential businesses are equipped with the right videoconferencing tools to make sure their employees feel included and engaged in meetings. Software like Zoom coupled with smart videoconferencing devices like the Meeting Owl can work together to create a productive meeting environment, she added.

This is the immediate future of remote working, said Luke Wester, digital marketing analyst at Miva. In 2019, remote working will increase in popularity as both companies and employees realize the benefits. The most common scenario will be a blend of remote work days and in-office work days.

This will allow co-workers to have in-person interaction, which is important for business communication and company culture, while also allowing employees to work from the comfort of home. Organizational resistance will commonly stem from trust issues between employer and employee and the lack of protocol for remote workers.