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How Many People Work Remotely in 2023? (U.S & World) – An In-Depth Look

Working outside the traditional office setting has been growing for years, accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic. With remote work looking like it‘s here to stay, how many are embracing this new world of work in 2023? What‘s driving its adoption? Let‘s dive into the latest trends and statistics.

The Rapid Growth of Remote Work

First, how drastic has the shift to remote been? Prior to COVID-19, 5.7% of the US workforce worked remotely in 2018. That jumped to 22.4% in 2019 as technology enabled more roles to go remote. When the pandemic hit, that shot up to over 40% of the workforce in 2020.

After initial returns to the office, around 27% continue working remotely in 2023 according to Gallup and the US Census Bureau. That equates to 36.2 million Americans, representing a dramatic shift from pre-pandemic days.

Globally, nearly 8% worked remotely before COVID-19. An astounding 48% of knowledge workers worldwide are now projected to be fully remote (9%) or hybrid (39%) by end of 2023 according to Price Waterhouse Cooper. Clearly, remote work is here to stay.

Comparing Industries and Roles

Remote work rates vary significantly across industries. According to McKinsey, sectors with the highest remote percentages include:

  • Professional & Business Services – 44%
  • IT & Tech – 43%
  • Financial Services – 41%
  • Media & Entertainment – 39%

By contrast, the lowest remote rates are in:

  • Government & Education – 18%
  • Healthcare – 17%
  • Retail & Hospitality – 7%
  • Manufacturing – 6%

This aligns with differences among job functions. Roles most suited for remote include computer programming, marketing, customer service, HR, and finance. Jobs requiring physical interactions or tasks continue on-site.

There are also differences by company size. Small businesses saw remote work rates jump from under 10% pre-pandemic to over 60% during lockdowns. At large companies, around 25% of workers are fully remote.

Why Employees Love Remote Work

What‘s driving so many to work remotely? There are many upsides, both professional and personal:

More Flexibility

  • 67% of remote workers praise the flexibility to set their own hours according to Buffer‘s State of Remote Work report. This lets them accommodate appointments or caregiving responsibilities.
  • One marketer I spoke to switched to fully remote work because it lets her drop off her kids at school then start her workday. This flexibility is invaluable for working parents.

Improved Focus and Productivity

  • 75% of workers reported higher productivity working remotely in a ConnectSolutions survey. Home offices eliminate noisy open floor plans that lead to distractions.
  • Another benefit is avoiding unnecessary meetings. Employees get more time for deep focused work. A Slack study found 86% of workers felt more productive working remotely.

Cost Savings

  • 56% of remote workers say it‘s financially better for them according to Buffer. Saving on commuting, lunches, and work clothes really adds up.
  • For employers, savings are even more drastic. Giants like Microsoftand Dell save millions by downsizing office space thanks to remote-friendly policies.

Better Work-Life Balance

  • 75% of remote workers reported a better work-life balance in Buffer‘s survey. Without commutes, they gain back hours each day to spend with family or on hobbies.
  • Distractions are fewer as well, letting people be truly present both at work and home. Improved work-life balance is a major perk.

Remote Work Challenges

Despite the benefits above, remote work also poses challenges for both employers and employees:

Collaboration Struggles

  • Communicating and collaborating virtually has a learning curve. It takes more effort than tapping a coworker on the shoulder or having spontaneous conversations.
  • Team bonding can also suffer without in-person interactions. This is especially true for new hires who haven’t met co-workers face to face.

Loneliness and Isolation

  • Without an office environment and co-workers around, remote employees are prone to feeling isolated. Humans are social creatures after all.
  • Loneliness is a common complaint. Maintaining relationships and social connections takes more intention virtually.

Staying Organized and Accountable

  • Remote workers need discipline to stay on task without direct oversight. Distractions abound at home competing for attention.
  • Managers may struggle trusting employees they can’t see. Monitoring productivity can be a challenge.

Tips for Making Remote Work Successful

Here are some best practices both remote workers and managers should employ:

  • Overcommunicate expectations and availability – Don’t assume things are clear. Set ground rules for response times and mediums to use.
  • Utilize videoconferencing – Seeing faces builds stronger connections than just voice or chat alone. Encourage video in meetings.
  • Find a dedicated workspace – Establish a separate office space with minimal distractions to maximize focus.
  • Avoid working from bed – It’s tempting but associating bed with work can impair sleep habits.
  • Check in regularly 1-on-1 – Managers should have frequent 1-on-1s to touch base on well-being and performance.
  • Share social tidbits – Foster virtual watercooler chats about non-work topics like kids, pets, hobbies.
  • Establish core hours – Find a block of time when people can reliably connect live without friction.
  • Overinvest in team events – Make virtual social events a priority like remote happy hours, games, teams lunches.

The Future of Remote Work

While hybrid models will likely dominate, fully remote positions will see continued growth in the long term. Both employees and employers have seen that successful collaboration is possible from anywhere.

Already major companies like GitLab, Automattic, Zapier, and Dropbox have committed to permanent remote-first policies. And remote job postings on sites like FlexJobs and continue setting new records each year.

Along with artificial intelligence and automation, remote work is set to reshape the workplace and the nature of work itself. While the pandemic provided an unexpected catalyst, the shift was already underway. Enabled by technology and cultural norms, remote work is undoubtedly here to stay well beyond 2023.



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.