The State of Physical and Remote Work, Call for Upskilling of Workforce and New Unicorns Looking for Talents

If there’s any question that many want to find out from employers but employees and global mobility professionals were too afraid to ask, it’s this: Are you permitting employees who were hired into one of your offices but are now working remotely to relocate and work from a different location?

Respondents in the TRC Global Mobility survey were reportedly nearly evenly divided on this question. Thirty-three percent of respondents said they would permit employees to work from anywhere. Thirty percent said they would not allow this. Slightly more respondents (37%) said they would make this decision on a case-by-case basis.

Probing deeper, does one expect relocation activity to increase, decrease or remain flat? It turns out that 47 percent of respondents expect their company’s relocation volume to increase in 2021 if more people are getting vaccinated. 

But nothing is etched in stone, especially if companies are still sorting out what their post-Covid work environment will look like, including whether and how they will incorporate remote work, whether they will maintain their current office space and locations, and how these offices will be configured.

If the vaccines work to curb the spread of the virus, then relocations may stop and people may start reporting for work, but a McKinsey report, one of many it plans to release this year, assessed that there will be some dramatic changes on labor demand, the mix of occupations, and workforce skills.

Work that requires physical proximity

It found that jobs in work arenas with higher levels of physical proximity are likely to see greater transformation after the pandemic, triggering knock-on effects in other work arenas as business models shift in response.

This covers occupations with the highest overall physical proximity scores: medical care, personal care, on-site customer service, and leisure and travel. Some work that can technically be done remotely is still best done in person. This may be the case with these occupations, even if they will be unsettled as long as the virus continues to rage.

While all this is happening, though, many startups these days are flushed with money. In broad strokes, the United States had a crushing venture capital start to the new year. 

According to a report by TechCrunch, venture capitalists last year deployed some $166 billion into US-based startups across 12,546 rounds. In contrast, if the first quarter’s pace was maintained during the rest of 2021, the United States would see around 16,000 rounds worth around $280 billion.

Alongside the investment boom, new unicorn startups were created at a rapid pace in the first quarter, and they are looking for talents to see their vision come true.

Managing business travel

But first, how are companies managing business travel? In the TRC report, more than half of its respondents (55%) said that business travel was permitted only on an exception basis. Only 13% said that business travel is permitted without restriction, for now, as the next few weeks may determine if things will improve on the Covid-19 front.

Still, with all the money going around these days, jobs have opened up and because tech is a highly specialized field, global mobility professionals are still busy recruiting. These talents may work remote initially, but a post-pandemic world will see them traveling for work again. If not, a larger share of workers in the US will need new, more advanced skills to move to occupations one or even two wage brackets higher.  

The McKinsey report said the scale of workforce transitions set off by COVID-19’s influence on labor trends increases the urgency for businesses and policymakers to take steps to support additional training and education programs for workers. There will be a need to upskill the workforce in ways that point to a brighter future of work.

While outsourcing work may be a good idea, not many companies are open to it anymore, given the pernicious issue of security and skill required now. AI and automation are highly specialized fields that only few, in the US or anywhere else, can do, let alone work on, since these technologies require managing torrents of data. 

More than ever, companies are more careful of data breaches now with regulations and strict compliances in place to protect consumers. Besides, they also find themselves struggling with the idea of merely outsourcing remote work when it’s far easier to keep or recruit talents and bring them closer to a workable, if not same time zone. With the money they have, though, there is no time to wait. Talents will need to be onboarded remotely at first, but moved on-site as soon as the pandemic subsides.