Remote Work Potential: Global Assessment

Remote Work Potential

April 14th, 2021   |   Updated on January 25th, 2024

There were a lot of conversations around remote work opportunities before 2020. The number of freelancers was steadily growing, businesses began to explore online opportunities more actively, and there was a slow but persistent shift to a more flexible work schedule. But the COVID-19 pandemic has changed that rapidly with people having to go remote overnight.

These experiences have led to new trends, ideas, and conclusions that describe the future of employment.

The year after, the analysis of many studies and publications on credible resources like confirms that recruiters, employers, and job seekers need to acknowledge the new reality of the labor market.

We all should learn how to adapt to the altered conditions and work environments quickly to remain relevant in the job market.

Remote Work Before Pandemic

In itself, remote employment is not a new concept. But it was not as widespread before this time.

Before the outbreak of COVID-19, there were only 7.9% of professionals worldwide working from home permanently. It is about 260 million people, which is not a significant number.

The interesting part is that not all of them were occupied exclusively with computers or data. Some were self-employed, freelancers, or specialists that can do such tasks as embroidery, for example, at home. Of course, the possibility of working remotely depends on a career, qualification, rank, industry, and occupation.

But COVID-19 changed it all with the new reality. The majority of specialists had to start working from home and adjust to new circumstances.

The number went to 30-40% of the workforce in developed economies. For some industries, it was much easier, for others, it was not even possible to do completely.

Pros And Cons Of Remote Employment

Because the change was so rapid and unexpected, there were many challenges that almost any remote employee and a laborer had to face:

  • digital collaboration was quite unusual for many and could lead to miscommunications;
  • not every company had politics and procedures ready for such a shift;
  • there was a problem with the Internet connection and technical equipment of households;
  • it became harder to maintain professional control and management over resources;
  • social isolation wasn’t very easy for everyone to take.

But the overall results show that the majority of these problems were solved in time. There were also several benefits of online job shift:

  • the majority of specialists reported risen productivity (75%);
  • 99% of respondents could name at least one benefit of remote employment;
  • companies could reduce their costs on office spaces, electricity, and transportation;
  • recruiting firms found out that job search is now more focused on flexible schedules and the opportunity for at least partial work from home.

More people are now seeing the pros of such employment. And many job seekers want to land a job that offers higher flexibility.

How Ready Are We To Remote Work?

The question is how realistic is it for different countries and industries to adjust to this demand? For now, it is safe to say that some type of hybrid employment will be more common worldwide.

For example, people can work for several days at home per week and proceed with other activities at the office.

In general, the readiness to make such a decision depends on several significant factors.

Industry And Position

Many people occupy such positions that cannot be performed elsewhere except in a professional environment.

For example, if one is employed in healthcare, operating machinery, manufacturing, or lab experiments, they are highly unlikely to do it from home. Only 11% of healthcare workers can perform their responsibilities remotely.

The opportunity depends on specific equipment needed and the necessity to travel or communicate with people directly.

What industries are ready more than others? According to McKinsey research, the first place goes to finances and insurance, closely followed by management, professional, scientific, or technical services, and IT and telecommunication.


Another essential factor is how effective the remote labor will be for a particular field. For example, education is more ready to be performed digitally than construction, governmental support, or manufacturing.

But many professionals state that the effectiveness of the educational process suffers from this form of communication.

It means that teaching can be done online, but it is not as effective as a traditional one. And it requires new methods and tools to reach the same level of productivity.


The next huge factor in readiness to go online is a specific country. It is reported that developing countries have much lower rates of people working from home and individuals having such an opportunity at all.

Advanced economies are much more ready, with the UK, Germany, and the US leading the way. According to Dingel and Neiman’s methodology, 34% of US jobs can theoretically be done online. But for emerging economies like India or Mexico, the numbers are much lower.

There are several reasons for that, including less developed ICT infrastructure. Besides, in developing countries, many more people are employed in agriculture, manufacture, and street trade.

What Results Can We Expect?

The numbers show that about 20% of jobs in developed countries can go remote. These are usually the highest-paying jobs, which can lead to rising inequality.

It is predicted that new hybrid employment forms will be introduced. And with the growth of the remote workforce, the urban economy will undergo significant changes.

Transportation, real estate, and restaurants are the first to feel the impact. The rates of rent for offices and apartments close to them will fall. There will be fewer people commuting every day. And there will be fewer people who need to go for lunch to the nearest café.

People working remotely will change their consumer behavior as they do not need many office-appropriate clothes.

They will save up on gas and eating out and will more likely invest in technical tools and comfortable furniture. In this regard, digital technologies will continue to develop to cater to all consumer needs.