Big tech vendors like Microsoft, Google, and Apple may be laying out plans to bring their workforces back to the office, at least on a hybrid basis, but according to a new report from Ladders, the momentum for positions that are 100% remote hasn’t slowed down at all. In fact, it is continuing to accelerate at an unprecedented pace.
In the first quarter of 2022, 24% of professional job postings that pay $100K-plus across multiple job posting sites were for remote positions, according to Ladders. That compares to 10% in the first quarter of 2021 and 3% in the first quarter of 2020. What’s more, that first quarter 2022’s 24% represented big jump from the fourth quarter of 2021 when remote job postings represented 18% — a change of 6% quarter over quarter.
“Typically, over the course of a decade, you’ll see something change 4 or 5 percentage points,” says Ladders founder and CEO Marc Cenedella about the data his firm collects on job posting trends. “So to have this go 6% in a quarter is just unprecedented.”
Cenedella says he was expecting the momentum for remote work to continue, but he didn’t expect it to be this big or strong.
“I’m surprised, shocked, and amazed at how remote work is accelerating, still here in 2022,” he says. Ladders tracks job postings that pay $100K-plus at several job posting sites, and its analysis covers 50,000 companies in the United States and Canada, including the largest employers.
What about technology workers?
Technology workers are among those who are on the vanguard of the trend toward remote work. The Ladders report breaks down jobs by field and shows that a number of functional technology areas have seen significant growth in remote job postings.
“We can see from the industry trends and the job title trends that technology work is really leading the way on remote work,” Cenedella says. “In some fields it’s as high as 35% or 38%”
For instance, in Q1 2022, 27.2% of IT security job postings specified remote positions. For data science and machine learning in Q1 2022, 30.39% of job postings were for remote positions. For DevOps and site reliability, 38.38% of job postings were for remote positions.
As you might expect, positions having to do with hardware were less likely to accommodate remote locations. For instance, among hardware development job postings, only 6.75% were for remote positions in Q1 2022. Systems architecture and engineering also fell below average in terms of remote job postings in Q1 2022 with just 17.19%.
Cenedella points out that some jobs just aren’t as compatible with remote work such as architecture and interior design, chemical engineering, and teaching. Similarly, some industries were less likely to have a large percentage of remote workers — for instance manufacturing, hospitals and medical centers, and real estate and construction.
Why is remote work still gaining momentum?
Cenedella speculates that the people who put together the annual plans for the workforce took a look at remote and determined that people were just as productive when they were remote. Plus, it costs the company less to have remote workers and those workers seem to be happier.
“From a CFO’s point of view, well, if I get the same or better productivity for less money and more happiness, why wouldn’t I do more of that?”
For tech giants like Apple, Google, and Microsoft, as well as a number of other companies that may be pushing a back to office agenda, Cenedella attributes the moves to the default preferences of older managers.
“Boomer generation bosses think they are more productive in the office, and it’s understandable because they’ve spent 40 years perfecting how to be successful there,” he says. “They’ve learned how to work a conference room, how to make jokes by the water cooler. Their skill is entirely based in a physical office and face-to-face. They want people back in the office because that’s where they are their best.”
What about hybrid work?
There are plenty of stories today about organizations encouraging or even mandating new hybrid work schedules where employees come to the office a few days a week and work from home a few days a week. Perhaps it could even be considered a compromise between the manager back-to-office preference and the worker preference to stay remote.
Cenedella says that this hybrid movement is still really a work in progress.
“We haven’t really developed the vocabulary for what we mean by hybrid,” he says. “What does it mean? Are you in the office one day of the week? Or are you flexible about whether you go in or not? Because companies don’t quite know what it means yet, they aren’t putting it into the job postings.”
When will we hit the remote work peak?
Meanwhile, as those definitions are worked out, the move towards remote marches on. Eventually, Cenedella says, we will get to the point where there’s too much remote. He thinks that might come when we hit 30 to 35% across the board.
“Then we’ll figure out which jobs don’t really work for remote and we will pull back a little bit,” he says. But we’re not there yet. Cenedella believes this remote work trend will continue for the rest of this year and into next year, finally pulling back a little in 2024.
What to read next:
Return-to-Office Moment Drives Discord
IT Careers: 10 Things IT Leaders Would Tell Their Kids Today
10 Places Remote Workers Are Moving