Over the past two years, one of the defining workplace trends has been the increase in work-from-home (WFH). Remote work environments have become far more prevalent, primarily out of necessity during the pandemic, but with close-contact restrictions now a thing of the past, what does the future of remote work like in 2023 and beyond?
In Magic 8 Ball ® parlance, all signs point to yes. According to a joint report from Glassdoor and Indeed, 8.6% of job postings in September 2022 mentioned remote work, up from 2.9% three years ago. In addition, 9.8% of all job searches conducted on Indeed were for remote positions versus just 1.7% in 2019. With tight labor market conditions expected to continue in 2023, employees seem to be in a better bargaining position to make remote or telework part of their overall compensation package.
On the other hand, employers are not entirely sold on eliminating in-office time altogether, with most expressing a preference for a hybrid work environment versus 100% remote. However, the gap has narrowed between employers’ and employees’ preferences for the number of remote days offered from 1.38 days in late 2020 to just .44 in June 2022. The average number of remote days offered has also increased from 1.58 days per week in January 2021 to 2.37 days in June 2022.
One possible factor in this increased comfort with a hybrid work environment is the use of tools to monitor employees’ activity when working remotely. A recent survey found that 60% of employers are currently using some form of employee monitoring software, and another 17% are considering using it in the future. However, employers may want to proceed with caution when deploying these tools, as the National Labor Relations Board’s (NLRB’s) general counsel has raised concerns about how some uses of these tools may violate employees’ rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NRLA).
On a somewhat related note, entities regulated by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) should expect a final decision sometime in the new year regarding WFH supervisory rules and remote office inspection procedures and timelines.
As far as other compliance changes related to remote work, many states that have already made temporary remote work/WFH authorization rules permanent are now adjusting other labor-related rules to clearly define how these rules should be applied to remote employees. For example, Utah passed S.B. 39 earlier this year to establish a threshold for how long someone can work within the state without residing there full-time before becoming subject to state tax liability and withholding requirements. As such, employers must be aware of these changes to ensure they maintain compliance regarding remote employees.
In addition, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has extended the temporary policy authorizing remote, virtual inspections of Form I-9 for remote employees until July 31, 2023. DHS requested comments on making this temporary provision permanent back in August 2022. The comment period for the proposed rule ended in October so a final decision should be announced sometime in 2023.
When predicting the future, “Reply hazy” is most often the response, but when it comes to remote work, “outlook good” is a far more apt answer. Thus, employers should equip themselves with the appropriate tools and make the necessary adjustments to their policies and procedures to ensure they adequately and compliantly manage an increasingly remote workforce in 2023 and beyond.
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