By the end of 2021, 51 per cent of all knowledge workers worldwide are expected to be working remotely, up from 27 per cent of knowledge workers in 2019, according to Gartner.
Gartner also estimates that remote workers will represent 32 per cent of all employees worldwide by the end of 2021. This is up from 17 per cent of employees in 2019. Gartner defines knowledge workers as those who are involved in knowledge-intensive occupations, such as writers, accountants, or engineers. Gartner defines a remote worker as an employee working away from their company, government, or customer site at least one full day a week (hybrid workers) or who work fully from home (fully remote workers).
“A hybrid workforce is the future of work, with both remote and on-site part of the same solution to optimize employers’ workforce needs,” said Ranjit Atwal, Senior Research Director, Gartner.
Remote working varies considerably around the world depending on IT adoption, culture, and mix of industries. In 2022, 31 per cent of all workers worldwide will be remote (a mix of hybrid and fully remote). The U.S. will lead in terms of remote workers in 2022, accounting for 53 per cent of the U.S. workforce. Across Europe, U.K. remote workers will represent 52 per cent of its workforce in 2022, while remote workers in Germany and France will account for 37 per cent and 33 per cent, respectively.
India and China will produce some of the largest numbers of remote workers, but their overall penetration rates will remain relatively low with 30 per cent of workers in India being remote and 28 per cent of workers in China working remote.
The lasting impact of remote work is resulting in a reassessment of the IT infrastructure that shifts buyer requirements to demand work-anywhere capabilities. “Through 2024, organisations will be forced to bring forward digital business transformation plans by at least five years. Those plans will have to adapt to a post Covid-19 world that involves permanently higher adoption of remote work and digital touchpoints,” said Atwal.
Digital products and services will play a big role in these digital transformation efforts. This longer strategic plan requires continued investment in strategic remote-first technology continuity implementations along with new technologies such as hyper automation, AI and collaboration technologies to open up more flexibility of location choice in job roles.
A hybrid workforce will continue to increase the demand for PCs and tablets. In 2021, PC and tablet shipments will exceed 500 million units for the first time in history, highlighting the demand across both business and consumer markets.
Organisations also deployed cloud to quickly enable remote workers. Gartner forecasts worldwide end-user spending on public cloud services will grow 23.1 per ent in 2021 as CIOs and IT leaders continue to prioritise cloud-delivered applications, such as software as a service (SaaS). SaaS applications are designed for remote access and aren’t constrained by the location of the workers using the application. Social and collaboration tools will continue to be a “must have” which will lead the worldwide social software and collaboration revenue market to increase 17.1 per cent in 2021.
In terms of connectivity, many organisations had to change and adapt many IT approaches to ensure business continuity among their remote workers. By 2024, at least 40 per cent of all remote access usage will be served predominantly by zero trust network access (ZTNA), up from less than 5 per cent at the end of 2020. While most of these organizations will not completely retire all their client-facing VPN services, ZTNA will become the primary replacement technology.