The Freedom of Work Index

2024 Edition

Table of Contents

Welcome to the Freedom of Work Index

Freedom is about power. The power to act, think, or speak the way you want, when you want. And in today's world, that includes the power to choose how you work.

Many of us felt powerless just a few years ago. When people were forced to follow the new rules that had been spun into life by COVID-19, corporations that hadn’t changed for decades were forced to adapt. Collectively, the workforce is no longer scrambling to adapt to flurries of micro-shifts. Now, we’re looking at how remote work is maturing internationally.

This report is an X-ray of how freedom at work, has become the future of work.  “Freedom of Work” is less about the physical location and more about empowering individuals with the choice and autonomy to work in ways that best suit their lives. It's a shift from rigid structures to flexible, personalized work experiences. In addition to reviewing countless studies and research summaries on remote work in the last 5 years, these insights come from an independent survey conducted by Remofirst of 177 remote workers.

Keep reading to uncover how leaders and employees think about their Freedom of Work as we jump into 2024.

Demographics of survey respondents

The insights collected here are mostly from remote and hybrid US and European workers. Respondents were primarily in the millennial age group. Here’s the nitty-gritty breakdown if you’re into data:

  • Approximately 60% of respondents were female, and 40% were male. 
  • The 35-44 age range forms the largest segment at 40%, followed by the 25-34 age bracket at 35%. The 45-54 and 55+ age groups represent smaller portions, at 11% and 9%, respectively, while the youngest (18-24 years) account for 5%.
  • Almost all (98%) of the people who responded work remotely in at least some capacity. 
  • Most people self-identified as Senior Professionals (27%), Mid-Level Professionals (26%), VPs/C-Suite/Founders (23%), Team Managers (18%), Junior Professionals (5%), and Assistants (1%).

About Remofirst

Remofirst is an Employer of Record (EOR) provider that helps businesses around the world legally employ talent in 180+ countries, without needing local entities. We simplify the complexities of international payroll and HR, providing an all-in-one platform for managing a global team of employees and contractors around the world. 

We handle local compliance, international payroll in local currencies, and benefits, including health insurance, to ensure businesses adhere to international regulations without the usual administrative burden. Click here to check us out. 

A word from Remofirst’s CEO 

There are a few big questions we often get asked about the future of work: 

  1. Is hybrid here to stay? 
  2. Are remote workers productive or not? 
  3. What are companies doing to overcome distributed work challenges?

While there are many people who want to work remotely full-time, many people want to have some kind of face-to-face interaction in their jobs, which is why we've seen such a rise in hybrid companies these past few years.

The idea is that if you give employees the freedom to choose where they work best, they will give you their best work. The new mother in a big city shouldn't have to choose between expensive daycare costs or giving up the job she loves, and that person who commutes 3 hours per day to and from their big city office should be able to work from home a few days per week if that is what's best for their productivity (and wallet). It's about giving them the freedom to choose how they'll deliver their best work.

This report is special because it provides definitive information and large-scale social proof of how employees think about their own freedom of work and how companies adapt. Remofirst is a company built on remote work and international hiring. From firsthand experience, we know what it’s like to navigate the specifics of working in distributed teams and experience the freedom that comes with it. 

We set a mission to understand how everyone else feels about  “Freedom of Work” in 2024. And we now enjoy the freedom of sharing what we found out with you because it’s well worth passing on.

Nurasyl Serik
CEO, Remofirst

Major trends in 2024

We’ve taken a holistic look at the industry by listening to a significant group of remote workers and employers and analyzing industry news over time.

Here’s what we found out:

If you’re happy with remote work, you’re not going back to the office

One thing people agree on is that remote work isn’t for every employee. Most people (employees and hiring managers alike) feel that your productivity and stress levels aren’t dependent on where you work but rather on what kind of person you are. 

Is it better to be in the office, or work remotely?

But if you are one of the people who successfully work remotely right now, come hell or high water, very little can tempt you back into the office. 

For companies, it means that if you’re hiring someone currently working remotely and want them to be in the office full-time, your efforts have little chance of success. There’s only a 17% chance that a new employer can offer remote workers the right benefits or enough money to get them to “switch” back to the office. 

In other words, a huge 83% of people currently working in hybrid or fully remote jobs feel that remote work options are one of the most important criteria they have when looking for a new job. With such an overwhelming majority, it’s clear that people place huge value on the freedom of working from anywhere. But just how much freedom are they looking for? 

When looking for new job opportunities:

  • 55% of remote workers are looking for at least a hybrid opportunity. 
  • 28% of remote workers won’t consider a position unless it’s full-time remote. 
  • Only 12% of remote workers value salary and benefits over remote work. 

From these results, it’s clear that once someone works remotely, it’s unlikely they’ll be willing to give up their freedom of work when searching for their next opportunity. 

Existing remote work policies are working really well for employees

An overwhelming 90% of remote and hybrid workers were happy with their remote policy. That’s pretty clear evidence that people love remote work no matter what policy you have – it’s giving employees the option that matters. 

In a study by Scoop during Q4 of 2023, researchers found that public companies with fully flexible remote work policies (no obligation to come into the office) had 3x revenue growth compared to their peers (on an industry-adjusted basis). A hybrid office policy also outperformed its office-only peers, but to a lesser extent, performing about 1x better than in-office-only companies. That’s approximately double the revenue growth.

So what?
If you’re considering going remote or revamping your hybrid policy, there’s a good chance your employees and investors will thank you for it. If you’ve got questions about the HR logistics of having a global remote team, book a demo with a Remofirst consultant to get some tried and tested advice. 

Asynchronous work increases in popularity in 2024

Asynchronous work, works. The reality is that any timezone issues we had in the past were mostly growing pains. Today, employees are willing to take the occasional late-night meeting in favor of flexible work locations.  

Here’s an example of how teamwork can still happen asynchronously: The tech company Zapier ran an experimental “get stuff done (GSD)” week where they canceled every single meeting across the organization in favor of async messages. In this scientific management exercise, meetings were replaced with Slack messages, and no one had to stay up late or wake up early for a call. With 89% of respondents finding communication just as effective, the results were pretty clear; video meetings aren’t necessary for communication to happen. 

Considering that 78% of surveyed remote workers collaborate with an international team, it’s clear that remote employers are also embracing the freedom of working across a global network without being limited by timezone. 

That’s great news for international talent looking to work remotely for global companies. It also means that businesses will have fewer barriers to hiring internationally as it becomes increasingly popular.

Benefits & challenges of remote work in 2024 

In a nutshell, the benefits and challenges of remote work are very much tied up in our society's struggles:

  1. We all want more time to do things that bring value and happiness to our lives. 
  2. We all want to feel connected to others socially.

Some might say that work infrastructure has been on a spiral of increasing hours and decreasing social time since the Industrial Revolution. But issues like a lack of connection and burnout (while they may feel like a constant) are relatively new to our society. 

In fact, in 1674, loneliness was so rare that it was used in a glossary of infrequently used words! Skip to the 1950s, and single-person households rapidly exploded in popularity, and work discipline intensified. By the 1970s, the term “burnout” started making the rounds. 

Though these problems are relatively new in the human timeline of work, tools are quickly developing to address the growing burnout concern. Any business that wants to innovate on how their company manages people in the remainder of our decade should be looking towards improving how people feel connected to their colleagues and the larger world around them.

What people love about Freedom of Work

To get a more detailed picture, we asked respondents to rate the top 3 things they liked most about having freedom to work remotely. What people value the most can be categorized into: 

  1. Saving time → You have more time for other things.
  2. Flexibility and freedom → You have more control and autonomy over what you do with your time. 

Between saving time and gaining freedom, it's easy to see why remote work is popular. After all, what sane human wouldn’t want more freedom to do the things they enjoy without sacrificing their income? 

However, remote workers still sacrifice something to gain these extra hours every day. For most of them, the hardest parts of working remotely are a lack of connection and the physical isolation. 

These results aren’t surprising when you consider that COVID-19 left some pretty deep shared trauma around loneliness. Still, things might be looking up for humanity. An ongoing study by Gallup found that in 2023, loneliness rates were declining, with just 17% of US adults feeling lonely daily. 

TIP:
When asked how they were overcoming issues of connection and isolation, many people resolved to take walks at least once a day and put more effort into going to social events. Walking isn’t an instant fix if you're struggling, but
studies show it’s a great place to start boosting your happiness levels. 

Social connection needs to be supported by in-person events

In remote environments, people are making independent decisions to make reliable social connections within their teams and larger organizations. However, almost every respondent (85.3%) said that connection included some kind of in-person interaction.

No matter how you look at it, we’re still social creatures, craving some kind of in-person interaction. 

Thankfully, there are many ways companies can facilitate in-person interaction — even across a global team. Some of the ones respondents mentioned most frequently are: 

  • In-office events 
  • Industry-related events (great for a global team)
  • Sporadic fun office events (e.g., pub quiz or team building) 
  • Team retreats or workshops (either quarterly or yearly for global teams)
DID YOU KNOW? 
Back in the ’90s and early 2000s, good team building looked like a Friday happy hour with an open tab and glamorous parties until the early morning hours. But the general preference has shifted, with millennials preferring time with their family and Gen Zs actively avoiding alcohol. For in-person events, try to prioritize exciting experiences over parties.

Remote workers work hard

Many employers are concerned about how long remote workers are really working and if those hours are indeed productive. Well, in 2024, plenty of verified studies are out stating that, yes, remote workers do the hard work and are more productive and work longer hours than their in-office counterparts.

Our survey results in this direction are consistent with other studies. Remote workers feel more productive working from home than in the office. 

So, how long do remote workers actually work?

According to remote workers themselves, they usually work 5-day work weeks and MORE than the standard 8 hours.

But that begs the question…were remote workers more productive in 2023?

Remote workers overwhelmingly report that, yes, their productivity has improved. Of those surveyed, 89% said that remote work had improved their personal productivity.

Of those who felt they had better productivity, many cited working the hours they wanted to as a key factor in being able to do their best work and increase their output. Of those who struggled with productivity while working remotely, most (38%) cited a lack of accountability as their key issue. 

Most remote companies trust their employees to do good work. Of those surveyed, only 7% of companies with remote employees were using screen tracking technology to improve accountability. From their first-hand accounts, the jury’s still out on whether screen tracking is good or bad. One group felt as though they were being mistrusted, while the other appreciated the accountability and routine it introduced. 

The future of hybrid work in 2024?

Editors note: 28% of respondents worked hybrid. These stats focus on the difference between full-time remote and hybrid workers. 

It’s become a bit of a millennial meme… The Gen X boss insists people need to be in the office to be supervised, and the overworked millennial employee is desperate to keep those precious hours of personal time from turning back into commute time. 

The funny thing is both sides are fighting tooth and nail for… freedom. The boss wants the freedom of not worrying how productive the employees are when working from their sofas at home and, instead, have them chained to a desk with the illusion that they’re at their most productive in a shared office. The overworked employee wants the freedom of not worrying about commuting and choosing where and how they want to work.

When the two clash and the boss thinks they’ve got it their way, employees only become more productive…“coffee badgers” — people who come into the office, drink a coffee, talk among some coworkers, and get a proverbial badge for showing up.

Amanda Richardson, CEO of CoderPad, wrote an article in 2023 detailing her opinion of leaders who insist the office is necessary for teamwork. As she puts it:

“When I hear the off-the-record conversations among my peers on this, it’s clear most CEOs won’t actually be in every day themselves, nor will they personally commit to having their butt in the seat (oh, nooo). They want to be able to waltz in the office and feel secure with the window dressing of physically present workers, performatively enacting happy work life, as they waltz right out again.” 

Thousands of similar articles talk about what we fondly refer to as the "Hybrid Wars"

If you’re a CEO reading this and want your employees back in the office, these insights aren’t meant to devalue your well-trained gut feeling that teamwork happens best in person. Instead, they’re a resource showing how teamwork is fundamentally changing in this hyper-connected world. To get your employees to head back to their office chairs without quitting or staging a walkout (like the one Amazon endured in 2023), you need a different approach. 

So, is hybrid the future of work? If we’re looking at it from a revenue perspective, hybrid is definitely here to stay. 

What’s the most popular hybrid work policy?

Staying home, more often than not, is the more popular hybrid policy - working in office 1-2 days a week is about 1.4x more popular than going into the office 3-4 days a week.

And of the hybrid workers we spoke to, 83% were happy with their respective remote work policy. Compared to full-time remote workers, hybrid workers surveyed were slightly more inclined to feel dissatisfied with their policy but, as a whole, were happy to have a few days out of the office. 

This begs the question: Do employees want hybrid work?

For a ‘satisfied’ group of people, it’s surprising that 44% of hybrid workers don’t actually stick to their policy. And if you’re working in HR, that should immediately raise a flag because a policy is there to help bolster company culture and get everyone working towards a common goal. 

The results show two clear groups with a mostly equal split: 

  • Those who go into the office more. 
  • Those who work from home more.

As you probably expect, it’s a clear case of ‘you can’t please everyone.’ No matter how you adjust your hybrid policy, you’ll likely have a group of people who prefer to work remotely, and a group who prefer to work in office. We asked hybrid folks for their direct opinions on how to resolve their dissatisfaction, and for most, it wasn’t that the policy needed to change. It was that the policy was too harshly enforced. 

Life is unpredictable, and the harsh enforcement of where their work happens causes people to feel a lack of freedom.  Here’s what a few respondents had to say about why they were dissatisfied: 

  • “I dislike the lack of clarity from leadership as well as the inconsistency across departments and teams.”
  • “Unnecessary rigidity to the days in the office, days in the office not used for face-to-face interaction, office location unideal.”
  • “I think employees should be able to choose what's best for them. Instead, we have the worst of both worlds with mandated hybrid in my opinion.”
  • “It shouldn't be a black-and-white policy, it should be more flexible. If there's a reason that we should be in the office, great. But there are weeks where it doesn't really necessitate going into the office 3x a week. I take it upon myself to decide if I am going to work in the office when my manager travels since I really don't need to be in the office. A number of other team members with kids do the same.”

From this snapshot, it’s quickly obvious that for a hybrid policy to make everyone happy, there are two things you need to do:

  1. Be crystal clear about your policy — ambiguity fuels the collective bargaining power of disgruntled people. 
  2. Add flexibility to your policy — show you trust, and employee freedom will reduce anxiety.  

How hybrid employees communicate 

In 2024, teamwork and collaboration don’t happen exclusively in person. Not even when you’re sitting in an office for hours on end every day. Collaboration in big and small organizations has become more intentional and less organic. Teams check in with each other and share responsibilities over tools like Slack or IM rather than over lunch. Decisions are made in optimized meetings or dedicated workshops. 

People are still working together. It’s just not as audible to a manager. 

But hybrid work brings with it a bunch of challenges that you need to be aware of as an employee and as a manager of people: 54% of hybrid workers say a lack of connection with colleagues or people, in general, is one of their top issues when working remotely. And many continue to feel that you cannot establish a connection with someone if you don’t see them in person. 

Are you wondering what is the future of hybrid work in 2024? It can be brighter if you implement some easy ways to help improve the teamwork of hybrid workers: 

  1. Run in-person team-building events. 
  2. Dedicate office time to meetings and more social tasks (versus deep work tasks). 
  3. Kickstart a remote culture committee that runs fun threads and polls on your IM solution or internal social media. 
  4. Schedule themed in-office days where team members get together for collaborative sessions like Strategy Fridays or Innovation Wednesdays.
  5. Swap traditional conference room meetings for walking meetings around the office or a nearby park.
  6. Occasionally rotate seating arrangements to encourage team members to sit with different colleagues and spur new conversations and connections.

The needs of hybrid workers vs fully remote workers 

So, the boundaries of work are being redrawn. While it happens, we can’t help but ask ourselves…

Is hybrid better than fully remote?

Many people wonder if it’s “better” to work full-time remotely or hybrid, and the answer isn’t as straightforward as you’d hope. Overall, we saw plenty of similarities in answers across all questions.

Here are the most relevant differences between hybrid and remote workers: 

  • Both are just as likely to report a lack of connection as one of their biggest challenges. But remote workers don’t struggle as much as hybrid workers to leave the house. 
  • Remote workers struggle more than hybrid workers to find work-life balance.
  • Remote workers are almost 2x more likely than hybrid workers to say their company can improve remote work by reducing the number of meetings. 
  • Only 34% of hybrid workers said burnout was a challenge for them compared to 48% of full-time remote workers. 

Both workers have similar feelings about how remote work increases productivity, but the order of popularity is slightly different. Check the table below to see what’s most aligned with what you’re looking for. 

What aspect of working remotely has the biggest impact on productivity?

Hybrid workers

  1. Less tired because I don’t have to commute 
  2. More deep thinking time / fewer interruptions
  3. I can work the hours I want
  4. I find it less stressful overall
  5. I can get more work done in less time 

Remote workers

  1. I can work the hours I want 
  2. I can get more work done in less time
  3. More deep thinking time / fewer interruptions
  4. Less tired because I don’t have to commute 
  5. I find it less stressful overall

Hybrid employees still feel that staying at home saves them money 

It’s not a surprise that most workers say they save money when they work from home. On average, they estimate savings of $28 every day they stay home - this includes gas/commuting costs, lunch/take out, and childcare. 

Still, employees who exercise their Freedom of Work benefit from more than just financial savings. They also save between 30-60 minutes of commuting time per day. Add that up in a year, and in-office workers spend about 260 hours of their personal time simply getting to and from work. That time translates to about 32 full work days per year.

Employees see flexible, remote work as a right rather than a privilege

Looking into employee benefits for remote work, we’ve noticed that employees no longer see remote work as a privilege. It’s more of a right they demand and are willing to walk away if not granted. 

With 59% of respondents looking for a new job if remote work isn’t an option, companies are clearly better off without trying to force incentives to bring these workers back to the office.

In their search for a new job:

  • More than half of respondents (72%) say they need some hybrid or they won’t take the job
  • Only a small portion of hybrid workers (19%) could be ‘swayed’ to go back to full-time in-office work by compensation or benefits.
  • Surprisingly, a small percentage (5%) said they’d only take the job if they could work in an office, indicating a few people still prefer a traditional environment.

How companies are reacting to remote work going into 2024

Editors note: This section contains the viewpoints of respondents who are already working at a company that facilitates remote or hybrid work. 

In a nutshell, offering your employees the freedom to choose where they work is an excellent idea if you’re looking to hire top talent in 2024 (and 35% of companies are). Responses show that remote work is maturing as people are more comfortable and practiced at working from home. 

What benefits, if any, should you offer remote workers? 

Earlier in this index, it was clear that people save quite a bit of money by working remotely. So, should you be offering freedom of work benefits as well? The responses show a slight majority of companies offering benefits. 

As for those benefits provided by companies, the trends remain fairly consistent with the reported benefits of past years. 

It’s clear that monetary support for equipment like desks, internet, and other home office supplies is popular, but training and education are even more so. 

Remote workers frequently use software and online tools but miss out on learning from others like they would in an office. Training keeps them up-to-date with tech AND satisfies their desire for growth and development, making 94% of employees likely to stay longer at your company.

There’s a clear divide between what people get and what they want. Unsurprisingly, cash is king, with most respondents wanting increased support to improve their home equipment. While that might be a tough upsell to your leadership, physical benefits such as gym memberships are quite underserved and relatively affordable in most parts of the world. 

TIP: 
Give employees a local gym benefit to spend on fitness. This is a win-win as exercise is proven to decrease mental stress and fight depression.  

One benefit that might see a big reduction in 2024 is co-working subscriptions. Of those surveyed, 83% of remote workers choose to work from home, with more than half working from their private home office. The repeated desire for more monetary support at home makes sense. 

Beyond just benefits, we wanted to know where the potential blind spots of hiring remote workers were in a company’s day-to-day operations. A few of these were unsurprising regulars, such as fewer meetings and more leave, but there were some interesting insights:

  • Of those who said they wanted more mental benefits, 28% would be happy with apps like Headspace and Calm. 38% said they’d prefer one-on-one sessions with a therapist as part of their compensation. 
  • The desire for more company time to connect with colleagues can be easily satisfied during those times when you have fewer deliverables and less work. A creative solution would be to use slow times of business to bring people into the work-site for fun, low-pressure collaboration projects. 

How do companies feel about the risks of running remote teams?

Looking at the concerns companies have about working with remote workers, it’s heartwarming to know that most employers trust their remote workers: 

  • Collectively, more than half of the respondents said they have no concerns (28.1%) or just a few concerns but nothing serious (25%) when it comes to managing a remote team.
  • The other half were almost equally divided between concerns about international law (24%) and productivity factors like limiting “free riders” or “quiet quitters” as well as HR issues (22.9%)
TIP
If you share similar concerns about growing and managing remote teams, Remofirst can help you. We support smooth, same-day onboarding for employees in more than 180 different countries. Book a demo with a Remofirst consultant and find out how we can help you expand your team globally.

The reality is that most companies trust their employees. 

From the most notable concerns employees mentioned, productivity was the least mentioned. It turns out that 94% of companies don’t even need to monitor every one of their employees’ steps with screen tracking. Their most frequent reasons are: 

  • Trusting employees 
  • Focusing on results (not time spent) 
  • Feeling like it’s bad for company culture
  • Feeling like it’s bad for mental health

How are other companies hiring people in 2024 

We know more people want to exercise their Freedom of Work, and are willing to switch jobs for it, but what expectations do companies that offer remote and hybrid work have for their employees?

In 2024, 57% of respondents don’t intend to restrict their hiring to location or time zone. A quarter (25%) plan to hire only within nearby time zones to facilitate easier communication, whereas 12% will only hire people who live in the same country as their head office. 

The demand for remote workers continues to grow: 

  • 42% of companies planning to hire in 2024 as the need arises.
  • 35% are in the process of actively growing their teams.
  • And just 15% of companies are either reducing headcount or not looking to hire for the next 12 months.

As for how prepared companies are to attract remote talent, more than half (56%) have a localized compensation strategy in place. Of the respondents, 19% of companies have a general compensation strategy, and 21% don’t have a standardized process and instead adjust on the go.

In line with the intention of hiring remote workers as planned or on demand, companies gear up to spread investments in tech in 2024.

So, there’s no surprise that budgets will tend to distribute funds between:

  • Better hardware for teams to do their work (16.7%)
  • Better services for HR/Payroll/benefits (21.4%)
  • Collaboration tools for asynchronous or just generally more effective teamwork (23.8%)
  • Project management tools where everyone can contribute from anywhere (26.2%)

Conclusion 

The findings of 2024’s Freedom of Work Index are clear. Whether it’s the choice to work from a home office, a cafe, or halfway across the world, this complete freedom to choose where we work has reshaped our work culture and our definitions of productivity and collaboration — and enabled top performing companies to accelerate their revenue growth.

Freedom of work is more than a trend; it’s a movement that aligns with what we value the most — flexibility, autonomy, and the power to shape our professional journeys.

At Remofirst, we have made it our mission to enable companies all over the world to employ the best talent, wherever they may be. Join our email list and the Remofirst community to stay up to date on the latest trends, insights, and solutions for promoting the Freedom of Work.