It might be challenging to make remote work predictions for the coming year and know exactly what members of the workforce of tomorrow will need to know, or precisely how to structure teams and companies for success across industries and time zones.

One thing, however, is certain: we are steadily speeding toward a future of work that includes job flexibility and location independence beyond our grandparents’ wildest dreams.

What does this mean for the year ahead?

A lot of change, customization, and consideration for professionals’ desired lifestyles is in order. In an ever-more-crowded remote work landscape, the tools, processes, and policies we use daily are being iterated upon and optimized to further suit our needs. As they do, they’ll change the way we experience our roles and our interactions with one another.

Here are some remote work predictions for 2018:

Rise of the Free Agents

As freelancing opportunities increase, this subset of the workforce will continue to grow, potentially outpacing new full-time roles among certain groups and industries (e.g., recent grads, software developers). Freelancing will be viewed as a legitimate career path for professionals at all ends of the career spectrum, as access via personal networks and online marketplaces expands. The 9-to-5 job won’t cease to exist, but many will likely be revamped, with increased work-from-home days and varying office hours in response to a broader culture shift toward greater flexibility.

Catering to Remote Work Niches

Last year I predicted that the industry surrounding digital nomads would expand—and it did, growing at a strong rate, according to the New York Times. This coming year, we’ll see a proliferation of companies emerging in the form of online communities and brick-and-mortar venues to support a variety of professional niches, including international remote teams, women leaders and travelers, minority founders, and independent coworking owners and operators, among others.

Growing Companies Without Borders

Estonia’s 2014 establishment of an e-residency program for entrepreneurs was the canary in the coal mine here; this prescient move represented the first national-level initiative by a government toward welcoming remote enterprises. In 2018 we’ll see a rise in virtual companies founded both within and across borders by expats with distributed teams; because of their international status, these startups will likely serve broader global audiences and employ more multicultural workforces. Some will accomplish this without ever having met in person!

Investing in People as a Competitive Advantage

Finally, the age of nonstop, workaholic hustling is coming to an end, as more leaders acknowledge that rest, relaxation, and play are necessary for planting seeds of creativity and innovation–not burnout. We can look forward to greater support for employees in the forms of clearly defined boundaries, upskilling opportunities, and organizations investing in employees’ physical fitness, mental health, and wellness initiatives. The latter won’t be a 100% altruistic strategy, though: employers will have much to gain in the form of productivity, revenues, and retention. (Hey, no complaints here!)

Heeding the #MeToo Movement

Another long overdue change will occur on the policy side for remote organizations, as ensuring a safe work environment for all takes a front seat in the wake of the global #MeToo movement. A dam has been breached, difficult conversations have begun, and with them have come a wellspring of options for healing. Developing effective codes of conduct, harassment prevention methods, and mentoring and training programs will be a priority as companies look to eliminate internal biases, build or boost morale, and foster cultures of transparency, respect, and equality.

Photo Credit: bigstockphoto.com

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