‘Anywhere economy’: The answer to HR’s productivity puzzle?

More jobs coming to rural areas as 'anywhere economy' is expected to continue to grow

‘Anywhere economy’: The answer to HR’s productivity puzzle?

The changing world seems to be poised to bring a lot of positives for employers and workers alike, judging from the findings of a recent study.Both executives and consumers are confident that the ‘anywhere economy’ will improve economic conditions and personal lives, reported DocuSign.

“The anywhere economy is the flexibility brought by electronic devices, internet connectivity and digital platforms that allows communication, collaboration and transactions to take place in real-time and independent of space,” according to the ‘Unlocking the potential of the anywhere economy’ report undertaken by think tank Economist Impact and released by DocuSign.

“This new economic era is defined by the capacity to conduct business, leisure and personal activities in any location at any time.”

Fifty-nine percent of executives and 47% of consumers expect the anywhere economy to accelerate further, according to the report. And in it, individual productivity will grow an average of 10% across 10 countries studied – including Canada and the U.S. This will add $19.4 trillion in cumulative GDP by 2030, based on the survey of 2,800 consumers and 764 executives.

“These numbers indicate that maybe we’re just in the beginning of a big growth in productivity and economic expansion through the rest of this decade. Which makes you think that the current slowdown we're in is maybe best viewed as a lull before this next big wave takes off,” said Dan Lyons, senior brand and content strategy director, DocuSign in talking with HRD.

This is driven by two factors, he said: the way we work profoundly changing and generative AI.

A previous survey from ResumeBuilder revealed that 91% of hiring employers are looking for workers with experience on ChatGPT.

More jobs, diversity

The anywhere economy can also enhance equity, if employers can improve digital infrastructure and invest in digital skill-building on a national level, according to the DocuSign report.

The average rural employment rate (age 15+) will rise from 57% in 2021 to 59% in 2030. For every 1,000 rural residents aged 15+, the anywhere economy will bring about 20 additional jobs, while eight of the ten studied countries will see a drop in the percentage of low-income households.

Also, the majority (77%) of surveyed executives agreed that the anywhere economy had a positive impact on their ability to hire from a wider pool of candidates, and two-thirds of executives believe remote work and digitalization enable businesses to recruit more widely and create opportunities for more people to join the workforce.

Across the ten countries, for every 1,000 women aged 15 and above, the anywhere economy is estimated to draw 48 additional women to join the labour force. Overall, an additional 25 million women will be brought into the labour force in 2030 alone.

This represents an average growth of five percentage points, from 55% in 2021 to nearly 60% in 2030.

Almost two-thirds of executives said that the anywhere economy had expanded their organization’s recruitment geographically, while a quarter said that their firm was planning to do so.

Only 19% of women say a lot of progress has been made over the past 10 years in achieving gender equality, with 32% saying no progress has been made, reported Randstad Canada and The Brand is Female.

Mindset 

All the possible upsides of the anywhere economy – those won’t happen with proper investment from employers, said Lyons.

“At the national level, there's a really big need to both invest in infrastructure, but also to invest in upskilling people.”

But when it comes to training and development of workers in the anywhere economy, “that's going to require a lot of experimentation and also a lot of learning from each other,” said Lyons. 

“That is one organization tries something others will learn from that and vice versa.”

Employers should also be careful: 44% of consumers and 46% of executives selected cybersecurity as the area most in need of attention and investment.

Recognizing the constraints of the anywhere economy can lead the way to a more effective path forward, according to the report.

“[The anywhere economy is] opening up huge amounts of opportunity,” said Lyons. “And now it's a matter of stepping back and studying that, and then engaging with it and finally reaping the benefits of that.”

The 'Work from anywhere' approach is a strong recruiting tool, according to one HR leader.

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