Remote work: One size doesn’t fit all
Across the country, large employers, including PwC, Amazon and Facebook are abandoning their return-to-office plans and announcing that employees can remote work from home indefinitely.
In June, Facebook announced all full-time employees could work from home if their jobs could be done remotely. In October, PwC told its 40,000 employees they could work remotely for the rest of their careers, Amazon announced that individual teams could decide when and how frequently employees need to be in the office, if at all.
Job candidates are eyeing these new remote work policies and expecting prospective employers to provide the same flexibility. In fact, in the past year, 54% of recruiters have seen candidates turn down an interview or job offer due to a lack of flexibility and remote work options in the workplace, according to the 2021 Recruiter Nation Report from Jobvite.
That same study finds that 57% of recruiters believe the lack of work from home policies makes it harder to attract potential candidates, and 60% believe organizations will lose employees if they do not transition to a hybrid, fully remote, or remote-first culture.
It is clear that remote work is here to stay, at least for now, but companies need to be thinking about the long-term consequences of remote work, says Heidi Parsont, CEO and founder of TorchLight Hire. “Everyone is thinking about right now, not the future,” Parsont says.
Companies need to keep in mind there are long-term implications to adopting a remote-first culture, Parsont says. For instance:
- What does onboarding look like remotely?
- How will new employees connect with coworkers?
- What happens to your mentoring programs?
- How will you provide training and career development?
- How will you engage young professionals who have no prior experience in the workplace? For instance, how will younger employees learn how to manage other employees?
“Companies will need to be intentional about engaging younger professionals now because remote work also makes it much easier for employees to switch jobs,” Parsont says.
While many employees want mentorship and feedback in their careers regardless of age, this is particularly important for younger professionals who are looking for opportunities to quickly move up the career ladder. If they don’t feel like they have a growth path, it’s easier than ever for them to find a position with another company given they don’t have to think about typical barriers to switching like long commutes or office culture.
Employers must act quickly given nearly twice as many Gen Z (ages 18-24) and millennial (ages 25-40) workers as baby boomers (ages 57-75) said they plan to look for new positions soon (77% and 63% versus 33%, respectively), according to a recent Bankrate survey.
On the flip side, most employees who are mid-career or later, may be perfectly happy working remotely and probably don’t need to be as engaged on a daily or weekly basis as their younger colleagues. But companies still need to figure out how to:
- Get laptops and equipment to new employees. They can’t wait for three weeks for a laptop.
- Bring the staff together for town hall meetings. Everyone is tired of Zoom and more companies are turning to internal podcasts but how do companies make sure employees are tuning in?
- Be more intentional about Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs. Hiring managers don’t always know if someone is a diverse candidate, particularly for candidates who are veterans or LGBTQ+.
Perhaps companies should focus on offering a hybrid work environment, rather than remote-only, Parsont suggests. “A hybrid office would give employees an opportunity to learn from each other,” she says. For instance, a vice president of marketing could learn about paid media from a newly hired digital media specialist and that digital media specialist could learn about developing strategy from the vice president. It’s unclear if this type of learning is happening while employees are working from home.
Parsont offered several examples of ways companies can engage employees and get them working together:
- Require entire teams to go into the office twice a week.
- Set up quarterly meetings for the entire staff.
- Encourage managers to have one-on-one in-person meetings at least once a month.
“When it comes to work-from-home, one-size does not fit all but, by offering hybrid, companies give everyone the option to find what works for them,” Parsont says.
While work-from-home might feel like the right solution for right now, companies might want to refrain from declaring that every employee can work from home for the rest of their career. In the meantime, companies will need to think through how to engage younger employees in the age of remote work as well as how to continue to provide all employees opportunities for career development, training and collaboration.