Throughout the pandemic, business leaders have looked to science, government, their peers, and bottom lines when making operational decisions. All perspectives are important in these uncertain times, where a confluence of erratic factors are in play. COVID-19 is the proverbial tail that keeps wagging the dog, especially with the talent shortage – but likely not for long.
Large companies are often first to break traditional norms, and today, to get in front of the talent crisis, they are going hybrid. The Partnership for New York City, a business-focused nonprofit, recently asked Manhattan’s major employers about their return-to-office plans amid the COVID-19 surge. The vast majority (71%) plan to adopt a rotating or hybrid schedule, a blend of on-site and remote workers. Companies everywhere, of all sizes, are making moves of their own.
“Big operational, financial, and competitive advantages are unfolding now that more companies are open to ongoing remote work,” says Scott Gaba, COO at Goodwin Recruiting. “We’ve seen an influx of remote jobs offered by our clients nationwide and an increased interest in the remote recruiting opportunity we offer here at our own company. “The talent floodgates are opening, providing access to high-caliber professionals with the skills, experience, education, and certifications that our clients need, with no relocation required. This relief is substantial right now for any company, including in smaller markets with limited talent pools.”
Benefits include the evergreen gig economy
Having the freedom and strategy in place to engage freelance talent is a much-needed solution to stay fully staffed and agile in our volatile hiring climate. The gig economy grew by leaps and bounds in 2020, gaining 2 million new independent workers in the United States alone. The sudden shift was a forced migration caused by widespread layoffs and furloughs. In all, a significant 64.8 million Americans freelanced last year, and the number is growing.
Both the workforce and business world are showing resilience and ingenuity during the still-raging pandemic. About 90% of businesses expect to grow their reliance on non-payroll workers (freelancers and independent contractors) this year and next, and the number is expected to exceed 90 million by 2028. Beyond filling essential talent gaps, outsourcing to freelance professionals is significantly reducing overhead and operating costs.
There are numerous rewards in making the transition
According to Gallup, the majority of U.S. workers continue to work remotely since the onset of the pandemic, with about a third working remotely all the time and another 25% some of the time. By now, the advantages have become quite clear for employers offering remote work.
- Top-tier freelancers and independent contractors, and many remote employees, can work from anywhere, greatly expanding the available talent pool in a challenging hiring market.
- Remote work increases employee satisfaction and reduces turnover by providing more personal flexibility and family time while also slashing commute times, fuel costs, and vehicle maintenance expenses. These pluses are associated with higher productivity.
- Job descriptions and titles are changing to meet the moment. A new ThinkLab report cites “remote work evangelist,” “social scientist,” and “digital anthropologist” as a few titles more representative of new job functions. For example, a remote manager whose job is to clear the way for employee success might be called “director of unblocking.” Such developments, with or without creative titles, are necessary and motivating for both workers and employers.
- Companies boosting employee experience with a remote strategy are improving their brand images and attracting the most sought-after job applicants. Sharing remote work opportunities in job listings is accelerating awareness and response.
- With more people working remotely, companies are able to consolidate or eliminate costly office space and related operating expenses.
- Remote work is proven to increase productivity, including new productivity monitoring tools and emerging solutions to keep employees on track and accountable.
- Performance management has gone virtual to support the shift, with 64% of companies reporting increased frequency of engagement in ongoing check-ins with managers.
What type of model is best for your organization?
As most companies discovered in the early months of the pandemic, remote work is not a black-and-white, cut-and-dried undertaking. In fact, many models now exist to support the make-up of diverse operations and workforces.
Inc. dives into the five most common hybrid and remote work models executives are considering and implementing, including the pros and cons of each. The full article is a must-read.
Here are the CliffsNotes:
- Office-centric hybrid companies require employees to come into the office most of the time but build in one or two days each week when employees can work from another location.
- Fully flexible hybrid lets employees choose when they’d like to work from an office and when they’d like to work from another location.
- Remote-ish (or remote-friendly) hybrid involves deciding which employees can work remotely and allows them to schedule work-from-home days, but not on specific days. It also allows a percentage of employees to work remotely full-time, while the majority come into the office most days.
- Hybrid remote-office involves giving employees a menu of options from which to choose, typically including a remote option, a flexible work option (work from an office two to three days per week), and an in-office option.
- Remote (or virtual)-first usually involves most employees working remotely by default, from their homes or from anywhere.
The article notes that while each model has vastly different implications, companies may want to combine two or more; however, getting clear on the terminology is the first step in setting up employees and the company for success. And as mentioned, companies are capitalizing on models that create a path for top non-local professionals to work remotely.
Deloitte U.S. CEO Joe Ucuzoglu puts it this way: “There’s a tension between the desire of some leaders to bring back a preponderance of in-person work and a yearning of many in the labor force to preserve the level of flexibility. This is not an all-or-nothing, though – what we’ve been talking a lot about with respect to a hybrid model is bringing to life the best-of-both-worlds models.”
Regardless of your path, ensure a successful strategy
Best practices for remote work have emerged since the start of the pandemic that are yielding pre-pandemic stability, performance, process efficiency, and measurable results. It is enlightening to see what’s working for other organizations and their teams in leading and managing the nonstop advance into new territory.
Quantum Workplace, a human resources technology provider, offers 43 Remote Work Best Practices, Strategies, and Tips – a comprehensive guide to building a solid work culture. They cover every vantage point, from ensuring remote employees have the tools and resources to do their jobs, to the importance of good communications and collaboration tools, making culture a part of the strategy, building connections and keeping employees engaged, and much more.
The future of work is already here
While the progression to remote and hybrid work is clearly a permanent shift, it may be a while before we see the full evolution in the workforce and business landscape. But right now and for the foreseeable future, the new normal carries mutually rewarding outcomes for companies and workers that are not likely to be abandoned. Still, some things will never change.
“Next to your people, time is your most precious commodity. These truths will outlive every twist and turn, and so will corporate America’s need for expedient access to top executive, operator, and manager candidates,” says Goodwin’s VP of Recruiting, Allegra Highsmith. As one of the United States’ best executive and professional recruiting firms, Goodwin Recruiting responds to diverse talent acquisition needs with a nationwide pipeline of active and passive candidates and a growing network of independent recruiting partners who all happen to work remotely.