As we experience ongoing uncertainty about the global pandemic, the government, financial markets, and the economy, we inevitably look for impacts on the supply and demand for jobs and workers. Different people react to uncertainty in different ways, and as a Search Consultant I see a wide range of reactions from employers as well as would-be employees, with fear of the unknown driving much of their behavior. Some employers have initiated hiring freezes and / or layoffs, and many potential job candidates have elected to hunker down in roles and companies they don’t like because they are afraid to go elsewhere and forego a nice severance package from their current employer in case things go south.
One of the emerging trends that is actually helping both employers and employees is the increasing willingness to allow workers to perform their jobs remotely – from home – on a long-term basis, including after the pandemic subsides. The Tech industry in particular has led the way with announcements that even after HQ-based office workers are “allowed” to return to the worksite and a coronavirus vaccine is made available they will continue to offer a majority of employees a work-from-home option. Although this is certainly still the exception rather than the rule, some forward-thinking organizations have determined that the costs related to health safety, commute time, relocation and overall productivity is too great a price to pay to gain the benefits of having employees see each other face-to-face every day.
As someone who toils in the job market every day I view this trend as positive for both employers and their staff. Hiring managers in organizations that are still working from home now have the opportunity to “try out” new employees who can only work remotely, both currently and in the future, in an initial grace period of sorts. In the past it was rarely the case where a new employee was offered a traditional HQ-based office position on a remote basis. They were expected to be onsite every day unless they were on business travel or there were extenuating circumstances. The exception has been in those cases where a prior working relationship existed between the management team and the new employee. In those cases trust had already been established by the employee, limiting risk, and off-setting the benefits that may be lost by not having routine face time.
Now, when most people are still required to work remotely from home, the new employee has a built-in opportunity to build a similar kind of trust. This is true for someone who works far away and refuses to relocate, as well as someone who is facing a killer commute time in a crowded metropolitan area. Given that the availability and widespread use of an effective vaccine is perhaps still a year away, these new employees may be able to build enough trust and value for the organization to keep their HQ-based position on a remote basis in the future.
This is already happening and employers who want to land “A Players” on their teams are jumping ahead of the curve to hire in this manner. They don’t have to worry about breaching internal equity or corporate policy by offering new employees something they have not offered existing employees in the past. A simple online search for job openings that include the word “Remote” in the subject line shows a dramatic increase from last year. I believe we are entering a new era in work-from-home, remote employment, where dreadful commutes and required relocations will become the exception rather than the rule, and it is probably long overdue. It just took a global pandemic to get us there.
As always I welcome your comments and questions.