The past year and a half has been revolutionary for the world of remote work. Many companies that never thought they’d be able to function with out-of-office workers found that remote work was a good solution — and in some cases more efficient and productive than they’d imagined.
It’s also changed the way that companies think about the workplace. In Monster’s Future of Work report, 43% of employers reported that hybrid work is the way of the future. Many employers also say they think flexible work options give them a recruiting advantage and help them retain talent.
That said, remote work isn’t as simple as sending everyone home and subscribing to Zoom. When it comes to where the workplace is heading, hiring experts have this to say about what companies must consider in the future:
Review Your Location Needs
Who hasn’t heard about a friend or coworker relocating because their job has gone remote and they no longer have to live within driving distance? For companies considering remote arrangements, that means they can look for talent beyond the candidates who live nearby.
“Our hiring managers are seeing that we can get more qualified candidates for them to consider instead of just candidates in one particular area,” says Malinda Gain, strategic sourcer at Gilead Sciences. “Or they can consider someone who’s close to one of our offices in the U.S. and have that person do something kind of hybrid. It’s definitely opened their eyes, now that they’ve seen that remote can work.”
Rethink The Ways in Which Employees Connect
While many jobs can be performed efficiently and effectively off-site, work is about more than just job tasks. According to Monster’s data, 35% of remote workers miss work-related small talk with their coworkers. And 23% miss face-time with leadership as a result of working remotely.
Companies must put some thought into new ways to build culture and camaraderie when employees are no longer passing each other’s cubicles during the day or interacting in the work kitchen.
“Gilead had a holiday party but it was virtual, since we were all remote,” Gain says. “Everyone came with their Christmas sweater on, and they had some fun things for us to do and talk about.”
Jason Patel, founder of Transizion, a college- and career-prep company, suggests creating daily and weekly touchpoints to mimic some of the casual interactions of an in-person office. “You can have more in-depth check-ins, you can provide status updates on the company during the week, and you can have weekly all-hands meetings,” he says. “Don’t try to directly imitate what the in-office folks do, but at the same time, try to recreate the magic of what an office offers.”
Keep an Eye on Work/Life Balance Needs
Because remote work allows employees to work from any place at any time, it’s possible to log more hours than ever. “If people are working all the time, if you never unplug from the technology, there’s a burnout impact,” says Matthew Burr, a human resources consultant in Elmira, NY.
Employers must be cognizant of their workers’ time and make sure there isn’t scope creep into off hours. Set boundaries on meetings, work communication and contact during vacation to ensure that workers feel they have some down time. “There’s got to be a balance, and I think we have yet to see what that looks like, because we’re so new to remote work,” Burr says.
In general, employers are more open to negotiating schedules, Monster finds: 53% will allow workdays from home, 41% would let people choose and change work hours, and 35% may let employees choose their schedule, but it must be consistent.
Understand What Workers Want
Although many employers are game to go hybrid, candidates aren’t 100% enthusiastic. Only 24% of job candidates say they want remote flexibility, according to Monster’s numbers. In fact, more than half (57%) of candidates say they’d prefer either full remote or full on-site work.
“If a company truly has a mixed workforce, make sure you’re making an effort to make those remote workers feel like they’re part of the team,” Patel says. “You don’t need to choose a side if it works for the business. Don’t be afraid of new solutions. But if you do go hybrid, make sure the people who are remote still feel like they’re a part of things.”
When it comes to attracting and keeping talent, it’s going to be crucial that employers clearly communicate their expectations for workers. Will employees have to report to an office a few days a week? A few days a month? Never? What hours will they be working remotely? “People need to truly understand what is going to be expected of them,” Burr says.
Malinda Gain adds that being clear about vaccination requirements is also key. “It’s a question I never had to ask before,” she says. “That’s something new.”
All that said, some amount of uncertainty may be understandable as the U.S. continues to struggle with pandemic swings. “I think when it’s unclear, I don’t think it’s out of malicious intent,” Patel says. “I think it’s out of not knowing what the future looks like.”