THE REMOTE WORK REVOLUTION
Who could have imagined that in our lifetime, the workplace, such as we have come to know it, would be turned upside down? In an abrupt, radical and swift turn of events, the balance of power shifted into the hands of the employee and away from the employer.
It felt like the plot of a sci-fi movie. “A pandemic sweeps in out of nowhere, upends life, and suddenly, the crew gains control of the ship” – just like out of a movie like Swept Away or Mutiny on the Bounty.
The executive order “stay home – stay safe” set into motion a transition to remote and hybrid work that has reshaped the American workplace.
Despite a large sector of the workplace maintaining their loyalty and staying at their jobs, a significant trend to remote work was ignited by the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. The exception were essential workers who didn’t have the option to work remotely. The rest of the workforce, rallied with nationwide protests and helped to set a new tone.
During the uncertain trajectory of the pandemic and the mixed messages of the CDC, the American workforce was thrown into a frenzy and remote work emerged as a viable alternative. During this unprecedented disruption, many workers reexamined their priorities and decided it better suited their lifestyle, Demanding change, they forced companies to consider a hybrid model.
THE BUSINESS REMODEL
As the pandemic took hold, some businesses closed temporarily, and others adjusted their business models to stay afloat. People who were designated as “remote capable” were allowed to work from home temporarily until the dust settled -- except the dust didn’t settle.
In what was thought to be a short-term problem, companies allowed employees to work remotely, but as the pandemic dragged on, businesses had to lay off employees and corporate downsizing became a predictable outcome.
Management attempted to regroup, and employees were trapped in the midst of mayhem without clear directives. Remote meetings increased, and Zoom became to virtual meetings what Kleenex became to tissues.
In what has come to be known as the Great Attrition, workers left jobs voluntarily out of fear of being in close contact with others or out of necessity to care for children or aging parents.
Despite this mass exodus, The US Bureau of Statistics reported that approximately 60% of traditionally employed full-time workers did not quit their jobs. This segment chose the traditional lifestyle, were more likely to stay with their employer, were more risk averse and less likely to quit without another job.
These career-oriented individuals care about the work–life balance and are willing to make trade-offs for the sake of their jobs. Motivated to work for large companies in return for a traditional competitive compensation packages and perks, they care about job titles, status, and career advancement. They still represented the majority of workers in 2022, but this type of work ethic is looking more and more like a thing of the past.
In addition, businesses have had to rethink what to do with thousands of square feet of unoccupied space to maintain their existing business, and the conversation was ignited about how to preserve the corporate culture and maintain a sense of community.
At the outset, city streets looked like ghost towns, and traffic in retail stores halted. Hospitals were filled to capacity and essential workers were required to come to work if they were able. Recently retired health care workers were tapped to return to fill in the gaps. Estimated job losses varied from tens of millions to over 100 million jobs --- the highest number since The Great Depression.
Hospitality, travel, retail, education, healthcare, manufacturing and entertainment took the hardest hit and became quickly understaffed. They scrambled to fill positions or restructured works hours to manage the strain on workers and to maintain safety. The pharmaceutical industry suffered because of outsized demand on pharmacists.
While statistical agencies are still grappling with how to measure this astonishing transformation, a host of academics, experts and researchers like Gallup and McKinsey have rushed in to fill the data gap.
Movie theatres, salons, gyms and restaurants, and other businesses stuck with empty offices scrambled to create new models to stay open. Zoning regulations were relaxed for restaurants to build safe outdoor spaces, converting streets previously used as roads and foot traffic had to be rerouted accordingly.
A move to food takeout kept restaurants in business and workers employed. Some restaurants totally eliminated the brick-and-mortar model viewing it as no longer feasible.
The National Restaurant Association estimated that over 90,000 bars and restaurants closed temporarily or permanently due to the pandemic. Early estimates predicted that 75%-85% would not survive but that number was later revised to 40-50%. Public health restrictions, government mandatory shutdowns, consumer anxiety, staff shortages, and increasing costs, all contributed to the shutdowns.
THE WORK FROM HOME EXPERIMENT
People started to reevaluate what they wanted out of a job—and their life—and this had a profound impact on the pool of active and potential workers.
According to one of the largest surveys of the global workforce by McKinsey and The US Bureau of Labor Statistics, it was estimated that 1 in 5 workers planned to quit their jobs in 2022. This mass exodus, known as “The Big Quit” was the catalyst for a 40 year high in the inflation rate and wreaked havoc on the stock market.
There were not enough traditional employees to fill all the available jobs and evidence of a systemic gap in the labor force surfaced.
Although not a new approach, employers increased the level of employee poaching from competitors, and companies reshuffled in-house talent wreaking all kinds of internal chaos. This contributed to job instability and rising wages and still didn’t solve the underlying infrastructure problem.
In Spring 2022, people started quitting jobs at record levels in what has come to be known as “The Great Resignation” and this trend shows no signs of abating. Record numbers of worker switched jobs and even industries, shunning traditional paths, taking early retirement or starting their own businesses. Then there are the “quiet quitters’ who are not putting a hundred percent effort into their job as they debate the stability of their positions and their future options.
According to McKinsey “The Great Attrition” has become “The Great Renegotiation”. Employers are scrambling to fill open positions, and it is unclear when job openings will return to “normal” levels or even what the “new normal” will look like.
Thanks to the technological advances of the last three decades; email, video conferencing technology, smart phones, the instantaneous sharing of data via cloud computing, and high-speed internet, working at home has the potential be highly productive – despite rampant skepticism by many employers. Three decades ago, this revolution might not have been possible despite the considerable advances in technology over the last half century.
Of course, we’re not talking about truck drivers, hospital workers, restaurant employees, factory workers, and essential workers who must be at their place of work to get their jobs done. We’re talking about highly skilled workers and college graduates.
With the growing gap of open positions, employers are reevaluating their recruitment models. “If they insist on sticking to traditional methods of attracting talent, they will likely fail” said Eric Koslow, co-founder of Lattice, a pioneer in people management technology, who went on to say “millennials are not interested in traditional values, they don’t want the cushy job with the steady income, 401K, predictable job advancement promises, standard vacation time and 40 hour, 9-5 workday, in the office “.
The Lattice employee empowerment model like others in its field, works well in the remote setting as it helps to facilitate communication between peers and management and their employees. It encourages feedback and assists companies in establishing priorities and setting goals. Their customer relationship management platform, or CRM, is user-friendly and has enjoyed tremendous growth as a result of the Pandemic.
Prior to the pandemic, the Lattice customer base was essentially composed of technology companies. As their development teams focused on progressive ideas, they attracted more mainstream, conservative, liberal and progressive clients, like medical practices, construction firms and other agencies.
When I asked Koslow which companies have thrived as a result of the pandemic, he said “companies like remote.com and deal.com have grown exponentially and are now billion dollar businesses. Providing tools to help to hire remote workers and giving counsel on dealing with international payrolls, they were able to capitalize on the remote work explosion. Zoom didn’t have to change their platform features and, as such, enjoyed exponential growth as well”
During the Pandemic, Lattice saw 10% of its employees voluntarily work in the office in San Francisco versus 40% of New York employees and 80% of the employees in their London office. “In general, the feeling was – the flu is deadly too and we didn’t stop the world and we’ll get it and not die from it.” As the numbers bear out, there was a marked difference regionally reflecting different attitudes.
Koslow, a millennial himself said, “The back-to-the-office migration varies by generation. For younger people, the office setting is a great social outlet. Zoom is not a place to make friends, just a place to maintain relationships”. Older people want to get away from their families and get back to the office. The younger generation responds to more perks.”
“The pandemic accelerated a trend that was already happening, with the shift to employees having a lot more power. Millennials don’t want to join a law firm, grind it out for 20 years and maybe become a partner and all that, that’s over. They want a career path that can bring their full self to work and can be an extension of themselves, not turn everything off. Employers have to lean in and step up their offerings to employees”.“Employees want transparency and flexibility including knowing what their coworkers are making and what they can expect five years down the road as a director. They demand to know what the future of their roles would be and what a promotion would mean. They want to see the whole track to the director level and want to know much more than what their compensation package will be. They also want more meaningful jobs. There’s a war for talent and loyalty matters less. Promotions are no longer favoring people just because they argued more, or go above and beyond. Lattice is living what they preach”.
In the 18-44 demographic, which includes parents, more women and other caregivers, support for health and wellbeing is a priority.
People in the 25-45 year demographic are valuing workplace flexibility, meaningful work, and compensation as the top motivators for not returning to the traditional workforce. As part and full time, non traditional and gig workers, this group wants flexibility above all else.
People in this profile are ready to lend their time and talents to companies that are willing to work with their schedules. For them, workplaces that are inflexible and don’t provide a pathway to advancement aren’t worth the sacrifice of going back to work while continuing their care giving duties. These employees are asking for dedicated support that will allow them to fulfill the responsibilities outside their jobs while being recognized for their contributions at work. They could be coaxed back with part-time options, four-day workweeks, flexible hours, or expanded benefits packages.
In the United States, over 2.8 million more people submitted start-up applications in 2020 and 2021 than in 2019 a result of work-related stress and a desire for autonomy and purpose.
The traditional 9-5, five-day work week has started looking far less attractive to many. Flexibility is quickly becoming the order of the day and location-based pay is being reevaluated.
According to McKinsey, which echoes Koslow’s thinking, many organizations recognize this growing pool of potential workers and are widening the use of parental leave and offering parents more flexibility around school holidays.
Companies like Google, Cisco Systems, and Patagonia among others, offer employees benefits such as on-site childcare, physical therapy, and subsidized housecleaning services.
Mckinsey talks about a group it calls “The Idealists” which include students and younger part-timers tend to be younger, 18-24, and are often times students or part-time workers unencumbered by dependents, mortgages, and other responsibilities. They are interested in flexibility, career development, advancement potential, meaningful work, and a community of reliable and supportive people. Unlike traditionalists, compensation is not on top of the list. A welcoming community and diversity top the list.
To woo the idealists, McKenzie says that companies have to demonstrate a willingness to invest in this group’s development and create a strong culture that emphasizes meaning and purpose. Subsidized tuition, along with flexible schedules to accommodate ongoing education are also on their radar.
To address attrition, attract talent and court other segments, companies may have to rethink their strategies and modify job requirements. This might include not requiring a college degree, or reaching out to workers with a criminal record, known as “fair-chance” hiring.
Companies need to sharpen their traditional employee value proposition and build their nontraditional value proposition, which revolves around flexibility, mental and behavioral health benefits, a strong company culture, and different forms of career progression.
Some non-traditionalist workers may not be actively looking for a job but might come back for the right offer. And to hold on to employees, companies need to invest in building a greater sense of community, culture, purpose and values.
Tech came along and gave employees perks and bonuses and normalized the idea to move between jobs every few years. The loyalty of the past with employees staying the course for their whole career with all the perks is gone. The average worker stays at a company for 2.8 years.
Gallup survey statistics report that more than one third of US workers who can do their work from home want to remain permanently remote.
In an interview with David Pogue, journalist and commentator on CBS Sunday Morning about the state of remote work. Pogue said that “youth has no tolerance for meaningless jobs” Pogue also commented that “prominent fast-food chains like McDonalds say upfront that they know the work is not meaningful but that they offer a starting point.”
We’ve come a long way from the “dress down Fridays” of the 70’s which was a move towards relaxing the white-collar rules to allow relief from the constraints of the suit and the tie.
Operating assumptions and strategies that companies have employed are no longer working. Companies are being forced to reevaluate their thinking to better understand what is driving people to stay, leave or return to work and what is motivating employees both positively and negatively. Even the titles have changed, which started pre-pandemic. HR positions were rebranded and renamed to include Chief People Officer, and Vice President of Talent Acquisition showing a shift in the outlook on the workforce and its complexity.
Like restaurants and arenas who now call their patrons, “guests”, the vocabulary is changing. But the employer outlook requires more than a name change.
“The Great Resignation” has been fueled by workers demanding higher pay, better benefits and more fulfilling work.
Computer and information technology companies remain the best to work for in 2022 and this trend is expected to continue.
The factors influencing the Great Migration
Relocation to Remote Work and Digital Nomad Migration
Reconsideration of the work-life balance
Reshuffling of Talent
Reluctance To Return to the Office Full-time
There are currently 72 million Millennials who appear to have the upper hand. They will most likely leave jobs due to low pay, burnout, lack of appreciation, slow career progress, and a negative company culture. Right behind the Millennials is Generation Z, who number over 68 million and share similar sensibilities.
THE GREAT RESHUFFLE – MOBILITY BETWEEN INDUSTRIES
Where have all the workers gone? “Don’t people need to work? The question being asked is “why can’t we find people to fill these positions?”
People are switching industries…because they can. Some industries are disproportionately losing talent, others are struggling to attract talent and some are grappling with both. Data suggests that close to 50% of employees are quitting and going to employers in different industries. Companies can no longer assume that they can fill empty positions with workers that are similar to the ones who just left.
According to McKinsey, internationally, just 35 percent of those who quit in the past two years took a new job in the same industry. In insurance and finance, 65 percent of employees changed industries or did not return to the workforce at all. In the public and social sector, the exodus was even higher, at a record 72 percent.
At first, the thought was that people were sick, or afraid to come to work for fear of contracting COVID-19. And it showed at the service level. As another year passed, the question still loomed, “when are they coming back”?
Companies started offering training and retraining programs and companies were willing to pay more for less. But these “bandaids” haven’t healed the underlying wounds. They don’t replace the better outcome provided by a more astute initial assessment by companies and a better long- term solution to address the seriousness of the situation.
The stigma attached to job-hopping or gaps in a résumé, is no longer present and working remotely to join companies in other geographic regions without relocating is now a option in a large percentage of companies. This also contributes to transitioning to new jobs easier and has fueled the growth of the digital nomad community worldwide which is discussed in depth in another chapter.
For workers with highly sought-after skills such as data scientists and programmers, changing industries is simpler than for others.
PERSUASION VS COERSION
As another summer came to an end, September invited not only children back to school but companies beckoned workers to “come back to work”, some demanding a broad scale return to the office. Early on, the first vaccine rollout offered employers the hope for that return, but as months and years passed, the return-to-work mandate was once again derailed, and as the balance of power shifted to the rebellious employees, it forced the rules to be rewritten.
It’s always better to persuade than to coerce. But some companies continued with a heavy-handed approach. As the debate continues and employers grapple with the demands of their employees, they are trying to figure out how to find a hybrid schedule which best meets the goals and objectives of the company while addressing the concerns and demands of their workforce. Mandates that dangled carrots with veiled threats of dismissals did not successfully persuade workers to come back on a full-time basis.
Now, productivity is being closely monitored with employers trying to formulate reasonable compensation packages that reward employees for their efforts. New employee performance monitoring methods have been introduced but are experiencing some resistance. This is proving to be a slippery slope when looking at the accuracy of fully evaluating an employee’s efforts and relevant success. Workers who want to stay remote or work in a hybrid situation have to make a case for it by providing evidence of increased productivity and well-being. Employers are pushing and the employees are pushing back.
Some people have an easier time exercising discipline and managing their personal schedules. Nicholas Bloom, Professor of Economics at the Business School at Stanford and expert on remote work has said that the three greatest problems of working from home are the refrigerator, the bed and the television.
BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING
This term came from George Orwell’s dystopian book Nineteen Eighty-Four and came to be thought of as an organization that exercises control over people’s behavior and limits their freedom.
Employees punch the lock and watch the clock, but now it is watching them.
Some companies don’t even know which employees are working where and some employees have been dismissed when they were found to be working in jurisdictions where the company is not legally allowed to collect tax.
After getting a taste of the freedoms that remote work offers, employees are reevaluating their needs to try to be more fully present with their partner, children and even their pets.
It is impossible to have a one-size-fits-all performance monitoring and evaluation policy. Hourly workers have always punched clocks and companies have always had policies for sick days, vacation days, and maternity leave, but now there’s a whole new playing field for evaluating performance.
Employees who have been working remotely are trying to establish routines that respect the permissiveness of this new flexibility but also comply with performance requirements. Unless productively is attached to specific objectives and outcomes like for sales people, different metrics have to be employed to measure performance.
Organizations need to tailor their performance evaluations to their specific business models for non-sales employees. Some programs are tracking the number of phone calls made and emails written and making deductions for “idle time”.
Performance software platforms track idle time, by monitoring key strokes on computers, some assign points to tasks, but none seem to be able to seamlessly address the offline activity that is not captured, such as thinking time, and other activities that might appear non-productive. This leaves employees to defend their work hours and contest related deductions. To maximize “acceptable” work hours, employees look for ways to get exemptions for what the software reports as “idle time” or for last minute situations that arise that take them away from their computers that track activity.
Amazon has been notorious for second-by-second measurements where productivity is measured against coworkers and penalties assigned accordingly.
Some look for ways to game the system. Tik Tok offers videos with tips on how to outsmart the system. And there’s even a tickler device that creates the appearance of online activity. There will always be those who try to take advantage of the privilege of working remotely and others who work above and beyond.
THE EMPLOYER CHALLENGES
Commercial office space has already decreased by 20% and is expected to continue to fall. Cities that depend on property taxes from commercial properties will be negatively affected by a reduced commercial space tax base. some will convert office space to warehouse or residential space and try to repurpose existing space.
The conversation about converting office space to warehouse space or residential space and repurposing existing space is happening. In 2021. The Real Estate Board of NY, a lobbying group, called on New York City to let older, less desirable towers to be converted to residential space. This would decrease the supply of office space and increase the residential space in certain districts. This could also have a social equity value to business districts by bringing people there to live. But there are manytechnical and logistical challenges in trying to convert commercial space to residential space.
Many companies are taking a hard look at their real estate portfolio and reassessing their space and its best usage. If companies shift to a hybrid model, they must consider how much space they will need going forward, where it should be located and how should it be designed to accommodate the mobility of hybrid workers. Maximizing the time people spend in person after a considerable period of isolation is critical to maintaining a sense of community and culture.
With the forced layoffs, an unexpected positive consequence of the pandemic is that companies could hire talent who were previously geographically unfeasible. As requirements shifted to remote, workers who previously would have had a three or more hour commute could work at home and only come into the office once a week or once a month. So human resources could cast a larger net and even rehire ex-employees who left because they moved away.
Simply giving perks to get people to come back to work isn’t the answer and trying to mandate it in an if-or scenario is not proving to be a successful strategy.
Despite the resistance of some companies citing productivity concerns and tactical problems that limit a manager’s ability to observe and manage employees, one thing is for sure, there is mounting evidence that supports the premise that remote workers who were productive in the office will be just as productive working remotely.
REIMAGINING OFFICE SPACE– THE HUB AND SPOKE MODEL
If companies adopt a 2-3 day hybrid work schedule, then they will likely downsize their office space to reduce overhead and set up small satellite offices for employees. The days of the “downtown headquarters” may be gone as companies move towards a hub-and-spoke model with one central office hub and smaller spokes.
This model offers a centralized hub for people to come together, and provides flexibility for people to work in person from designated “spokes”. The “spoke” doesn’t necessarily have to be a conventional office, but may just be a place where a person can be productive. It could be a home or even a library. There can be 1 spoke or 25. The physical location of the remote employees can help determine the location of these spokes.
This new model is designed to optimize productivity and reduce the time spent commuting. It gives employers access to a wider talent pool, as they can to tap into heretofore geographically unattractive talent pools.
Technology has provided this option. There are companies, such as Cove, a real estate technology company that provide platforms that merge the online and offline worlds to create a singular experience across the hub and spokes. For instance, if someone from a hub is visiting a spoke, they can book a conference room in the spoke. Everything is accessible via a unified system, making it easier to manage. Adam Segal, CEO of COVE, has written about this model.
Where did the hub-and-spoke model originate? By definition, the hub is “the effective center of an activity, region or network”. Companies that have flexible work policies already have a form of this model. This is a solution that works for both the employer and the employee. A hub should be a central source of structure on how employers and employees engage, interact and produce to bring departments and teams together on a monthly and quarterly basis.
THE FUTURE OF OFFICE DESIGN – BEHAVIOR-BASED DESIGN FIRMS
The future of office design will need to take into account the mobility of its employees. First there was the closed-door office setting of the 50’s and 60’s, which set out to maximize privacy and opened the door only to invite engagement. Then came the open space design model of the 70’s and 80’s, where companies refashioned their space with cubicles and a lot of open area to optimize flow and collaboration. And then came the all -inclusive model with on-site cafeterias, day care, dry cleaners ala the tech companies in Silicon Valley.
After working at home and having more control over their environments, workers are finding these spaces noisy, intrusive, less collaborative and less productive. To mitigate this, people have laptops so they can pick up and move around. All they need to work remotely is a laptop, Wifi and a smart phone.
The new office design would have separate areas for meeting rooms, collaboration zones, places for private video viewing and phone calls and quiet rooms for individual privacy. With a hybrid work model, there would not necessarily be a dedicated desk for each employee. To manage the individual employee needs when they are in the office, technology would oversee the demand and supply on a given day of available locations to allocate space on an as-needed basis.
Workers who have gotten used to working at home are finding that they need more space. That could mean an investment to repurpose or add more space to their existing home. If company offices are downsizing and lowering their overhead, then additional wages might go to employees to offset the “rent in their home” for this 2-3 day hybrid model.
THE HYBRID WORK MODEL
According to economists José María Barrero (Autonomous Technological Institute of Mexico), Nicholas Bloom (Stanford University) and Steven Davis (University of Chicago), around a third of work was done remotely in the US in 2021 and 2022.
Hybrid work has upset the way we operate as individuals and companies and has transformed a temporary situation into a potentially permanent shift. The entire employment system from recruiting, onboarding and career development has been impacted and presents new challenges to maintain a strong corporate culture and sense of community.
Thanks to technology, we can collaborate digitally. Through video calls with platforms like Zoom, and Google Meet, we can interact with people around the world seamlessly, but it doesn’t replace the in-person connection at the office. As people adapt to the “new normal”, workers are clearly showing a preference for flexibility.
Gallup surveys report a shift around worker preferences and expectations, with over 50% of remote-capable employees wanting a hybrid arrangement and almost 25% wanting to work exclusively remotely.
This new preference is driving the continuation of the exodus from the traditional workforce and contributing to lower engagement and a sense of well-being from those being forced to work fully onsite.
Employers need to pay close attention to these red flags or risk pushing more employees to join the “Great Resignation”. Even as more and more employees express a desire to go remote or hybrid, business leaders are pushing for a return to the office. Some industry leaders may be out of touch with their employees. Managers find themselves caught in the middle and are trying to help mediate these challenges.
Companies like Lattice offer Advisory Services to help managers identify opportunities to mitigate the gap in thinking between the two sides of this debate. As hybrid work appears to be the future for most offices, there is an inherent risk to companies that choose to ignore the writing on the wall.
THE NEW NORMAL – NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION
Some employees see a return to the office as a return what we have come to know as normalcy. Others resist giving up their newfound comfort of working at home, enjoying the benefits of geographic flexibility, moving to more affordable locations, being nearer to support systems and reduced living costs.
Economists and Gallup, who has studied the experience of over 140,000 employees since the onset of the pandemic concur that the new normal will be a hybrid 2-3 day flexible policy of working remotely and at home.
To help shape and define the future within the hybrid model, companies are focusing on how to maximize team performance. Many companies had never even considered a hybrid or remote model, but have adapted, dumping overwhelming workflows that required staff to share office files, and adopting a more streamlined cloud provider.
Management is learning to work with employee schedules and child-care needs and focusing on different opportunities that have arisen from the fallout. With the new found flexibility, some seized on opportunities to take on projects in different zip codes that they couldn’t have previously imagined. And remote workers, some who worked previously for the company found that they could work from anywhere. Companies are also finding that employees could be more productive at home without the encumbrance of commuting and the stress of family obligations caused by the pandemic.
TOP REMOTE WORK LOCATIONS
The locations that top the list of great remote working locations include; Manhattan, Washington D.C. , San Francisco, Northern Virginia (Arlington, Falls Church, Alexandria, Loudoun and Fairfax counties), Los Alamos County, New Mexico and Forsyth County, Ga.
Gallup estimates that before the pandemic about 8% of workers worked exclusively from home with one-third working in a hybrid arrangement. In February 2020, 70% were working from home. By February of 2022, 42% had a hybrid schedule and 39% worked exclusively from home. In 2022, approximately, 60 million workers report that their current jobs can be done remotely part of the time.
In this social experiment, employees have developed an affinity for remote work and indicators signal that remote work is here to stay for remote-capable employees. The jury is still out with respect to the long-term effect of mass scale remote work.
SHIFTING GEARS - MOBILITY BETWEEN INDUSTRIES
Companies can no longer assume that they can fill empty positions with workers similar to the ones who just left. According to McKinsey, internationally, just 35 percent of those who quit in the past two years took a new job in the same industry. In insurance and finance, a whopping 65 percent of employees changed industries or did not return to the workforce at all. In the public and social sector, the exodus was even higher, at a record 72 percent. Travel, healthcare, and retail have all been heavily impacted and scrambling to fill positions or restructuring work hours and service hours to manage the normal business disruption.
For workers with highly sought-after skills such as data scientists and programmers, changing industries is simpler than for others. The stigma attached to job-hopping or gaps in a résumé, is no longer present and working remotely to join companies in other geographic regions without relocating is now a option in a large percentage of companies. This also contributes to an easier transition to new jobs and has fueled the growth of the digital nomad community worldwide.
More and more people in the 25-45 year old demographic are valuing workplace flexibility, meaningful work, and compensation as the top motivators for not returning to the traditional workforce. As part and full time, non-traditional and gig workers, this group wants flexibility above all else. In the United States, over 2.8 million more people submitted start-up applications in 2020 and 2021 than in 2019 a result of work-related stress and a desire for autonomy and purpose.
How can companies best manage hybrid workers to ensure that they are productive and that their work is engaging?
This is the question being contemplated by economists, researchers, and employers around the world. The answer…. no one really knows. Despite all the research, there are no definitive answers, just a lot of speculation being bandied about.
Although COVID-19 will eventually fade into the background, it doesn’t appear that working at home will go away. That doesn’t mean that the traditional office will disappear off the map, but it seems more and more likely that hybrid work will be a permanent addition to the menu and there will be tradeoffs.
Workers want more freedom. They do not like to commute, and they want a greater work-life balance. Eliminating the stress and time to get ready and travel back and forth allows people the opportunity to be more productive and work more efficiently. The average commute is about 54 minutes. Studies suggest that only about 35% of saved commuting time is put back into the primary job.
The demands of a work/life balance, which include parenting, caring for elders or sometimes both, forced many to leave the workforce with a resultant shrinking of the overall labor pool.
Although this trend started before the onset of the pandemic, companies are now focused on hiring people for their skills rather than just their industry experience. And changing the job parameters by offering employment to people with vocational degrees rather than just tradition college degrees.
Hybrid work of 2-3 days allow employees to maximize their time while keeping them connected to coworkers, enjoy the face-to-face communication, camaraderie, and knowledge sharing. Most employers agree that flexibility optimizes the opportunity to engage employees and reduce burnout and makes them feel more productive.
Companies not offering flexible work arrangements are put at risk for successfully recruiting, retaining and engaging employees. Within companies mandating full time in the office, employees are demonstrating substantially lower engagement, wellbeing, greater burnout and a desire to leave. Of workers currently working exclusively from home, more than 50 % questioned by Gallup said they would look for a new job if their companies did not offer a hybrid option and 38% of workers working in a hybrid situation answered the same.
It is not a simple task to manage hybrid work schedules to ensure that teams are all present together at least once a week and give consideration to those who want to create their own hybrid schedules to accommodate their individual parenting needs.
Most recruiters and job boards have listings for remote and hybrid work and some specialize by industry. Some of the top sites include: