More than 45% of American adults are now fully vaccinated. Following the decline in rates of Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations along with newly relaxed guidelines on mask wearing and social distancing from the CDC, the country is on the verge of returning to a pre-pandemic normal. Companies across the country are notifying their employees to plan to return to the office.
Easier Said Than Done
Many employees do not want to return to the office. A recent study by Robert Half which surveyed more than 1,000 workers ages 18 and older, reports that roughly one-third of the workers currently working from home due to the pandemic indicate they would look for a new job if their employers require them to return to the office full-time.
However, nearly half of the respondents indicated a preference for a hybrid arrangement. This choice is further supported through the survey by the finding that 28% of the respondents worried that a fully remote work schedule would damage relationships with their co-workers while 26% noted decreased productivity working from home. While there is no clear consensus on what constitutes the best hybrid model, there is support for plans which include some degree of flexibility with a combination of work from home and a limited number of days in the office.
Employees Chose Work from Home Over a $30,000 Raise
Perhaps even more telling is a survey from the anonymous professional network, Blind, which polled more than 3,000 employees on the Blind platform on whether they would rather permanently work from home or receive a $30,000 a year raise. Approximately 64% of the respondents chose the work from home option over the salary increase. Out of the approximately 45 companies represented in the Blind survey, only employees from JPMorgan Chase and Qualcomm, chose the additional $30,000 over the freedom to work from home.
Kyum Kim, Blind co-founder, indicates that pre-Covid, fewer people had the option of working from home so most were unaware of the advantages of working remotely. After 15 months of working from home, people have discovered the benefits of cutting commute times, cost savings on transportation, increased flexibility with child care, and the ability to use the extra time to more easily address personal needs and interests. These trends are accelerating a change in the workplace that might have otherwise taken years or even decades to occur. The Blind survey demonstrates that even a significant increase in compensation may not be enough to entice many employees to return to the office.
Other Effects in the Post Pandemic Economy—Expect Higher Turnover
Experts across the country are already predicting that employers will find an increasingly competitive job market with higher turnover rates of existing employees. A recent survey by insurance and financial services provider, Prudential Financial, shows that one in four workers plan to look for a job with a different employer once the threat of the pandemic decreases. Analysis of recent statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates the current competition in the marketplace will likely differ from past years. Rather than having too many candidates competing for too few jobs, we should expect that as positions open there may not be enough candidates to fill them.
With an employee-driven job market looming and many employees preferring to work remotely, companies will have to re-think their remote working policies. Whether employees will be able to work from home can vary largely by industry. Financial giants such as Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan have already announced plans to bring their employees back to the office, as have many of the nation’s largest law firms. While many of the tech companies (including Microsoft, Spotify, and Zillow) have been at the forefront of offering permanent work from home or hybrid arrangements, Amazon is among those companies requiring employees to return to the office.
Look at Working Remotely as a Tool to Leverage Recruiting and Staffing Efforts
With many of our clients asking employees to return the office in some form, we offer the following advice:
- Develop a work from home policy that has some flexibility. Companies that require employees to be in the office every day with no flexibility may find that they are not able to compete as effectively for key hard-to-recruit-for positions.
- Feature your organization’s work from home or hybrid policy (especially if it allows partial or full-time remote working assignment) when posting or recruiting for open positions.
- Promote work from home or hybrid work arrangements on the corporate website, recruiting materials, and on your organization’s social media accounts.
- If your organization has a hybrid policy requiring employees to be in the office a certain percentage of time, enhance those days by offering monthly lunches, birthday cakes, etc. (while, of course, observing social distancing protocols). One employer has started hosting an outdoor social on the last Friday of the month and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. While working from home has many benefits, face time with your manager and co-workers can impact an employee’s career path. And, of course, there is the joy of the human connection that a Zoom call just can’t provide.
While no one knows what the future of working from home will be long-term, Covid 19 has changed the way we work and some of these changes are likely to be permanent.