Is Remote Working a Requirement to Recruit & Retain Critical Employees?

In April of 2021, nearly four million Americans quit their job in search of better opportunities. Part of this was a search for better pay in the economic downturn, but part of it was in response to the conversations about returning to work full time in the office. In some cases, workers have left jobs and taken a pay decrease to continue to work from home at other places of employment, citing commutes and flexibility as the reasons they want to stay home. These trends are supported by a recent FlexJobs survey, which stated, “65% of respondents report wanting to be full-time remote employees post-pandemic, and 31% want a hybrid remote work environment—that’s 96% who desire some form of remote work.”

More than a quarter of those surveyed said they would be willing to take a pay cut to continue working remotely. It is easy to understand why this is a trend in the mind of job seekers. The opportunity to work from home allows employees to improve their work-life balance, especially if there is a focus from their employers for their health and wellness. This is especially true for parents during the pandemic.

Though the pandemic was a challenge for working parents, shown to be higher in women than in men, the ability to work from home also allowed flexibility to accommodate care responsibilities and balance it out. The ability for flexible scheduling and compressed workweeks, driven by working from home opportunities, is even more important for parents. During the pandemic, according to CNN, “60% of employers said they’re letting parents adjust their schedules, with 22% saying they’re letting parents temporarily shift to part-time status if needed. Meanwhile, another 37% are letting parents choose when they do those parts of their job that don’t need to be done at a particular time or place, to better accommodate their caregiving responsibilities during the day.”

Before the pandemic, remote work was the minority in the United States, with less than 6% of employees reporting working from home opportunities. This difference is staggering compared to the number seen today, and the prevalence with which it is talked about as a necessity. The pandemic has shown that while working from home was a necessary switch necessary to maintain the health and safety of workers, it has proven to be a viable option for the future.

When we look at productivity, it is not enough to say that it has stayed the same or gone up because there is also the necessary conversation of what a lack of on-premises work costs a company. Workplace distractions cost businesses $600 billion a year, so working from home is a useful mechanism for reducing these expenses. Additionally, as employees are looking to leave to find remote work, this costs companies more money as losing valued employees and replacing them costs a significant amount of money. These are the costs of maintaining on-premises operations as the job market swings towards remote work. When the primary fight against remote work is productivity, studies have shown that: “Among performance-based remote work statistics in 2020, 94% of surveyed employers report that company productivity has been the same (67%) or higher (27%) since employees started working from home during the pandemic.”

Not only are employees more productive, with fewer distractions at home, but they are more satisfied with their jobs. At home, employees can do their work with fewer interruptions and more time to focus, in a quieter, more comfortable work environment free from office politics. Overall, this is leading to better mental health among workers and less burnout. Having access to flexible work allows employees to focus on their mental health, with surveys reporting higher mental health satisfaction than those who do not have flexible working options.

In addition to increased productivity and job satisfaction leading to increased employee retention, employers also have the opportunity to seek smaller office spaces, which will reduce overhead. According to VOX, “Some 72 percent of companies are anticipating modest office space reductions. Instead of drastically downsizing, companies are altering their floor plans to have fewer dedicated desks and more shared space for people to work together when they’re in the office.”

Offering remote work removes the geographic limitation that bars anyone who lives too far from a prospective employer to work with them. Being able to recruit from an increased selection of diverse talent in different parts of the country makes it easier for employers to recruit and retain talented employees. Removing geographic limitations also means that any event that would cause an employee to move would not mean that they have to leave the company, instead, they would just be doing the same work in a different place. Working remotely has many benefits for both the employer and the employee. These benefits are why we see increased interest levels from job seekers and the increase in jobs offering remote work. Just take Zillow, for instance. It is currently difficult to hire because people want remote work, so Zillow offered it. Nearly 56,000 people applied to the available jobs from Zillow. Dan Spaulding, Zillow’s chief people officer, told Recode in response to this, “If we weren’t doing this, I think it would be tremendously difficult to fill our positions right now.  We are doing this, and it is still difficult — but I think we found an edge.