The COVID-19 pandemic forced companies around the world to “go remote” almost overnight in early 2020. While the transition wasn’t easy for many organizations, remote work at scale ultimately allowed them to maintain business continuity amid extended lockdowns and other travel restrictions.
Now, two years later, many organizations are deciding to continue with a full or partially remote workforce for reasons beyond helping to ensure employee health and safety. Based on the pandemic experience, they now see embracing a remote or hybrid work model and hiring remote workers as long-term strategies that can create many positive returns for the business. Those key benefits include:
1. Accessing a wider talent pool
Recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that workers in the United States have been quitting their jobs in record numbers at the same time that employers are struggling to staff millions of open positions. And despite all the transition underway in the marketplace due to the “Great Resignation,” unemployment is low, especially for many specialized professions.
By hiring remote workers, many companies find they’re better positioned to meet their hiring goals, whether they need to make a permanent hire or assemble a team of contract professionals for a critical business initiative. This approach allows them to access in-demand talent outside of their local market — or even their state or country.
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2. Attracting more skilled applicants
This key benefit of hiring remote workers closely relates to #1. Opening the door to recruiting skilled talent without concern for geographic boundaries raises a company’s chances of connecting with job applicants who possess the skills and experience the business needs.
Many job seekers are keen to target employers outside of their local market, too. More than half of professionals polled for a recent Robert Half survey said they’re interested in finding fully remote positions at companies based in a different city or state.
To help ensure they attract talent from far and wide, many organizations are now making the point to highlight in their job listings and job descriptions whether positions can be remote.
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3. Boosting retention
Many organizations now realize that offering remote or hybrid work arrangements is essential not only for attracting top talent, but also holding on to valued employees. Many workers have found that the ability to work remotely allows them to find a better work-life balance, which, in turn, has a positive impact on their overall well-being. Hiring remote workers for contract assignments also helps employers avoid overloading their core teams so they don’t burn out.
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4. Transitioning to the future of work faster
Businesses that pivoted to all-remote work quickly and relatively smoothly at the start of the pandemic were those organizations that had already pursued some type of digital transformation. They had the digital communication and collaboration tools in place to support an “anywhere workforce” and confidently hire more remote workers, as needed, to meet rapidly evolving business needs.
Throughout the pandemic, these firms have been improving and expanding their digital capabilities, including widening their embrace of cloud computing and automation. Meanwhile, less digitally mature businesses have ramped up digital transformation initiatives to enable effective remote work and remain competitive.
In many cases, this acceleration toward the future of work and the full embrace of the remote model has helped many businesses achieve greater productivity, increase innovation, and move faster to market with new products and services — during a time of intense business disruption, no less.
5. Increasing agility and resilience
As noted earlier, without remote work, business continuity during the pandemic wouldn’t have been possible for all kinds of companies across industries. And now, many employers are looking to institute a hybrid work model for the long term because they know it will help them build and maintain the skilled workforce that they’ll need to compete in the post-pandemic economy.
These companies see hiring remote workers as a way to become even more agile in the future, and to increase their business resilience. So, if they face another “black swan” event like a global health crisis, they’ll be even more ready to rise to the challenge and operate as optimally as possible.
Despite the benefits outlined above, many employers are still on the fence about allowing their team members to work remotely all or part of the time. But the need to recruit and retain top talent may force their hand: Not hiring remote workers could put the company at risk of missing out on great hires — and giving competitors open to remote work the opportunity to snap them up.
Also, many professionals won’t want to be part of a company that doesn’t support remote work, at least to some degree. The pandemic has changed many things, and top among them is employees’ desire to have more flexible work arrangements. And for many professionals, flexible equals remote.
Research for Robert Half’s latest Salary Guide found that more than half (56%) of workers want their employers to provide remote work options. We also conducted a separate survey that found four in 10 workers plan to look for a new employment opportunity in the first half of this year. The ability to work remotely permanently was among the top reasons cited for making a move.