By Ash Athawale, Senior Managing Director, Robert Half
Not so long ago, I would travel every week to meet with clients or attend meetings all over the country. That involved flights, hotels, taxis, ride-sharing, car rentals, and, sometimes, cancellations or delays, which always made for an eventful week.
I haven’t seen the inside of an aircraft in two years, and I’m not sure I would want to anytime soon. I’m also not sure I’d need to return to the intense travel schedule I had before anyway. I’ve managed to be more focused on and available to clients while working remotely throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
That got me thinking about an employer I work with regularly that was not open to having staff working off-site before the public health crisis hit. This company was very much an office-only operation. Right before the pandemic, they’d revamped their office and filled it with all the good stuff for employees — from foosball tables to stocked refrigerators. And all the tools and tech were in place to keep the business humming. The company was even looking to acquire more office space.
But all that changed with the pandemic, and this employer — like so many others — had to quickly embrace remote work. And guess what? Much to the employer’s surprise, that shift led to better productivity, collaboration and teamwork throughout its workforce. The company has also been able to address talent gaps by hiring remote workers located outside of its geographic area.
The company has scrapped its plans to add more office space, and it’s extended long-term remote work arrangements to all employees. In a recent employee engagement survey, this employer saw scores that were the most positive in years. And with the money the company is saving on office rent, it can offer its workers an allowance to upgrade their home-office furniture. The company even offered prizes for the “best dressed” remote workspace.
Many professionals now specifically seek flexible work options
Not all companies will take the same “all remote” path as the employer I discussed above. In some cases, businesses may not want or be able to move all of their functions off-site. That said, there are many roles that could easily transition to a hybrid or remote arrangement.
Technical support, customer support and administrative support are some functions integral to the business that also can be performed remotely. (Think about it: When was the last time a tech support consultant came up to your desk to fix an issue?)
The benefits of hiring remote workers are many, including access to a wider talent pool. We’re seeing many companies evaluating job functions they can supplement by hiring remote talent and tapping into talent pools in certain markets or time zones. Also, onboarding remote employees is quick and easy when you have the right technology and processes in place, as this post explains.
Remote and hybrid work arrangements also help to increase job satisfaction for employees. We see many professionals taking advantage of “windowed working,” or breaking up their day into distinct chunks of business and personal time. They might start their day early, do some errands in the morning, work for a few hours in their home office, go for a walk in the afternoon, and then work for a few more hours.
This type of flexibility in the workday was unimaginable for many workers before the pandemic, but it’s definitely becoming more prevalent. A Robert Half survey conducted late last year found that 41% of companies were allowing their staff to set their own hours.
Don’t wind up working alone at your company’s office
Companies that offer hybrid or remote work options are appealing to many of today’s job seekers. Research for Robert Half’s latest Salary Guide found that more than half (56%) of workers want their employers to provide remote work opportunities. And in another recent survey by our company, professionals who said they’re planning to search for a new job over the next six months cited the ability to work remotely permanently among their top reasons for making a move.
So, if you’re still on the fence about supporting remote or hybrid work arrangements for your staff for the long term, consider this: If you insist on being an “in the office, all the time” operation when you could offer your employees more flexibility, you might end up working in your office alone.
Ash Athawale is a senior managing director at Robert Half in the executive search practice.