Throughout the pandemic, the conversation around remote work has evolved: from how long can this last to let’s get back to the office to remote work is here to stay…and then back again.
Even now, over two years into the remote work revolution, experts, employees, businesses and the general public are still having heated discussions about the merits—and potential drawbacks—of permanently adopting a remote work strategy.
The competing priorities of employers and workers
Employers are eager to go “back to normal”
Several companies have announced plans to bring all their workers back to the office full-time once it’s safe to do so. In fact, in a 2022 report from Microsoft, a full 50% of business leaders said their organization already requires or plans to require their teams to come back to the office full-time over the coming year.
In a 2022 survey of 3,500 U.S. managers, nearly 80% said there would be consequences for employees who refuse to return to the office, including a reduction in pay, loss of benefits, or even termination.
On the flipside, several high-profile companies have announced permanent remote and hybrid work policies. Tech companies, in particular, have embraced the “work from anywhere” model, with Reddit, Twitter, Salesforce, Shopify and others announcing permanent flexible work policies.
Employees have embraced remote work—and don’t want to go back
While opinions on remote work might be split among employers, there is far less debate among workers. In a 2022 survey of over 2,000 remote workers around the globe, 97% said they would like to work remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers. 61% of respondents described their experience with working remotely as “very positive”.
When asked which kind of work structure was ideal for them, a full 86% of respondents said fully or mostly remote was best.
These kinds of data make it clear that there’s a mismatch between what employers expect and what employees want. And in a job market that is heavily weighted towards workers, organizations that stick to stringent in-person requirements are at risk of losing their current team members and struggling to fill open roles:
- In a 2021 survey of 32,000 workers around the globe, 64% said they would consider looking for a new job if their employer required them to come back to the office full-time.
- Remote and hybrid jobs postings receive 7X more applicants than 100% on-site roles.
- In April 2022, remote jobs attracted more applications than in-office jobs for the first time in LinkedIn’s history.
“100% on-site” has been the policy for thousands of companies for decades; two years of remote work necessitated by a global health crisis aren’t going to convince them to change—at least not all at once. At the same time, many companies don’t have the technology or infrastructure for their employees to work remotely. It takes time and budget to make the updates necessary for remote work to be possible for a large workforce.
Are there benefits to hiring remote workers?
Amid the back-and-forth, there are some indisputable benefits to hiring remote talent in the current job market. The global workforce—and the ways we do our jobs—has undergone a once-in-a-generation transformation since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes are unlikely to reverse in the foreseeable future, if ever.
For companies that are struggling with significant talent gaps and hard-to-fill roles, opening the hiring process to remote candidates can be a gamechanger.
And it isn’t just the recruiting and hiring process that benefits from tapping into remote talent. As it turns out, there are plenty of organizational and business benefits, too.
Multiple studies conducted over the pandemic have found that remote workers are actually equally or more productive than in-office workers:
- Global Workplace Analytics found that remote workers were 20-25% more productive than office-based employees
- The Muse reports that workers feel 77% more productive when they work remotely.
- In a 2022 GoodHire survey of 3,500 U.S. managers, 73% said productivity and engagement “improved or stayed stable” among remote workers when compared to in-office performance.
Let’s filter productivity through yet a different lens: actual days worked.
Inc. reports that employees who work remotely work an average of 1.4 more days every month; that’s 16.8 more days every year. They also note that office-bound workers reported being idle for about 37 minutes a day—excluding lunch and standard breaks—while remote workers reported only 27 minutes of nonproductive time each day.
An often unsung benefit of hiring remote talent is improving diversity, inclusion, and equity. We’re going to shout this one from the rooftops: hiring remote talent is the easiest and most effective way to build geographic, socioeconomic, racial, and cultural diversity within your company.
Utilizing remote talent can strengthen your company and your corporate culture. It also empowers workers with disabilities, working parents, parents of special needs children, caretakers, and people with health conditions to compete professionally on the same level.
Finding the right skillsets
When you remove geographic boundaries from your hiring pool, you gain access to a larger array of candidates—and a wider range of in-demand skills.
Consider this: a recent study showed that two of the biggest priorities for tech candidates are compensation and flexibility. Remote jobs in tech jumped by over 400% between 2020 and 2022, as companies everywhere fought to fill critical tech roles without limiting themselves to local candidates.
Accessing top talent for every position
When you commit to hiring remote workers, your global talent recruiter can expand their horizons and go knocking on the doors of the very best talent available, regardless of the candidate’s location. Plus, remote work gives your employees a unique opportunity to network and connect with peers from all over the world.
Lowering business costs
Global Workplace Analytics estimates a typical employer can save an average of $11,000 per half-time telecommuter per year. They noted that the primary savings are the result of increased productivity, lower real estate costs, reduced absenteeism and turnover, and better disaster preparedness.
Reducing employee turnover
Speaking of reducing employee turnover, with an average cost-per-hire of $4,129 (Society for Human Resources Management), improving employee retention was important before the pandemic—and it’s even more important now, as the job market remains tighter than it’s been in decades.
If you want to find and retain top talent, whether for interim project needs or long-term positions, hiring remote talent is a great place to start.
Remote employees and remote interim workers can help your business be more agile in the face of unexpected challenges, as we saw throughout the first two years of the pandemic.
When you’re already set up to accommodate the work needs of distributed team members, you’re better able to weather unexpected storms, whether it’s restructuring, real estate issues, and even global health crises.
In this historic moment, more and more people—from newly minted graduates to seasoned veterans—are looking for exciting professional opportunities that meet their changing needs. Oftentimes, those needs are centered on work-life balance, flexibility, family priorities, and accommodating the health risks associated with business travel and the traditional, in-office work environment.
Need some data to support your hiring decisions? Harvard Business School analyzed 4,700 companies across the last three recessions. They discovered that 9% came out in much better positions than they entered because of their “progressive” focus. Although some of these companies were forced to make some cuts, they were selective about it and, more importantly, they continued to make strategic hiring choices.
Ensuring continuity of operations
It’s easy to forget that business disruptions happen all the time. Over the last decade alone, organizations have contended with a severe talent shortage, a recession, and changing employee demands. As a result, many businesses were already changing the way they hire and retain their teams, long before the pandemic.
As hiring volumes and corporate needs fluctuate, hiring remote workers or relying on remote interim staffing solutions can strengthen your business continuity plan and help your team respond to any challenge that comes your way.
Interested in learning more about recruiting for remote and hybrid positions?
Contact the experts at Vaco to learn how we can help empower your recruiting strategy.