Much has been written about the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on today’s workplace. Not long ago, being trusted to work at home was viewed as a fringe benefit by many companies. Now, remote work has become the new normal.
This new reality is reshaping how organizations think about optimizing their workforces. Now that work can be untethered from location, new opportunities exist for employers to tap skills that may have previously been outside their periphery. Digital connections, increased social networking and virtual communities enable worker interaction anywhere, anytime. These agile operating models are redefining the workplace and the worker.
Take a look at the data
Today’s organizations are being forced to make rapid decisions in order to retain the unique workforce skills that will allow their businesses to compete successfully in global labor markets. Luckily, human resource departments can easily apply remote readiness to their hiring strategies through data-driven tools such as Total Workforce Index™ (TWI). TWI, for example, provides unique insights aligned with an organization’s most pressing workforce needs, including sourcing strategies, compensation levels and productivity measurements.
The news has been full of company announcements extending their remote work policies, and many have made the switch to a permanent remote workforce after looking at productivity metrics. Just 13% of business leaders have voiced concerns over remote workers sustaining productivity.1 Employers also are able to look at a much more diverse range of potential employees, since location isn’t as big of a factor in remote hiring decisions. By leveraging comprehensive data, organizations can execute a precise talent strategy aligned to their remote work needs, while also future proofing them against a changing world of work.
Not everyone’s paradise
Many employees have already declared that post-pandemic, if companies won’t allow them to work remotely or offer some autonomy to choose, they won’t work for them. In fact, 43% of workers believe that 2020 marked the end of the office 9-5 and 77% won’t miss it. And while only 5% don’t want to return to the office at all, most want the ability to collaborate and connect in person at least two days a week.2 Across the 198 global offices of Fidelity National Information Services, a financial technology company, about 95% of employees are working from home. Chief Risk Officer Greg Montana says that may not last forever but he doesn’t see a return to pre-COVID-19 packed buildings.3
The remote work scenario hasn’t been a paradise for all employees though, especially female workers. Traditionally, women often lose career traction during caregiving years, with females carrying a lot of the responsibility for the household and raising children. The hope of many mothers in these pandemic times has been that a work-from-home scenario would give them better balance while they work remotely and take care of their families. The reality is that moms are burned out performing their jobs at home while also shouldering many of the domestic responsibilities.4
Organizations should evaluate each role and any performance changes from 2019-2020 that may be correlated to remote work transition to determine which roles are best suited for remote engagement. According to an analysis of 3,700 roles, most positions require onsite presence (trades, retail, production, etc.). However, among professional roles, 69% can be remote with no negative impact to performance or productivity.5 This criteria-driven approach enables companies to be proactive in their remote workforce planning and can support additional cost savings or diversity targets as part of remote sourcing initiatives.
Gain a competitive advantage through optimization
Optimizing the workforce mix, whether it’s hybrid, remote, permanent versus contingent, on-site versus off-site or even human-to-robot ratios, will help organizations achieve a competitive advantage. “To create workforce agility, organizations must accelerate their realignment of workforce strategy and strategic talent management,” says Raleen Gagnon, ManpowerGroup Vice President of Global Marketing Intelligence. “Organizations need to re-evaluate their workforces to determine the best blend of “heads down” remote employees and “heads up” employees in order to encourage collaboration and creativity.”
According to Enterprise Technology Research (ETR), the percentage of workers permanently working from home is expected to double in 2021,6 as the productivity of remote work has shown to be successful. And while the work is successful, employees will need to put forth extra effort to boost their virtual engagement and take advantage of access to new opportunities. Remote employees also want security, sustainability of skills, work life blend and wellness, so businesses will need to step up to ensure they can keep remote employees stimulated. Ask employees what’s working for them and what’s not to better support them long term.
For example, some of the leading remote companies in the world found they needed to adjust their time-off policies and adopt asynchronous communication. Software company Doist provides 40 vacation days for every team member. With their staff spread across the world, they observe different holidays so the typical “X Weeks” + “X National Holidays” time-off policy wouldn’t work. Automattic, the company behind WordPress, opted for asynchronous methods to communicate with remote workers—this is where you send a message without expecting an immediate response. This allows collaboration across multiple time zones while preserving employees’ focus as they aren’t distracted by constant emails and video calls.7
2021 brings with it three key workforce trends: Greater workforce flexibility, a broader definition of talent sustainability and worker wellbeing, and that every company must be a digital company. The future of work will require many changes, including investing in digital infrastructure and releasing office space that’s not needed anymore. Time will tell whether the new home office will become the permanent standard or whether real estate leases will begin to grow again. Organizations that leverage data-driven insights from tools like TWI and look to tap skills outside of physical location, such as talent in the cloud, are navigating this uncertainty, mitigating risk and seizing the opportunity to grow.
To hear a discussion on the future of the workplace as we know it, listen to our Transform Talent Podcast.
2 What Workers Want research https://go.manpowergroup.com/futureforworkers
5 ManpowerGroup Talent Solutions Proprietary Insights