Many organizations are planning return-to-office policies for their employees and contingents. However, requiring workers be on site comes with risks and even mandating a hybrid work environment could affect your ability to attract talent, so leaders should tread carefully.

On the one hand, many organizations have found the pivot to remote work suits the workers and businesses well. Workers cite a better life/work balance, savings in commute and childcare costs, and a more productive environment to focus on their tasks at hand. Meanwhile, businesses report savings in real estate costs as well as the ability to seek talent from a wider pool outside of their office locations — often at lower wages.

But on the other hand, some companies — tech and finance firms, in particular — want their workers back in the office. They point to production declines, loss of company culture, lack of oversight and the value of in-person teamwork. In terms of talent, not everyone has a distraction-free environment or the proper tech and office equipment to work remotely, and isolation can contribute to the rising mental health issues seen nationwide.

September Showdown

Some firms have marked Labor Day as when they will begin to enforce in-office policies. Executives realize that if they don’t persuade their employees to come back now, with pandemic restrictions eased in most areas, the new norms of flexible work will be hard to unstick, The New York Times reported. Hence, some sense a standoff is coming. Bosses say the office deadlines are real; workers are testing just how much they mean that.

For instance, some Apple employees recently circulated a petition demanding the option to keep working remotely after Labor Day: “This uniform mandate from senior leadership does not consider the unique demands of each job role nor the diversity of individuals,” members of the group Apple Together wrote.

What’s at Stake?

“For businesses, hiring or employing remote talent to perform work from a location other than their worksite or office premises has obvious advantages but brings with it various risks and challenges depending on whether the individual is a direct employee, agency worker or independent contractor,” writes Fiona Coombe, SIA’s director of legal and regulatory research, in the report, “Employing and Hiring Remote Talent: Risks and Challenges.”

Compliance issues can arise from employees working from home in different states and countries. These can include remote/teleworking laws, tax and social security, health and safety, data privacy and immigration.

The US Department of Labor and and other state and federal agencies have also cracked down on independent contractor misclassification, and penalties for misclassification can be severe.

The “Employing and Hiring Remote Talent: Risks and Challenges,” report is available online to CWS Council members, provides a checklist which organizations can use to audit the risks and challenges posed by their remote workforce.

Attracting and Retaining Talent

The option to work remotely is highly valued by temporary workers, according to SIA’s survey of 5,607 North America temporary workers from 35 staffing firms, conducted in late 2021. Taking away that option could cause needed talent to seek work elsewhere — maybe even at your competitors.

Sixty-one percent of temporary workers rated remote work a five or six on scale of importance to them (on a one through six scale, with six being very important). Only 20% rated remote work a one or two, meaning it was not important to them.

In addition, more than half would take a pay cut to work remotely. The temporary workers were asked, “If a nonlocal assignment were available on a work-at-home/remote basis but the hiring company was only willing to pay an amount less than you would typically get, is the work at home/remote work option important enough that you would be willing take lower pay?” Fifty-five percent responded that they would potentially consider it, while 45% reported that they would not consider it under any circumstances.

For those that will continue to offer a remote work environment as a benefit of working for your organization, the temporary workers responding to the survey provided advice on how to make the remote work experience better. Suggestions included:

  • Communicate more frequently, give more direction
  • Invite temps to join group meetings, socialize
  • Get onboarding better organized
  • Make sure temps have equipment they need, subsidize it

The report, “North America Temporary Worker Survey 2022: Prevalence of remote work among temporary workers, how much they value it, and advice on how to make it better” has more insights and is available online to CWS Council members.