Remote work remains an issue moving forward for traditionally employed and contingent workers alike. Some large technology firms such as Apple, Facebook and Amazon have already pushed back return-to-office dates until next year. A recent survey by Gartner Inc. found more than half of knowledge workers globally expect to be working remotely by the end of the year. In addition, remote work has proven popular with some employees. A survey by FlexJobs released this monthly found 44% of employees know at least one person who has quit or is planning to quit because their employers are requiring them to return to the office.
Aspects of remote work and the future of work were a topic last week at SIA’s Collaboration in the Gig Economy conference in Phoenix. In one panel discussion, “The Remote Work Revolution: The World Beyond the Pandemic,” several executives described what they see.
One concern: Companies that require workers to return to the office, even for one or two days, will likely see disruption because of unsatisfied employees, said panelist Tim Sanders, VP, customer insight at talent platform Upwork Inc.
“[If] they’re going to move to that model, they are going to lose access to a lot of talent,” Sanders said, adding some workers will resign rather than be forced to return to the office. The companies “are going to experience business damage, and their investors are going to push back.”
Financial firms will be particularly hard hit. “By 2023, they are going to go right back in with flexible arrangement, especially for knowledge work,” Sanders predicted.
Broader access to talent. On the positive side, panelist Kelly Boykin, senior VP, global alliances, at marketing/creative staffing provider Aquent, said contingent workforce managers can access a larger pool of talent by not being limiting to any geographical area. Plus, firms can save money. Boykin noted her firm has gone to a fully remote model for internal workers and 40 offices it had prior to the pandemic will not be needed. Those offices will not reopen once their leases expire. Another benefit of remote work is a reduced carbon footprint, she said.
Maintaining connections. Another issue companies and managers need to be mindful of is maintaining a sense of belonging and connectivity among your remote workforce. “They want to not only work from home; they want to work from home but feel an almost exact same level of belonging and connectivity as they did within an office,” said Jean Cook, COO of healthcare staffing firm Travel Nurse Across America. Her company was 70% to 80% remote prior to the pandemic and connecting with employees was a big factor in successful remote work.
Of course, healthcare personnel such as nurses and allied health professionals must be on site, but they needed plenty of support as well given the pandemic.
“Our challenge lately for the past several months is how to support them more than normal,” Cook said.
According to Sanders, managers who are comfortable managing remote workers have shifted their management style to outcome-based management. These managers who are comfortable managing remote workers are also comfortable managing remote freelancers, he said.
Zoom fatigue. There’s also the matter of so-called Zoom fatigue and too many video meetings in general, but panelists had suggestions there as well. For starters, “don’t feel like everything needs to be a video call,” Cook said.
They also suggest encouraging workers to turn off self-view during video calls. This last trick has been documented elsewhere as well. It’s the use of a camera during video meetings — and constantly monitoring one’s own appearance — that may be leading to Zoom fatigue, according to a study led by a University of Georgia researcher that was published in the scientific journal Applied Psychology. The study is based on 1,408 daily observations from 103 employees and indicated use of the camera in Zoom was linked to feelings of fatigue.
Moderating the panel was Subadhra Sriram, editor and publisher, media products, at Staffing Industry Analysts.