“What is the future of work?”
Because of new technology, low unemployment rates, and the looming threat of automation across many industries, plenty of professionals were asking that question before 2020. The longer that the pandemic stretches on, the more this curiosity will grip the minds of workers throughout the United States and around the world.
At the beginning of COVID-19, the buzzword of the global business economy was “pivot.” Organizations pivoted their products or services to do their part in fighting the pandemic. They also pivoted their workforces, clearing out corporate office spaces and sending employees home to work remotely.
For a while, these measures were considered short-term–temporary steps that everyone had to take to slow down the spread of coronavirus and, hopefully, stop the virus in its tracks. More than half a year later, some of these “short-term” pivots, particularly those regarding recruiting, hiring, and work, appear to be permanent.
Working From Home
In the months following COVID-19’s arrival in the U.S., separated from their office spaces and colleagues, many Americans found that they preferred working from home. They liked the flexibility, productivity, and lack of commute. By May, when IBM released the results of a survey of 25,000 American workers, 54% said that they’d prefer to work from home permanently.
By October, the headline in the Washington Post claimed that “Americans might never come back to the office,” citing Twitter and its “employees can work from home forever” policy as a game-changer. Twitter employees can come back into work if they want, but as of July, the company reported that 70 percent of its workers wanted to continue working from home at least three days a week.
What does this change mean for employers, now and in the future? The question is particularly relevant for startups—companies that have traditionally thrived by establishing camaraderie and a shared mission through the vibrancy of their workplace cultures. If COVID-19 takes away the workplace as we know it, the implications for hiring could be significant.
Pros and Cons of Work-From-Home
There are positives and negatives to the shift toward a more remote-driven work future.
Building a strong company culture is more difficult with a distributed workforce than with a centralized one. Shared experiences are a large part of building workplace relationships and establishing a strong culture, and they are harder to come by when employees don’t see each other every day or interact in a face-to-face manner. Some companies are still extremely eager to get back to “normal,” and company culture may be a reason for that.
Employers that need to execute the hiring and onboarding process remotely must be deliberate about how they build connections between existing employees and new hires. Connections that flourished naturally in an office environment need to be nourished by managers. That could mean small Zoom meetings to introduce new hires to existing staff or virtual versions of team bonding activities that provide opportunities for people to get to know one another.
There are advantages to an all-remote work environment, too, starting with the way that it can widen the applicant pool. One of the narratives that COVID-19 has created in the professional world is the relevance of location flexibility. Remote work has given professionals, particularly those living in extremely expensive areas such as Silicon Valley, the freedom to consider relocating without sacrificing their career ambitions. As big corporations, such as Twitter, pivot to remote work, their decisions could help popularize the model of telecommuting jobs, expanding the applicant pool from “those who live or are willing to move to this area” to “anyone with the proper qualifications.”
Employers that have had trouble attracting strong candidates in recent years due to low unemployment rates should consider taking this opportunity to at least experiment with remote work postings. The potential advantages of a broader applicant pool for any business are massive.
These changes will demand a different kind of hiring process. In-person interviews, once the most practical option for employers to build trust, are now harder to execute and less safe than video interviews. With the minimal learning curve for Zoom and other video chat platforms, employers can take advantage of these technologies more readily and efficiently.
While some hiring managers may find it more difficult to put their trust in candidates that they haven’t ever met face-to-face, that challenge is nothing that more robust background check protocols can’t solve. Far more than just criminal history searches, pre-employment background checks can incorporate education credentials, employment history, professional licenses, civil court history, driving records, reference checks, and more.
Taking advantage of this diverse array of background check varieties can help employers ensure that despite all the changes that have taken place in the world, they can still hire trustworthy, dependable employees—just as they did before everything changed.