Remote Work: The Moment of Truth Has Arrived

3 min read

Many big tech firms including Alphabet, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are telling remote workers it is finally time to return to work. How this power struggle plays out will be a strong indicator of how much leverage employees ultimately have and how things play out elsewhere.

A competitive job market, plus the relative ease with which businesses adjusted to work-from-home over the past two years, has emboldened many professionals to try to say goodbye to offices permanently.

Two-thirds of the workforce said they would find a new job if required to return to the office full-time, according to a survey of more than 32,000 workers by ADP Research Institute. Of those who quit their jobs in 2021, 35% cited wanting to move to a different area, according to the Pew Research Center.

Many professionals have already taken a firm stand on this. Employees in the larger firms have organized themselves into groups for the purpose of pressuring top management in the form of online protests and letters to the executive floor. It is working.

Firms such as Twitter and Zillow have said most employees can work from wherever they want and executives of Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. are living all over. According to a Wall Street Journal article published on May 14th (B6), more than 14,000 of Google’s approximately 166,000 employees have requested to go fully remote or to transfer to a new location, and the company has approved 85% of those requests, according to a spokeswoman.

Some folks in my local WDC/NOVA insurance market who have relocated and don’t have clauses in their employment contracts to stay remote say they’re in a standoff with their bosses and HR. They’ve been called back to the office but haven’t moved yet. They’re looking for remote-friendly roles both internally or elsewhere. I know this because they are calling me now!

In my personal discussions with candidates, the one big issue that has surfaced is that in some firms it seems as though the official mandate to return is being arbitrarily applied. Who stays remote and who has to come back to the office? Does the person with 20 years of experience get to work from home, but not the worker with less than five years? Is it the VP and not the staff employee? Is it the one rated in the top say 25% based on performance reviews? Who decides this? The supervisor or Human Resources? This inconsistency is causing lots of problems for everyone involved.

Smart firms, including most of my insurance clients in the WDC region, are using flexible work policies to lure new hires. My access to top talent has expanded greatly as a result of this newly disgruntled segment of insurance workers now demanding to stay remote.

For example, I just placed an individual who just recently relocated to a small town in rural southern Virginia. She had five offers from well-known WDC regional insurance brokers. She is a superstar. Why? Because she was willing to work for 20% below market WDC rates in exchange for being able to work remotely in a small retirement town. When I tell a candidate, “You can work remotely” I get their immediate attention.

The bottom line is that a remote at home work environment is not for everyone, but if you have the necessary systems, controls, and consistent policies in place, it could be a boon to your ability to attract and retain top talent in the foreseeable future. The Genie is out of the bottle.

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All the best,

Rob Houghton

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