September 27, 2021

If companies force workers back into the office, it could come back to bite them, according to a panel discussion at the Staffing Industry Analysts Collaboration at the Gig Economy Conference last week in Phoenix. On the other hand, the new world of work could bring opportunities such as savings in real estate costs, larger recruiting space and a smaller carbon footprint.

One concern raised during the panel “The Remote Work Revolution: The World Beyond the Pandemic” was the impact of requiring workers to give up their ability to work remotely.

Companies that force their employees to return to the office – even for a day or two – are likely to experience disruption due to employee dissatisfaction, said panelist Tim Sanders, VP, customer insight at talent platform Upwork Inc.

“[If they] If you switch to this model, they will lose access to a lot of talent, ”Sanders said, noting that some workers would step down instead of being forced to return to the office. Companies “will suffer business damage and their investors will marginalize themselves”.

Separately, a survey published this month by FlexJobs found that 44% of employees know at least one person who has quit or is planning to quit because their employers ask them to return to the office.

“By 2023 they will be back on board with flexible arrangements, especially for knowledge work,” said Sanders during the panel discussion.

Panellists had other concerns – and suggestions for remote working.

Panelist Jean Cook, COO of healthcare recruiter Travel Nurse Across America, said her company was 70-80% remote prior to the pandemic and connecting with employees was a key factor in successful remote work.

“In addition to working from home, you want to work from home and feel almost as attached and connected as you would in an office,” said Cook.

Of course, medical personnel such as nurses and related health professionals must be on hand. “Our challenge over the past few months has been to support them more than normal,” said Cook.

On the bright side, panelist Kelly Boykin, senior VP, Global Alliances, at marketing / creative staffing company Aquent said that managers with limited-time staff can access a larger pool of talent by not restricting geographic location – and money can save. Boykin noted that her company has moved to a completely remote model for in-house workers and doesn’t need the 40 offices she had before the pandemic. These offices will not reopen after their leases have expired. Another benefit of working remotely is a lower carbon footprint, she said.

Sanders said that managers who are comfortable with managing remote workers are also happy with managing remote freelancers. You have switched your leadership style to results-oriented management.

There is of course the question of “zoom fatigue” and too many video meetings. But here too, the participants in the discussion had suggestions.

“I don’t feel like it all has to be a video call,” said Cook.

Another suggestion: turn off selfview during video calls.

The panel discussion was chaired by Subadhra Sriram, Editor and Editor, Media Products, at Staffing Industry Analysts.