“September 2020 Edition” is the operative phrase in the title of this post. A discussion on the future of remote work in January of this year would have sounded quite different than in the months following the start of the pandemic. Since March 2020, that discussion has been constantly evolving, which is why the goal of this post is to highlight some recent information that may influence how employers think about remote work for their organization, recognizing that these data points and views may change as society continues to adjust to the pandemic.
Slack, an internal messaging platform for teams, is launching the Future Forum to help companies make the transformations necessary to thrive in the new economy. Specifically, it is exploring changes employers need to consider as work becomes increasingly remote. The Future Forum will drive change in two ways: (i) proprietary research, case studies, and position papers and (ii) ongoing event series.
The Future Forum released a preview of data from its first piece of original content, which provides details on how knowledge workers are adapting to remote work. The findings are based on a survey of 9,032 knowledge workers who identify as “skilled office workers” in the US, UK, France, Germany, Japan, and Australia. Some of the highlights include:
Based on the initial findings, it seems that remote work will be here to stay in some capacity with a vast majority (and likely increasing) number of employees wanting at least some remote work.
The summary of the findings does not tell the whole story though. The chart below shows how employees feel remote work impacts their experience of work. Even in the most positive category (work-life balance), nearly one in five employees feel remote work negatively impacts their experience. Despite being overwhelmingly positive, employers need to think about their specific remote work situation in general and for employees specifically to ensure they are transitioning properly. This includes thinking about certain populations that may find the transition harder. For example, the survey also found that 65% of white knowledge workers agree with the statement “my manager is supportive when I need help,” compared to only 46% of black knowledge workers.
When employees decide to work remotely, they create additional opportunities for where they can live, including the option of moving to more affordable cities. Many employers recognize that lower cost of living cities can create a win-win situation for the company and the employee. For example, Stripe, the payments company, is offering employees a one-time bonus of $20,000 to move to more affordable cities, but in exchange, they will need to take a pay cut. Even with the pay cut, employees will have a greater real income in their new homes. If employers continue to see their employees wanting to work remotely, they may take similar actions to Stripe or start recruiting in areas where salaries and total costs would be lower.
Leading companies often hire professionals on their human resources teams to oversee major shifts in their employee base. For example, it is commonplace for companies that want to create a more equitable work environment to hire individuals that focus on diversity and inclusion. It is the only way to truly implement change quickly and effectively. As it plans for a more permanent shift to working from home, Facebook is taking the same approach. It plans to hire a director of remote work who will help develop a long-term remote work plan and to lead Facebook's push "toward remote-first ways of working," according to a job posting for the role. As more companies recognize the significance of the remote work shift, there will likely be new roles similar to this one being created.
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