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Remote Worker Issues are the NEW New Normal

Who is ready for the NEW “new normal”? One thing we have learned during the last 18 months is that employers (actually all people) have to be flexible to survive and thrive in the new post-pandemic landscape. The biggest shift of all for – the sudden shift to remote work and Zoom life – has had the most ramifications for today’s employment landscape. Right now, as the end of a very long tunnel is in sight, employers are grappling with issues of remote work and trying to move forward. Here are the top issues that we are seeing around the topic of remote work.

  • When (or if) to return to the office. This is the most urgent one at the moment. Employers need to engage with their employees about this sensitive topic and get the general “lay of the land.” Some employees are eager to get back to the office, some never want to enter the land of commuting and cubicles again. The popular middle ground seems to be the “hybrid” model of part on-site, part remote. But this varies from industry to industry and office to office. What works in Cleveland might not work in San Francisco, and what works in one tech company might not work in another. The key is giving employees a voice at the table and hearing concerns and making adjustments. As one CEO put it, “If you haven’t had this conversation yet, you’re late.” Employees tend not to like ultimatums and strict edicts. Getting buy-in from employees on a plan is key to long term happiness and retention.
  • Compensation. For many companies, this crash course in remote work proved that many meetings could in fact be an email, and employees were just as productive (if not more so) while working at home. For those that decided to keep this option indefinitely, the issue of compensation can be sticky. Should an employee who used to commute 1.5 hours to a Bay Area office get the same compensation and cost-of-living adjustments now that they have moved to rural Florida, with a far lower tax burden? Is the salary tied to the employee or the location of the work? There are no easy answers here, but again, it’s a good time to put out some employee surveys or start the conversation about this.
  • Onboarding and Engagement. This one appeared early on in the pandemic, but is still a big issue. How do you bring on a new team member and get them up to speed when they’ve never met their co-workers in person? What does successful onboarding look like over a screen? And after onboarding, how do you keep new and old hires alike engaged and fulfilled? As the hiring market shifts into overdrive, top talent is in the driver’s seat and opportunity abounds. Recruiting and interviewing is easier than ever via video and there is little reason for non-engaged employees to stick around when opportunity knocks. Successful employers have thrown out the old playbook, and have had to look for creative ways to make employees engaged and valued. Zoom happy hours lost their appeal months ago. Now, a mix of in-person events, care packages and goodies sent to homes, and new technology solutions (like Imperative, the peer coaching platform) are just some of the tools here that employers can use.
  • Workers’ Compensation. Another tough one: what happens when an employee is injured in the course of employment? It was more clear when that employee got injured in the office or the work site – but now that might be the employees’ home. An employer will be faced with employees in multiple states now that remote work is becoming the norm. Which state’s law will govern the Worker’s Comp claim? Employees might not be thinking about this – it’s only an issue when there is an injury, but you better believe employers are. This might be something that now needs to be covered upfront in an employment contract. 

These are just a few of the issues that the legacy of pandemic remote working will bring. We’re also happy to see big changes happen, such as the way remote meetings are handled and the technology solutions that are popping that allow collaboration and communication in ways that the office never did. For all the challenges of remote work, it also had many benefits, and highlighted inequities that were never adequately addressed before, such as the disproportionate negative impact of a workplace culture on working mothers and the high costs of childcare that our government hasn’t addressed. Change can be painful, but it also is a chance to improve long-standing problems in a way not possible before. TalentReach is committed to staying on top of the issues and ahead of the competition – we help our candidates and our clients thrive in the NEW new normal. 

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