The conversation around remote/hybrid work continues on, and likely will for some time as organizations continue to adapt to this concept and change. The following is an excerpt from an academic paper that I wrote earlier this year, and focuses on implications for organizations as it relates to place of work.
Many companies that were fully remote during the pandemic have moved back to on-site work, a scenario that has not been welcomed by all employees. Remote work has created an opportunity for some whereby they feel that they can be a good employee and also manage their personal responsibilities well (Feintzeig, 2021). As many people are wanting the flexibility that comes with remote work, employers will need to consider this factor in the context of recruitment and retention. For example, if Company A allows its clerical assistants to work remotely while Company B does not allow for this option, if wages and benefits are otherwise similar between the organizations, Company A will likely have an easier time recruiting and retaining staff. Of course, this has an impact on training costs, corporate knowledge, and company culture. Overall, there is the potential that the decision to allow (or not allow) remote work will start to impact the bottom line of the organization, which may then lead to future changes occurring. As well, hiring remotely does not limit the organization to the local labour market, as they can recruit talent that may be located in another city or province. From a diversity and inclusion perspective, there are also advantages to offering remote work. For instance, one study has found that companies that advertise remote work increase applications from females by up to 20 percent (De Laat, 2022). As well, there has been a growing trend toward “results only work environments” (Peek, 2022), where the emphasis is on the work getting done versus employees being seated at their desks between 9:00am and 5:00pm. That said, it should be noted that core hours of work are important for many roles. For example, a customer service representative needs to be available for specific hours. However, there are many other roles where the actual hours of work can be at least somewhat variable.
Employee engagement is paramount to most organizations. Leaders and human resources professionals are challenged with ensuring that engagement – and therefore morale – is high in order to contribute to a successful culture and environment. While remote work can create certain challenges from a perspective of cohesion, this needs to be balanced by the desires of the employee when remote work is an operational possibility. One of the primary challenges of remote work is ensuring that employees are successfully on-boarded to the organization. Starting work in a remote environment is much different than starting at an on-site location. The hallway conversations and “unwritten rules” of the organizational cultural are much more difficult to pick up while working remotely, and is something that most who have worked on-site at the organization may simply take for granted.
Employers may find that employees take less sick time due to being able to work remotely. For example, if an employee works on-site, they may need to stay home due to a bad headache or not feeling well. Part of the hesitancy of coming in to work when not feeling completely fine is the concern of passing along an illness to a fellow co-worker. However, having the ability to take a short nap at a break or at lunch may enable the employee to continue working without needing to utilize sick leave. Furthermore, employees who have small children may need to stay home if their child is sick and unable to go to daycare or school and alternate daycare is unavailable. The need to stay home with sick children will disproportionately impact women. For instance, one US study found that women are 10 times more likely to take time off to be with an ill child, and are five times more likely than men to take children to an appointment (Lam, 2014). If the employee is able to work remotely, they can better juggle their professional and personable responsibilities. Most importantly, an employee who is feeling well from a personal perspective, including their ability to manage family responsibilities, will bring their best self to work.
Employers, as they balance the advantages and disadvantages of having a remote operation, the need (or lack thereof) of office space will undoubtedly become part of the discussion. For example, if an organization that otherwise needs to lease expensive office space in a downtown city location can move its operations remotely, it will have a financial incentive to significantly or fully reduce its office footprint.
De Laat, K. (2022). Remote Work and Post-Bureaucracy: Unintended Consequences of Work Design for Gender Inequality. Industrial & Labor Relations Review, Industrial & labor relations review, 2022.
Feintzeig, R. (2021). Work-Life Balance Finally Happened. Then They Were Called Back to the Office. Giving up remote work can feel like a loss. Here are ways to bring some of the flexibility of working from home back with you. The Wall Street Journal. Eastern Edition, pp. The Wall Street journal. Eastern edition, 2021-12-06.
Lam, B. (2014). Who Stays Home When the Kids Are Sick? The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/10/who-stays-home-when-the-kids-are-sick/382011/
Peek, S. (2022, April 1). Do Results-Only Workplaces Really Work? Business.com. Retrieved from https://www.business.com/articles/do-results-only-workplaces-really-work/