I worked on a search once and the candidate ultimately declined the generous offer because her employer agreed to allow her to work from home one day a week. That seems like a long time ago. Of course, in the past, many firms were certain that if employees weren’t in the office, they weren’t doing their job. Indeed I know of a situation where a hiring manager dismissed a candidate who asked about working from home; the candidate’s wife was disabled and needed assistance. The hiring manager said, “I want this guy down the hall.” Now that the pandemic has made WFH status quo, many firms have found the outcomes far from what they expected. Most people are working longer hours and harder than ever. And while it’s true that some, especially parents of young children, are clearly challenged, most are more focused and productive. This is certain to revolutionize the workplace.
Just this week someone in the Southwest wrote me about job openings. He inquired if I thought positions, supposedly in the Northeast, would require someone be in that part of the country. Before the pandemic, that wouldn’t have been considered. Now, it’s anyone’s guess. And my guess is hiring firms are now going to recognize that if someone has the experience and determination, their location is irrelevant, for many positions. Sure they may want them to come to the physical location periodically, but it will be far less essential that they be there Monday through Friday.
On June 1st, someone I know is starting a new job. He has already told his new employer that he will not be coming to their physical office until he’s certain he’s comfortable with the idea. A father of four young children, he’s in no hurry to embrace the risk. His new employer didn’t flinch. Some think that employers won’t challenge employees because they don’t want a lawsuit.
Of course there is an enormous benefit to employers. Needing less physical space means rent is lower, fewer furnishings are needed, heat/electricity/janitorial services/security/office supplies bills shrink, to name a few. When I think about companies that made large moves from say New York to Florida or Tennessee, to lower taxes or salaries, I realize they must now be scratching their heads and thinking that was probably unnecessary. Those sorts of moves were typically logistical nightmares. Heaps of money was spent on relocation and separating from the employees who declined to move. Identifying talent in the new location was typically challenging, so much so that some companies ultimately relocated some roles back to their original location. Now people recognize that was, in some respects, unwise.
Last year a hiring manager agreed to have a candidate work from home a few days a week. All was going well. The candidate had a long commute on the days that she traveled to the office. Now that she’s no longer commuting, she continues to demonstrate a terrific appetite for accomplishing her work. And that’s without getting in the car. She enjoyed her time in the office, getting to know her colleagues and the camaraderie. Now she’s delighted to save the dozen or so hours and spend them with her young family.
There will likely always be some managers who refuse to accept WFH as the norm. Those who do, however, will find that many employees can still be valuable contributors, even if they’re miles away in sweatpants.