Knowledge work companies that choose to implement hybrid work policies may see an influx of skilled and unskilled workers. What this means is a range of challenges across the employment landscape that will affect companies that can implement hybrid and remote work and those that can’t.
The influx of workers into these new remote and hybrid corporate positions will put a strain on service, manufacturing, and logistics jobs that need local, on-site employees to support their processes. The overall effect should bring higher wages, more flexibility, and more opportunity for workers at all skill levels.
Knowledge work companies providing flexible options will benefit in several ways
For knowledge work companies, there are some naysayers as to the benefits of hybrid work, but the overall effect could be positive, if your HR team can get the jump on it.
Companies that post remote or hybrid jobs will find that they will have a larger and more diverse pool to choose from. According to a 2021 Microsoft Worklab study, remote work job postings on LinkedIn increased more than 5x during the pandemic. And most of the people applying for those jobs are women, GenZ, and people without a graduate degree. These trends show us that the flexibility offered by remote work appeals to the worker segments that have been underrepresented in the office.
For companies that are looking to hire a more diverse staff, increase creativity in the workplace, and attract a younger, more rural, or less formally educated staff, offering remote and hybrid workplaces will widen their staffing options. Remote work often gives women the flexibility to manage the many childcare duties that may fall on their plate without excluding them—or the value they bring—from the workplace. It gives Gen Z the opportunity to find affordable housing options without long commutes.
These expanding hiring pools will also change the makeup of our workplaces. We can expect that recruiters will be able to find smart, talented, and dedicated employees with non-traditional work backgrounds, if they’re willing to train and reskill their workers. Mothers who took a career break to raise their children, Gen Z directly out of high school or college, and those from rural areas or small towns who aren’t willing to move into the big tech sectors will become bigger contributors to the workforce. This will change the makeup of our knowledge work and bring more solutions to the market.
Recruiting for in-person jobs will become more difficult
The movement of non-traditional knowledge workers into corporate staff will drain the other pool that has heretofore supported our essential in-person work. The pandemic highlighted the need to have in-person workers to keep our service, logistics, and manufacturing industries running. If there’s a brain drain of women and young employees to corporate knowledge work, who will stock the grocery store or run the cash registers at your local Walmart?
We saw the argument play out all over the internet in 2020: If these workers are so essential, why don’t we pay them more?
It’s not enough to praise our essential workers — we have to protect and pay them.
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) November 19, 2020
And in the US, the issue became even more fraught when much of the country found out that service and essential workers could make more money through unemployment payments than they did in their jobs.
It’s not a popular opinion with many business owners or legislators in the US, but if more workers are taking a chance on hybrid office work that gives them better flexibility and pay than part-time, restaurant, or manufacturing jobs, those employers will need to make their jobs more appealing. One way to do that is to offer better pay.
Hybrid work will force all companies to rethink their recruiting and retention strategies
That same Microsoft Worklab study reports that 41% of respondents say they’re thinking of moving jobs, and 46% of those say it’s because they can now work from home. Many companies can save money on turnover by changing to a hybrid or fully remote policy. Companies looking to attract workers may need to offer more flexible work options combined with higher pay.
To support these new recruiting strategies, companies will need to make permanent the IT and HR tactics that they employed during the pandemic lock-downs. Implementing applicant tracking tools or recruiting software options that integrate with video conferencing software is key to running efficient interviews. Building the company culture around a remote-first policy backed by project management software and company-wide collaboration tools will support remote employees working from home. And most importantly, HR will need to clarify policies on paper and with all employees to ensure clear communication.
We can be sure that the coming years will bring intense workplace change. But we have the opportunity to use that change to build a more diverse, creative, and connected workforce that ultimately brings innovation to our workspaces.