This Genie Will Not Go Back in Its Bottle
Leon Megginson, a business professor at Louisiana State University, said it best in 1963: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to change.” (Note: this quote is commonly misattributed to Charles Darwin!)
Little did Professor Megginson know, some 60 years later, his words would be decidedly applicable to the “new world of work” brought about by COVID-19.
Today, more than three years since the onset of the pandemic in the U.S., tech companies, marketing agencies, and PR firms (among other professional services businesses, along with other industries), are still grappling with how to best adapt to this new world of work. The biggest conundrum (by far) we see is centered around organizational policies relating to employees’ ability to work remotely (about 40% of U.S. workers have jobs that can be done from home, which includes just about any marketing or PR role).
ADAPT (OR DIE TRYING)
We’ll dive into the rationale below, but let’s get right to it: it is now apparent that tech companies, marketing agencies, and PR firms must allow employees at least some opportunity to work remotely if they want to grow and remain competitive.
Why? It’s simple. Companies that do not offer a remote-work option are at putting themselves at a significant disadvantage in two ways:
- Retaining employees will be more difficult. By not allowing employees to work remotely at least some of the time, there is a much greater risk of losing them to an employer that does (and many still do, even as the pandemic subsides).
- Attracting talent will get much harder. Anecdotally, over the course of the thousands of conversations we’ve had with candidates since the beginning of COVID-19, exactly none of them have uttered the words, “I want to return to an office four or five days a week.”
Why would any company want to put itself at a such competitive disadvantage when it comes to retaining and attracting talent? Even as some firms have backtracked from remote work (in part or fully), we don’t expect the remote-work trend to reverse itself completely. Rather, we expect it will be a perk offered by a majority of companies for years to come.
DATA TELLS THE STORY
Vetted conducted a survey in February 2023 asking marketing & PR professionals what was most important to them when considering a new employer. Among several factors (pay, benefits, training, career advancement, etc.), the ability to work remotely was the number one most important. Our data is echoed elsewhere: results of a Pew Research Center survey (released just a month later, in March 2023) show more than one-third (35%) of workers with jobs that can be done remotely are working from home 100% of the time. That number is up from just 7% before the pandemic.
The Pew survey is a highly recommended read, as it touches on a number of aspects of this multi-dimensional topic, among them:
- A large percentage (41%) of workers have the ability to work remotely and have embraced it.
- Many employees (34%) who have the ability to work remotely some of the time would like to work remotely all of the time.
- Remote workers see little downside to working from home. Most feel it enhances work-life balance and helps them get their work done more efficiently. Further, they feel it does not negatively impact opportunities for career advancement.
- While working from home does make it somewhat more challenging to connect with colleagues, most don’t view it as a major drawback, nor one that outweighs the benefits.
- Lastly, while it is not specifically stated in the Pew survey, it’s probably safe to say 100% of remote workers do not miss the time and money invested in their daily commute to and from the office.
So, there you have it. For companies that haven’t yet embraced remote work, or those that are thinking about returning to a full-time in-office policy, now is the time to adapt to change. Survival could depend on it.