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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Smith: Employees and employers: The great work-from-home debate

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Like you, I receive tons of junk mail from companies trying to sell me something due to my leadership role at work. However, this subject line was different. It read, “Return-to-Office Preferences: Survey Results.” I was not only intrigued by this digital and creative staffing agency’s subject line, but the opening paragraph was enticing. So, what did I do? Immediately, I clicked on the link to review the survey results. What struck me most was the disparity between what job seekers desire versus what hiring managers consider most important.

According to Creative Circle’s survey, job candidates want to be paid more for “in-person” roles; however, employers are not willing to increase the pay. For example, 81% of candidates want to be paid more for roles where they are required to go into the office 100% of the time, as compared to fully remote roles. On the other hand, only 8% of employers are willing to pay more to employees who come into the office 100% of the time, as compared to fully remote employees.

Candidates also desire more flexibility and freedom while employers tend to want their employees physically in the office. The results also highlight that “Underrepresented groups (women, parents, Hispanic/Latinx, Asian/Asian American, Black) prize location and schedule flexibility the most.”

This is a much larger conversation that can’t be solved by the time you finish perusing but there is much to discuss. Many of us have been working remotely for the past two years. Thank God the world has gradually opened so we can have our social life back again, but times have changed. Yes, I understand that there are industries such as education, travel, health care, transportation or retail that may not have the ability to offer much remote work. But there are companies that have the capability to offer remote work to some or all of their employees. So, what’s the deal? Is it trust? Is it that we simply want to see bodies in chairs as we once did pre-pandemic? A friend told me that she heard it could be due to real estate — so many companies have been leasing space to other companies in these large buildings across the country, and if they choose to work remotely, what happens to the buildings? Do they no longer get the income they’ve been accustomed to?

On the other hand, many employees have proven that they do their best work at home, have improved mental and physical health, are better at managing their home responsibilities, and have more time to spend with family and friends. So how do we move forward?

There are many factors that have contributed to the “Great Resignation,” but the disparity between candidates and employees and hiring managers and employers is extremely large. How do we bridge the gap? Who needs to come to the table at respective organizations so that a happy medium can exist? Is it even possible?

There’s also a large conversation these days about companies diversifying their organizations. However, many of these diverse candidates reside far from the physical location of the business, are single parents, caregivers or have unique family circumstances. However, they’re able to put in the work — their best work when they have the trust and support from the company they work for.

I encourage employees and candidates to seek a company that embodies your values, desires and understands that work-life integration is essential to your mental health and productivity. And I challenge employers to value their employees and serve them — treat them more like people. Form relationships on both ends. Trust and believe, your employee performance, retention, company culture and revenue will climb through the roof! Your bottom line depends on it.

Leslie Nicole Smith is an executive in higher ed administration, a motivator and community leader.

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