As businesses around the world were forced into work-from-home environments due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders, what was once vehemently opposed by some organisations became their only mode of operation. Those that said, “It will never work” found that when forced, it did work. Now that we know more, will remote work remain the reality in a post-COVID world? And what will this mean for job markets and the recruitment of talent? Will it bring in a truly global competition for talent that previously was only seen for the most strategic roles?
Until we’re firmly planted in a post-COVID-19 world, it’s too soon to know for sure, but the job market is most certainly going to change forever by our forced work-from-home experiment.
When stay-at-home mandates were implemented in response to the global pandemic, leaders of organisations had to pivot and allow work-from-home to keep operations going. Professionals around the world were baptised into using video communications for meetings and most got schooled in proper etiquette and flexibility required when all in the family were juggling the new reality—distance learning with your kids plus interruptions from pets, partners and kids and more.
The change allowed us to see the possibilities of working from home. Many appreciated the relief from long commutes (extra time for sleep or self-care when not on the road), and most certainly, our Earth appreciated the drop in pollution. The experiment forced innovation, growth, and new ways of thinking. What used to be unusual became the norm. In a post-COVID world, our workforce will benefit from these learning experiences.
So, will this be our new reality? Twitter announced it will allow its employees to work from home “forever,” in part because “the past few months have proven we can make that work” assuming an employee has a role that is possible to do remotely and desires to continue to work from home. Mark Zuckerberg announced that he expects half of Facebook’s employees will work remotely within the next five to 10 years even after COVID restrictions are lifted. Google declared the majority of its employees would continue working from home until 2021, and in a Gartner survey in March 2020, 74% of CFOs expect to shift some employees to remote work permanently.
So, what will all of this mean for the job market? Working from home could completely transform our job market and could mean a truly global competition for every single job role. If you can do your work in California or Connecticut just as well, what stops someone in Chile, India or Latvia from being a good, or even better fit for the job? When you can work from home, you could potentially work from anywhere, which means the job market could become truly globalised.
We have seen global completion for talent for the most strategic jobs for a long time, but definitely not for every job. For most jobs, there has been a limited local talent pool. If you applied for a job at a local company, you could be sure that there were only a certain number of potential candidates that would apply for the same job. A global job market could mean that there could potentially be thousands of applicants, and they could be from anywhere in the country, or indeed in the world.
Also, many tech companies with headquarters in places like Silicon Valley pay premium salaries to their workforce since the cost of living is higher there than elsewhere in the country. If employees are able to work from anywhere, do salaries get adjusted to the cost of living in the area, they choose to live? This isn’t easily answered. Does this benefit the company or the employee? Also, how will companies adjust their in-office benefits such as free drinks/snacks, company lunches, and more to offer similar benefits to those who work remotely?
These are interesting questions every company and employee will be reflecting on as working from home becomes the more widely accepted new normal.