By now we’re used to headlines mulling over predictions as to what the future of work will look like. Some industries have weathered the COVID storm better than others. Some are inherently set up for leveraging technology and highly autonomous individuals to work remotely as extensions of the company. The traveling sales(person) comes to mind as one from history, but over the past 10-15 years, all manners of industries have found themselves, in one way or another, utilizing remote work and coming to trust it.
As a public relations professional, I am used to working remotely, as it’s always been part of my job. You can’t orchestrate media interviews at a tech conference from behind a desk, but you can prepare a client for media training over Zoom.
Can remote workers be effective? Microsoft thinks so.
In talent-strapped industries like tech, in talent-rich cities like Vancouver, companies are forced to reevaluate how they approach the makeup of their teams, especially when they’re trying to attract top talent to maintain growth and to scale. If one positive trend has emerged out of this debilitating pandemic, it’s that many employees are empowered to work where they want, as long as the job gets done. And it does get done, according to a Microsoft Office study, 81% of workers at home found themselves to be more productive when working from home than at the office.
With Microsoft now occupying an enormous space in downtown Vancouver, it would be interesting to know how often it is populated with staff, or if it’s been used as an enormous “hot desk” for visiting employees.
No physical office: greater pool of diverse tech talent
Employers are finding themselves enjoying a much wider and diverse talent pool due to the lack of physical attendance in offices, whether due to government mandates or internal OHSA decisions. Certain areas of the country are hot spots for types of talent, like the Waterloo region for AI or Montreal for software. Suddenly, it doesn’t matter that a teammate can’t make it for in-person meetings – because they can happen over the safety and comfort of video.
More flexibility with when is a new advantage
Different, earlier time zones for remote employees, once seen as detrimental, can now work to the advantage of companies in PT. Feeling perennially behind the east coast evaporates. Quick turnaround on deadlines can be achieved by the time officemates in Vancouver start their workdays. The diversity of talent and receptiveness to workers from abroad is a silver lining that hopefully will endure beyond the pandemic.
For many PR (and other service industries) agencies, having talent sprinkled across Canada is beneficial not just for serving clients best, but also being aligned with journalist’s deadlines. It’s a win-win, a decentralization of talent and an agile model that also allows for rapid scaling, with physical barriers removed.
Results-based over location-based is an attraction and an asset
Unlimited vacation days are becoming commonplace and in tech fields, well before the pandemic. But the rub was, who had time to use them with the demands of and time needed to be in office? The pandemic has changed that, with the CEO of Airbnb himself stating that more people were combining travel with remote work. The fluidity of the pandemic has its perks. Particularly for millennials and Gen Z, the ability to combine working remotely with travel is appealing and feasible, especially as home ownership in regions like Vancouver becomes further from reach. Finding creative ways to attract talent is not a one-size fits all approach, but the more flexibility an employee offers to potential candidates, the more likely they are to appeal to a wider pool of talent.
As Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb works and travels remotely. He succinctly, slightly promotionally stated, “All you need is a laptop and someone’s internet in their home and you can do your job. In fact, you can even run a nearly $100 billion company.”
Trust and tools: keys to attracting and retaining talent
The tech surge in Vancouver is only gaining momentum and the uncertainty of the pandemic isn’t going away. There is much that companies can do to attract and retain talent and turn this dark period in history into a decentralized time of opportunity, where employees have more autonomy and thus more investment, into the work they do and who they do it for. According to a recent article in Inc. Magazine, research by Robert Half International found that 75 percent of employees say a flexible or virtual work arrangement would cause them to choose one job over another. What does this mean? Employers are going to have to get comfortable with trusting their employees and leveraging the tools we have to do so.