Who would ever think that one of the most discussed organizational change initiatives is how to navigate the remote work conundrum appropriately? Over the past year, nearly every organization struggled through the pandemic, having much—if not all—of their workforce become remote.  Now that we are fortunately witnessing some light at the end of the tunnel with the pandemic, it is time for businesses to go back to some normalcy. However, the new definition of normalcy is yet to be determined.

One thing is for certain: organizations are facing several important questions related to employee remote work. Moving forward, will our organization have some remote employee strategy? What positions, if any, within our organization can be remote? How do we measure efficiencies and employee performance with remote workers? Can we competitively recruit quality personnel without having a remote strategy? Will we lose valuable employees if we do not offer remote work? How do we effectively lead, motivate, and develop remote workers?

Fortunately, the answers to some of these questions were determined over the last year simply because organizations were forced to have remote workers. Much was learned simply because the organization had to make quick and, in many cases, radical changes in their workforce structure.  Organizations and employees within those organizations needed to be flexible, agile, and do whatever to survive. 

I am not sure if anyone ever thought that some of the survival strategies implemented during the pandemic might result in permanent organizational modifications.  The aftermath might be more complicated.  Moving forward, decisions on a remote workforce strategy will ultimately impact the organization’s future culture—positively or negatively, depending on the situation.   

One area of significant concern is how organizations are positioned to offer remote work as a competitive benefit. Over the last year, individuals have become used to working remotely and have realized that they can be just as productive as when they were in an office. Therefore, current employees and job seekers are looking at remote work as simply another organizational benefit. Remote work is now alongside available PTO, 401K matching, and health benefits. The dilemma is: will an organization lose an opportunity for qualified applicants if they do not offer some form of remote work?

Moreover, might their employee retention suffer if remote work is not permitted?  Furthermore, are organizations doing themselves a disservice by not offering remote work to potential employees living anywhere? As companies around the country and the world learn how to make a remote workforce work, the prospect of leveraging a much larger pool of candidates, especially for hard-to-fill positions, is likely to become increasingly attractive.

It is not a matter of when the remote work movement will occur, but how big it will get.  Would you be surprised to hear that a recent check on Indeed.com had over 130,000 remote jobs listed?  These jobs have a variety of titles and positions throughout all business sectors. It is not uncommon to see job titles such as Accountant, Engineer, Vice President of Human Resources, CFO, Customer Service Representative, Project Manager, and even CEOs listed for available remote positions.  If you desire to be a Football Scout or an Executive Bodyguard, they are listed as remote opportunities as well!  Essentially, the remote work opportunities are becoming limitless.

That begs the ultimate question – how much influence will remote work offerings have on employee retention and recruitment?  I believe the jury has the verdict in their hands.  Odds are, your next interviewees will have remote work questions on their list, and they will be thinking of it as another benefit offered.  Current employees will weigh out any upcoming decision about maintaining remote work as a possible reason to stay or leave.

Times have significantly changed.  With that, organizations are now confronted with decisions to revert back to their normalcy of one year ago, or the new normalcy that employees have grown accustomed to!