White-collar Industries Eye the Remote Work Advantage

July 9, 2020
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Author: Glenn Hunter

Of all the changes brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, few have been more far-reaching than the work-from-home (WFH) trend. Thanks to widespread lockdown measures, as many as half of all U.S. employees are now said to be operating with remote work statuses. And the trend is expected to continue even after the pandemic ends and the economy recovers.

The ability to work remotely has benefited companies and industries dependent on white-collar workers.

Organizations and employees alike have taken note of remote work benefits, from potentially reduced costs for physical space and more geographic diversity in hiring to initial increases in productivity. These benefits, however, have accrued mainly in certain white-collar industries paying higher wages to better educated workers.

WFH, on the other hand, is not a viable option for tens of millions of employees in the Retail, Manufacturing, Construction, Healthcare, Transportation and Leisure and Hospitality industries. To do their jobs, emergency responders, delivery workers, pharmacists, hotel maids, carpenters, restaurant servers and grocery store employees obviously need to be on-site.

Other industries employing vast numbers of workers have no such constraints. Leading the WFH charge have been companies in fields like Accounting and Finance, Consulting, Customer Service and Sales and Marketing. The Technology sector, not surprisingly, has blazed the trail.

Facebook, which says 50% of its employees could be working remotely in five to 10 years, plans to step up remote hiring by building “hiring labs” in Atlanta, Denver and Dallas. Twitter (and sibling company Square) has given many of its workers the option of working from home indefinitely. Other remote-friendly tech organizations include Amazon, Microsoft, Cisco, Dell, Hubspot, Oracle, Slack, Shopify and CoinBase.

Related: Eight Ways Recruiters Can Improve Their Virtual Interviewing Skills

Education firms like Pearson and K12 have also embraced the trend, as have Insurance companies such as Humana, USAA, United Healthcare and Nationwide. Nationwide, moreover, said that after transitioning to a 98% WFH model during the pandemic, it had decided to close several of its offices. Nationwide CEO Kirt Walker stated, “Our associates and technology team have proven to us that we can serve our members and partners with extraordinary care, with a large portion of our team working from home.”

Salary Comparisons Help Employers Save Important Money

Organizations have found that diversifying their hiring geographically, thanks to the remote work trend, can also help reduce their overall talent costs. In May, for instance, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that for the company’s remote workers, living in areas with lower costs of living, should expect to be paid less.

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To identify where organizations can afford to source remote workers most efficiently, LaborIQ® by ThinkWhy identifies recommended and median salaries for more than 19,000 job titles across U.S. metros. For example, this intuitive tool shows that an HR manager with a B.A. degree and two to four years of experience would earn $95,125 in Austin, Texas, and $78,854 in Salt Lake City. So, hiring the manager in Utah, rather than the one in Texas, could save an organization $16,271 annually.

Other benefits of WFH may include a boost in productivity. While some managers feared that productivity might suffer as a result of widespread remote work, many companies believe productivity has remained steady or actually increased among remote workers. The New York Times reported that Microsoft CEO, Satya Nadella, who “lamented the loss of in-person interactions” with teleworking, nonetheless said that productivity at the company is “ticking up.” Similarly, Fran Katsoudas, the chief people officer at Cisco – where most employees are working from home – told the newspaper, “We’re seeing an increase in productivity.”

Still, not all organizations are convinced. Some believe the WFH trend could lead to a loss of innovation over time. Others question how well new hires can be integrated into a company with everyone working from home.

Is It All in the Mix?

As a result, some business leaders are advocating a flexible “hybrid” model, mixing WFH with a physical space where employees can come together when needed. “People will still gather for work,” Perkins & Will design director, Brent Capron, told Allwork.Space, an online publication. “But the amount of time you work in proximity with others, and what your workweek looks like – I see that to be the biggest culture shift moving forward.”