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While much has been theorized and written about the past year on the viability of long-term remote work, one thing is for certain — it will play a critical role in the forthcoming war for talent. Thus, organizations across the globe are in the process of calibrating their workforce strategy that will best encapsulate their culture and values.
Most companies will likely strike a balance between office work and remote work. This was a main finding in Mercer’s “2021 Flexible Working Policies and Practices Survey,” which revealed that 70% of a group of 510 employers with remote work plans in place are opting for a hybrid work model.
Ravin Jesuthasan, global transformation leader at Mercer, said this data reveals that employers are responding to feedback from the employee talent market.
“The genie is out of the bottle on flexibility,” Jesuthasan said. “Employees are increasingly demanding it and companies that do not attempt to meet their talent where they are may find it difficult to attract and retain talent, particularly for areas where there is a shortage of skills.”
Fewer employers are willing to jump into the remote work deep end just yet, though. Mercer’s survey found 6% of employers are planning for a virtual-first or fully remote model while 20% are planning for a predominantly office-based model.
There is a risk in this model, Jesuthasan said. Organizations requiring employees to work solely in the office are likely to be met with resistance and ultimately high turnover in what is a tight labor market.
“Flexibility will likely have a high impact on an organization’s ability to retain talent; if an employee isn’t satisfied with an employers’ flexible working plans, they will likely consider other companies that better meet their needs,” he said.
WorldatWork research from its “Workplace Well-Being Trends 2021” found that productivity was actually more positively impacted during pandemic-induced remote work. Of the 513 employers surveyed, 53% reported no change in productivity, while 43% reported an increase or significant increase in productivity. Just 4% of companies reported a decrease in productivity.
This is among the list of reasons why more employers are comfortable incorporating more remote work into their operations. Organizations are also able to cast a wider net by embracing remote work, which translates to a more diverse hiring pool, Jesuthasan said.
Mercer’s data revealed that nearly all (97%) employers plan to implement post-pandemic changes to flexible working. Almost half (47%) are actively developing a strategy now and 23% of employers are in the process of implementation or have already implemented plans. Full-time, on-site employees will account for 40% of the average workforce among 430 of the employers surveyed, while an average of 29% will consist of those working remotely one to two days per week.
Ultimately, employers should stay agile when it comes to the topic of remote work, Jesuthasan said. A strict policy will likely do more harm than good when it comes to attracting and retaining talent and it has many unintended side effects.
“Flexible working is about more than remote working. Inclusive flexibility ensures that all jobs can flex when needed,” Jesuthasan said. “Given the massive challenges employers are facing in attracting and retaining workers, options such as flexible schedules or compressed workweeks can be a huge differentiator. Progressive companies are not just challenging when and where work is done but also how the work is done, who does it (including automation and gig workers) and what the work is.”