In a matter of months, COVID-19 had transformed the way we live and, of course, the way we work. And while most of us are eager to “get back to normal,” in many ways, there are some changes that are likely here to stay.
When workforces went home in mass in March as offices shutter their doors to protect their teams, many assumed this hiatus would be short-lived. Maybe in a few weeks, employee communications suggested, things will look better and we’ll all be back to business as usual. But weeks have come and (long) gone, and employees and companies alike are realizing just how much can be done remotely.
Over the last decade, remote work has become more common and ever more on trend. But COVID-19 has sent this accelerating trend into overdrive, forcing companies to not only overcome the technical and policy barriers to remote work, but in many cases, embrace it. We’ve jumped ahead about a decade in what might normally have been a slow progression of the remote work trend. Now many are looking to make their work from home arrangements permanent.
What does that mean for hiring managers?
As recently as this winter, hiring managers could use work from home and remote options as a carrot to attract talent. And that created value for both parties. An employee who doesn’t need a physical desk in your office will save you money and space, and the candidate gets a ‘win’ because they’re not commuting every day. Now, though, when you’re making offers, throwing in remote days isn’t going to sweeten the deal. It’s an expected norm.
Further, in many cases, when a candidate was on the market interested in all-remote work options, that candidate was likely to receive a lower base salary. But the time of getting remote candidates for a bargain is over, and COVID-19 ended it.
There are plenty of upsides, though. In 2019, employers were facing slim margins for talent in many cities. But searching for candidates in a remote environment means hiring managers don’t have to restrict their searches to the same talent pools anymore. They can cast a wider net—drawing in candidates who might have let a lengthy commute rule them out previously. And if you’re willing to secure a business license in that state (usually a reasonable fee), you can broaden your talent pools even more.
What does that mean for candidates?
Research shows that remote work increases engagement and productivity and reduces turnover. And candidate-led searches for remote work have jumped at least 42% since March. If you’re in that 42% and you’d like to find a permanent, remote opportunity, there are some things you can do to make yourself stand out.
Hiring managers are going to be on the lookout for self-starters who can work autonomously and have a track record of performing in remote environments. Projects you’ve produced during any period of working from home will help serve as a testimony to your productivity as a remote employee. Not everyone works well in remote environments, so if you can prove you’re a self-starter, you’ll have a leg up in the market, and candidates who have a long history of working remotely are going to be in demand.
Similarly, leaders who have experience managing remote teams are going to carry more value and bring more value to the table on how to help teams through this time and this transition. Hiring managers have a new appreciation for the skills required to motivate teams and deliver complex projects when teams are dispersed remotely, so if you have a track record of effectively leading a remote workforce, make sure that experience is front and center on your resume.
Where employees used to be shy about their interest in work from home options and experience, COVID-19 has forced a lot of the late adopters of remote work practices to catch up quickly. And with only 35% of employees reporting they expect to work full-time in an office again, remote-friendly is going to mean something different when the pandemic ends. We were already headed in the direction of more remote-friendly work practices, but COVID-19 has transformed expectations for what that means in the workplace. And employees and employers should be prepared for this change because there’s no turning back now.