Eight months ago, in the early days of the pandemic shutdown, working remotely was widely seen as a life-saver for both employers and employees, as it allowed both to continue to get their work done and get paid. While far from perfect, the rapid de-officing movement exceeded expectations by cobbling together a mix of video conferencing, emails, cloud-based apps and virtual private networks on short notice.
Fast forward to 2021, with COVID vaccinations gradually getting underway and hope for economic stabilization on the rise — the work from home (WFH) phenomenon is also growing up, and version 2.0 looks set to undergo some tweaks and changes rather than outright discontinuation.
Of course, the concerns differ from company to company, but here are five areas of WFH discussion currently being considered for 2021 and beyond:
Location, Location, Location
When it comes to WFH, where you actually work and the industry you work in could be the largest determinant of whether your remote stint is about to end or be extended, in some cases permanently, such as with Twitter and Facebook. For employees in high-cost locales like New York or California, the chance to work remotely can augment a major lifestyle change and is, unsurprisingly, showing up as a primary consideration for job seekers.
According to a study by Zillow, nearly 5 percent — or about 2 million — renters in the U.S. can now be homeowners somewhere else in the country instead of being priced-out in their present market, thanks to remote work. While some location-agnostic companies are fully on board with the benefits of WFH, such as the ability to fish in a larger talent pool, other companies clearly are not.
Show Me The Money
As much as some individuals are up for working from home anywhere that has a good WiFi connection, employers are increasingly aware of the remote dividend that some workers would pocket if they moved away from an urban-based HQ and are considering salary adjustments.
So far, the pay analysis of remote work, especially among West Coast tech companies, has literally been all over the board.
On the one hand, Reddit announced there would be no pay cuts no matter where its 600 employees reside, while Facebook and Twitter said they would consider 10 percent or higher pay adjustments for employees who left the cost-crushing lifestyle of the San Francisco Bay area. At the same time, companies like Stripe have gone as far as offering people $20,000 if they relocate, in exchange for a 10 percent pay cut, undoubtedly creating a complex calculus of consideration for its 2,500 employees.
Work From HERE
There are those companies and executives who simply want this whole darn COVID thing to end as soon as possible and to just get back to normal 9 to 5 in the office the way things used to be. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is perhaps the best-known WFH critic, telling the Wall Street Journal last fall that he saw no benefits from working from home.
“I don’t see any positives. Not being able to get together in person, particularly internationally, is a pure negative,” Hastings said, adding that he’d like his own staff to return to the office “12 hours after a vaccine is approved.”
Although there are now several approved vaccines, Netflix has more recently acknowledged that it will likely be more like the end of the year before enough people have received the shot to get their employees back on campus. Even so, Hastings has predicted a 4 days in, 1 day out post-COVID work schedule will probably become the norm.
With 1,200 remote employees in 77 countries, few companies have been able to achieve what WordPress has when it comes successfully running what it calls a “distributed workforce,” which is a far cry from a bunch of people doing Zoom calls in their pajamas or a hammock. In fact, WordPress was remote before remote was cool, and has allowed employees to work wherever they want since the company was founded in 2005.
“As one of the early pioneers of a distributed workplace, we’ve learned a lot about what makes this type of professional environment successful,” Lori McLeese, WordPress’ Global head of HR, said.
McLeese said when it comes to the company’s philosophy and culture, things like project management and planning are just different.
“We believe in asynchronous communication to give our employees flexibility — especially with people based all over the world — and we have a culture of launching and iterating so that what we are executing is constantly being improved,” McLeese added. “And this isn’t just applied to our product development, but our operational processes as well.”
CIOs & Cybersecurity
As much as remote workers kept many a business afloat during the dark days of the pandemic, a recent survey of 350 US-based CIO and CTOs done by .tech domains showed some pretty distinct concerns among the I-T set.
In particular, the survey showed corporate tech leaders were almost split right down the middle between favoring WFH and wanting everybody back to the office ASAP. At the same time, the survey showed a 3-way tie when it came to top fears, with about 20 percent of respondents citing cybersecurity/cyber attacks, lack of support from leadership to make changes needed to adapt, and finally, the inability to retain top talent.
One thing that 85 percent tech leaders agreed on was that they planned to more closely track remote employee productivity and performance this year.
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