In the war for talent, offering remote and hybrid work options has become a key strategy for companies to stave off staffing problems. There is widespread demand for tech workers in areas such as cybersecurity, software development and data analysis, with vacancies at record highs. Offering more flexible working patterns has helped many companies win the talent they need. But remote working is not best for every company culture, and some now want their people back in the office full time.
They may have invested huge sums in purpose-built offices which are now being under used and then there is the difficulty of managing a large workforce from a distance. Some believe a more traditional 9 to 5 is the most effective route to success but this is likely to put them at odds with the tech workforce. Our recent white paper The Rise of the Tech Talent Shortage found that 60% of the U.S. tech workers we surveyed wanted to work remotely.
Nevertheless, some of the most respected voices in U.S. tech have begun to question the remote-working culture. Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings has claimed he sees no positives in remote work. Alphabet and Google boss Sundar Pichai said seeing workers in the flesh gives him optimism and Elon Musk has reportedly ordered senior Tesla staff to return to the office for at least 40 hours a week.
Musk said in an email: “Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean *minimum*) of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla. This is less than we ask of factory workers. If there are particularly exceptional contributors for whom this is impossible, I will review and approve those exceptions directly.”
Being back in the office brings an array of benefits for collaboration, maintaining relationships, and preserving corporate culture, which are harder to achieve when working remotely. The challenge is to entice workers back into jobs that may require long commutes and less time at home. Our white paper The Rise of the Tech Talent Shortage provides some powerful insight. Our research suggests that companies need recruitment strategies which include a range of benefits from competitive pay to clear career development pathways and support for diverse workforces.
As Musk suggests in his email, it is also important to recognize that not all workers are the same. Younger people have seized the opportunity to work from home and many see no reason for mandatory attendance in the future. That said, the desire for flexible working among older workers tends to be driven by pressing issues such as elder care, childcare, and personal and mental health. Employers should take these into account when evaluating their working models.
The initial challenge is how to make the office culture as welcoming as possible. As an attraction strategy, companies are offering a wide range of perks – from social celebrations to get people excited about being in the office again, to cash bonuses that can be used for new work clothes, a gym membership or a bike for commuting, as well as yoga classes and free meals. Office design is also being considered with Google, for example, designing spaces that help people connect to the natural world, with plenty of sunlight and greenery.
Our research finds that candidates have very clear ideas about what they want beyond flexible working patters. In a survey by our parent company SThree, 61% of candidates said that rate and/ or salary and benefits were the most important factors for them when looking for a new role. Career development is also hugely important and well-structured plans may well persuade candidates to forfeit a life at home for a more promising future. 68% of U.S. candidates prioritized career development and growth opportunities.
Supporting Diverse Workers
Diverse talent who are not traditionally well represented in the tech sector may also see more benefit in joining an organization that supports them and helps them to thrive, rather than one that simply allows them to work at home. Women, for example, make up just 25% of all those working in IT occupations. Programs such as reverse mentoring, where senior leaders are mentored by those from diverse backgrounds not only give the leaders insight into the experiences of employees, but they give diverse talent a voice on the board and send a clear message that diversity is valued.
Attracting new hires who are prepared to work full time in the office is likely to be a challenge in a tight job market and flexible working continues to offer recruitment advantages. Working with a specialist tech recruiter like Computer Futures that can draw on a network of talented people can help companies attract the talent that suits their culture and avoid inconvenient protected recruitment process.