Recently, I’ve heard from a number of job seekers who shared similar tales of contact with employers who had expressed interest in hiring them right around the time the pandemic took hold and changed everything. In their follow-ups post shut-down, they each conveyed being told: “I’m sorry. We’re not ready to commit to any new hires at the moment as we’re waiting to see how things play out from the virus.” Here it is, 10+ months after the pandemic arrived in the U.S., and these same employers are still dragging their heels with potential new hires. I want to believe that these companies really did plan to hire these people, but because of the pandemic, it seems many employers were afraid to make a commitment.
One of the major employment considerations that has been brought clear through the last ten months is that in many cases, it doesn’t actually matter where the job is performed. Thousands of corporations are realizing (if they hadn’t pre-pandemic) that their staffs can in many cases operate effectively from remote locations. Office workers, knowledge workers, programmers, designers, drafters, administrative personnel, customer service and other employees, with the aid of the proper technology and the proper mind-set, can all perform their required duties from just about anywhere.
Have you spoken to anyone performing a customer service role of late? They are some of the best examples of work being accomplished remotely. They are also among the best examples of what can go wrong. It’s not that difficult for a company to set an employee up for remote access to necessary databases for CRM (customer resource management), technological info such as product manuals, specifications and FAQ’s, along with sales and credit management content, or providing them with computers and other tools. The problem is if the employee has access to consistent hi-speed network bandwidth, especially if they’re using net-based telephony to facilitate communication with customers and far flung coworkers. If their connections and technology aren’t reliable, their effectiveness at their jobs diminishes quickly, as does their motivation.
No matter how much training they have, remote workers are at the mercy of their internet and telephone service providers, the quality of which can vary dramatically from employee to employee, whether they live in an urban center or hillside village. In some cases employers have made the investment to provide their remote staff with dedicated business internet connections that are faster, more secure and more reliable than a typical consumer-grade home connection.
Working remotely poses its own set of issues that don’t usually occur in an office environment. Pets, children and family wanting or needing attention are among the biggest distractions from productivity, for some. Others thrive in this kind of controlled chaos. They believe their quality of life is better working from home. Certainly the commute is shorter. They have more time to spend with their families, working on personal projects (not during working hours, duh!).
But for others, working from home is difficult at best. For all kinds of reasons they can not avoid the constant distractions of working from home. Their concentration drifts and their ability to focus on work-related tasks is severely impacted.
And there are others who are not cut out for working from home or remotely from shared work spaces with other remote workers not necessarily from their same company. These employees may be very good at what they do, but they may not have the discipline to work without supervision. They may be insecure about their work and prefer having people around to bounce ideas off, or get confirmation about a project’s details or reassurance that they are proceeding correctly. Even when you don’t need their assistance, it’s nice to know others are around if you do need them.
Many large corporations have already made the commitment to keep their workers away from the office at least until the middle of 2021, in hopes that by then COVID 19 will be under control, the vaccine is available, and people are comfortable working in relatively close proximity again.
But is this any excuse to not hire new people?
In some cases employers are keeping their workers remote, but they are not happy or comfortable with the concept. Managers like to keep close tabs on their subordinates, seeing project progress with their own eyes, preferably up close and personal. It is easier for them to feel they can justify salaries and expenses when the contact is close enough to monitor the progress and status of projects. But if a company needs new blood, they should hire. It’s that simple. The tools exist for managers to easily communicate and monitor the progress of their distant employees, enough so that at this point in time their concerns are relatively unnecessary.
Building trust between management and employee, regardless of physical proximity, doesn’t happen overnight. But if an employer enters into a relationship with a new employee based on fear and distrust because they need to work remotely from each other, the relationship and the quality of the employee’s work are bound to suffer, possibly irreparably. Regardless of where your staff is situated, if you need new blood, hire! In this bizarre period of our lives, still in the midst of the pandemic, no one, including job seekers, deserves to be left waiting for people to make up their minds. Job search is hard enough without a pandemic; employer’s insecurity shouldn’t make it harder.