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Guest Blog: A sustainable return to work

Erin Iafelice
Person writing with pen and paper

As individual states and cities across the country slowly begin to ease restrictions keeping people at home, businesses must also ask themselves if and how they can safely re-open their offices, stores, and facilities. Employee safety is on top of business executive’s minds these days, both because people’s lives are at stake, but also because rushing back to the way things were pre-COVID-19 could put their businesses at further risk of economic hardship or collapse.

Office occupancy levels and remote work

Millennials now make up the largest generation in the US workforce. Millennials appreciate work-life balance and flexibility, both in terms of work hours and work location. Many companies have long resisted allowing their employees to work remotely for various reasons, ranging from technical and managerial challenges with remote workers and the ability of employees to self-manage their time (leading to productivity concerns). COVID-19 changed all of that overnight, with most companies having no choice but to allow large numbers of their staff to get jobs done outside the office. Remote work now gives many employees proof points to justify their push to be able to work remotely part or all of the time. Gen Z is now entering into the workforce in more significant numbers, and they too appreciate work-life balance and flexibility, but they also crave human interaction with many likely longing to be around more people during their workday.

Varying employee viewpoints will make this already challenging situation harder. Even if employees want to come back into the office (and for many that will genuinely be an if), can employers guarantee employee safety and make those employees feel comfortable with the idea of being around people again? Is remote work even an option for certain types of companies? Will companies need to limit the number of staff in any one business location? Will companies need to invest more in remote work technologies? Will the costs of running a physical location still be justified? These are all critical questions that will be answered in the coming weeks and months.

Employee attitudes and traits

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for companies as they figure out the right balance of on-site and virtual work. Similarly, businesses must now determine the right skills, abilities, attitudes, and traits for employees working on-site vs. those that will be off-site.

What are the right traits that make an excellent remote worker? What are the right attitudes for people that will work together in the same physical location?

Off-site employees will need to be good at managing their own time (or the time of others if they are a manager), being proactive problem solvers, being good communicators, and being focused. On-site employees will need to be conscientious of those around them and be able to follow processes, guidelines, and rules strictly.

Companies will need to revisit and potentially re-write job descriptions to reflect what jobs entail now and what is required to be a good fit.

How to effectively evaluate fit

Many talent acquisition technologies on the market can help you identify a given candidate’s experience and skills as being right for the job, but assessing whether candidates have the proper attitudes and attributes will be more critical than ever. This becomes even more challenging if companies need to hire or hire back at scale, at an expedited rate.

Fast hiring is not enough. You must also hire the right people, which we often talk about when we mention Quality of Hire (QoH). QoH is the hard part because it requires post-hire performance data to honestly and effectively use AI to automate QoH calculations. We’ve spent decades applying leading-edge science and learnings from hiring data to our technology to help companies make more-informed and better hiring decisions.

Whether you are assessing current employees, furloughed employees, or completely new hires and whether they are on-site or remote staff, technology can certainly help. You need to ensure that the technology solutions you are implementing help you make not only faster decisions but also the right ones.