by Regan Bodily
Student, Brigham Young University-Idaho
Unsure if your college’s marketing and PR team should continue to work remotely after the pandemic has settled?
You’re not alone.
Working remotely is not new to businesses and employees; however, before the COVID-19 pandemic, only 3.4% of the employed U.S. population was working remotely, compared to 44% of the workforce in that boat now.
Operating in a remote-work environment was new ground for a lot of businesses in March 2020. By the following May, businesses had either adapted or gone under. There was no way around it.
Although forced, working remotely has turned out to benefit employees and employers alike. Let’s break it down.
Studies have shown that with a full remote or flex option, there is higher retention among employees. Companies that are adapting through innovative means and adding WFH options are discovering this and other benefits, including employees staying loyal to one company throughout their career, as well as climbing the ladder to give the company the leadership it needs.
Employees tend to be more hesitant in striving for higher roles in an organization when remote or flex options for work aren’t given to them. This impacts employees’ professional progress and derails talent for top-level executive positions.
The problem may even deepen for women in the workforce. To illustrate why retention is higher among women as well, some facts:
1. Over 40% of women quit their jobs and do not return to work postpartum. This is a bigger deal in fields dominated by women such as public relations – and all the more reason to adapt.
2. In some cases, moms are still happy to work full 40-hour weeks from home, especially because the work can be spread out according to their family’s needs throughout the day.
Grace Kendall, director of strategic marketing and community engagement at Peninsula College in Washington and NCMPR District 7 director, shared her story with me explaining that she was one year away from her 10 years with a company when her son was born. They didn’t have room in their on-campus childcare facility, so Kendall put in her resignation.
“If I could’ve taught online classes or had that flexible work-from-home schedule, I absolutely would’ve stayed on,” she said. “And I would’ve had a completely different trajectory for my career.
It wasn’t just her career trajectory that felt the impact.
“All of those years of not putting money towards retirement. All those years of stepping out of the job track and then stepping back in. Now I’m 10 years older than a lot of my colleagues because I stepped out.”
With work at home and home at work, there is no “clock-in, clock-out” commitment. Although that may make it sound like employees are working less from home, as they have no obligation to work more than the required time, studies have shown that employees are actually working more hours than they were when attending an office daily.
This remote work makes business sense. The 2017 Gallup study proved that employees who work from home work longer hours, average four more hours per week, are more engaged in their work, and have lower absenteeism. And, surprisingly, only 3% of those in this position have reported feeling “burnt out.” Compare that to those working in an office, where 23% report feeling burnt out more often than not with an additional 44% reporting feeling burnt out sometimes.
Burnout can be extremely detrimental to a company or organization, so it’s imperative that leaders take steps now to reduce and manage burnout for their employees.
“It’s not uncommon for us to work at night or really early in the morning, if there’s an announcement about snow or weather. We were already kind of on the clock even if we weren’t in the office, so it seemed arbitrary to have those barriers of ‘you’re at work, you’re in the office,’ but yet still continue to work nights and weekends or at least be on call,” Kendall explains.
In a virtual world, workers have everyone and everything at our fingertips. Why wouldn’t a college’s public relations or marketing team take advantage of that and look for the most qualified person possible, despite where they live? Remote work allows a greater opportunity for businesses to find their most truly qualified candidate. It has also been made evident that when management is encouraged to work remotely and are in all different parts of the country, new ideas are discovered and new solutions are realized.
When expanding your organization’s job pool, you improve the quality of the institution. Not to mention, “a significant portion of the workforce will be eligible to retire in the next five years,” so businesses will need to do more to attract the younger generation to work for them.
Remote work not only cuts costs and saves time for both organizations and employees, it also helps the environment. Fortune 500 companies, such as Verizon, tested out this theory and its benefits and found that “over six months, the employees avoided 10,680 hours (445 days) of commuting time. By March 2011, they avoided driving 62,000 miles. Fewer than 200 Verizon employees saved more than 18,000 gallons of fuel through teleworking in just six months.”
To put it more into perspective, when a manager or employee is allowed to convert their commute time to productive work time instead, then both employee and company become more effective and productive.
Going Back to the Office
There are two sides to every good argument – and there are benefits of returning to the office.
In an office environment, teams tend to experience better communication. Employees can speak up and confirm information in a quick second or two sitting next to their co-workers. Whereas, when working from home, there’s more room for miscommunication across all the regular channels of email, Slack, Google Hangout Chats, Discord, social – the list goes on.
Because of a better communication environment, it’s easier for teams at a particular business to collaborate and socialize, too. This setting allows for more authentic and natural communication. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, the second and third levels we crave as humans are safety needs and belongingness and love. Encouraging employees back in an office can fulfill those needs, creating social interactions and a sense of belonging and safety outside the family unit.
It’s time to weigh the options and consider if remote hiring is a viable, long-term solution. Between the freedoms, flexibility, environmental benefits and higher retention, working from home feels like a permanent fixture – and benefit – for employees.
Regan Bodily is a student at BYU-Idaho working toward a degree in communications. She’s teamed up with Ben Munson and the rest of the NCMPR staff as part of a practicum course to learn more about client relations and content marketing.