May 19, 2021

Hirewell Data Insights: Remote Work Trends


Episode Highlights

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We’ve also been getting some variation of the same question from a lot of our clients – what are other companies doing about Remote work and WFH policies? Are companies going back to 100% in the office at some point? There are plenty of headlines about companies going fully remote.  But what does that mean? We were curious about:

  • What was happening pre-COVID?  
  • What are companies doing now? -What is their plan post-COVID?
  • Will policies be the same for everyone?
  • Does company size or industry affect decisions?

So we partnered with Holistic to gather data and look at trends. They are interesting.  And yes, the push for remote work is real. So if your company is thinking that it will be 100% back in the office when this is all said and done – you may be at a severe disadvantage when it comes to hiring or retaining employees. Ryan Brown and Matt Massucci discuss the data and trends. 

Episode Transcript

So Matt, we’re coming up on almost a full year of experiencing COVID and working remotely and when we think back on last March, which feels like forever ago, but also not, you know, that was a pretty crazy month where things really started to kick off with COVID basically spreading across the globe and it was kind of the first time in I don’t know how many years that the entire world was kind of experiencing the same thing at the same time.  And I think it became pretty apparent pretty quickly that from a professional standpoint, everybody that could work virtually was going to have to somehow convert to a virtual work environment, basically overnight.


So, I remember we received like a text on Wednesday evening here at Hirewell saying, “Hey, everybody worked from home. We’re going to just kind of take it week by week and figure out what’s going on.” And, I think for a lot of folks here at Hirewell that was pretty exciting since we were very much an office type of environment, prior to COVID.


We, I think luckily we’re able to transition pretty easily and seamlessly to working remotely,  essentially overnight. And it seemed like we were able to kind of integrate into that new environment pretty quickly. What were your thoughts on essentially having your entire workforce remote, knowing that for many years you wanted us in the office?


Well, yeah so there’s a few points that I’d like to address. I mean, first off it’s crazy that it’s been almost a year.  I think back to like a year ago we had some pretty ambitious plans for what Hirewell was looking to do in 2020. And one of those was to allow for more work from home for our employees, as you said, I was a little bit reluctant.  I’ve been doing this too long and I do feel, or I felt that our team was most productive in a heavily in-office environment. So, you know, I will be honest, like I still vividly remember whatever day that was March 12th or whatever that was, you know, watching ESPN  and seeing the Jazz game get canceled on the spot because Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID. And then you see on the news, Tom Hanks who tested positive and like, I’m like, all right, I guess we’d have to start working from home.


I was still naive enough to think that it was going to be a two or three week thing. So the gravity of it hadn’t really, you know hit yet. It’s just something that kind of transpired over the course of a few months. So, you know, the work from home, honestly for me was became secondary. I mean, I think for us, it was more about how do we survive  and ultimately grow and  pivot as an organization right?


I mean, when you’re a recruiting firm the first thing I kind of  think about is our clients can actually hire and are they going to need us? And, you know, for a month or two, that was a little bit touch and go. It was a little bit of a scary time and it was more about, it was less of a worry about where people are working but more about kind of how are we going to just, you know, we’re going to make it through this.


As time progressed and it was clear that this was not going to be just a two or four weeks. You know kind of blip, it was going to be a much longer endeavor. We  adapted as an organization. It was impressive how well our team, you know, shifted towards that.  I think what helped is as time went on, we got a lot busier and I think that’s more, that’s more of the issue that I always have is if you’re busy, of course you can work from anywhere.


That’s the mindset that we’ve always had and if you’re able to produce and you’re able to kind of do and hit numbers and expectations we have, great, do it from anywhere. And this just kind of really hammered home that point. But yeah, I think as the market, you know improved, like kind of the question really became you know, what are other companies doing?


Like we’re at an interesting, you know, spot in the world where we talked to hundreds of different companies at any given time about what their hiring plans are, what they’re looking to do. And, you know, we’ve always seen that trend of companies asking us, well what are your clients doing? What are different organizations doing to address this?


And you know, we wanted to make it less of an anecdotal. Well, yeah we’re seeing companies let people work from anywhere or they’re starting to go remote or they’re canceling their leases and they’re going a hundred percent remote. We wanted to  try to inject more real data into this.


And so that’s kind of what we set on to do back in probably late October, early November. Because we worked with holistic to develop  a survey to collect some information. And obviously that’s what I’m excited to talk to you about the trends we’re seeing, where we see things going and, you know, we’re really looking at things sort of from two lenses, you know, both remote work and then work from home, which, you know, obviously there’s a lot of overlap in those two things, but I consider it remote work being, you know, you really have no plans. Like the company may not have an office or the vast majority of their employees are never going to be in that office.


So those are places I consider remote first.  Then there’s companies that just have, you know, much more relax work from home policies. And I would put Hirewell in that second bucket where you know, again, pretty much all of our employees are still in one of our major markets. And then, you know, the expectation is that they’ll, you know, at some point they’ll come back to the office, sometimes. We don’t know kind of what or how, but that’s kind of what we’re looking at.


So again, it’s looking at those two lenses, remote work versus work from home. And then what were companies doing pre COVID? What are they doing now? And then what is their plan? You know, even when things like, you know, back to more normal. 


 Yeah. So at the end of last year, like you said, we started to push out the survey to our various clients and different companies.


And I think at this point we’ve surveyed almost 70 different organizations across a number of different industries as well. So based on the survey, what were companies doing pre COVID with regards to that remote work piece and the work from home policies? 


Yeah, it was interesting numbers. I mean, so, you know, our client base skews pretty heavily tech. So it tends to be  companies where, you know, the vast majority of their employees are software engineers or salespeople, and again, roles where you can kind of do anywhere. The numbers were interesting. So you know, we saw it from the, you know, the remote work perspective, pre COVID, roughly 15% of the companies were  what we can consider remote first. So either people are a hundred percent remote or, you know, greater than 50% were remote. So roughly 15% were remote first before, you know, what we saw were, you know, like the work from home, like 20% had no work from home policies or like, I shouldn’t say their work from home policy did not allow employees to work from home.


You know, 66% had occasional work from home.  I guess sort of what I expected where sort of what it felt like, you know, there may be allowances for work from home  but not heavily. You know, again, much much more onsite was kind of where things were back then and you know, of companies that had remote policies or heavy remote workforces but they were kind of few and far between 


Sure. So how did COVID then impact the remote work across different companies? And I guess to get even more granular with that, how much did company size or even industry kind of impact or change those numbers? 


Yeah. And I think that was sort of, you know, so that’s what we consider it in the period now. Right.


Where I’ve seen those first couple of months you know, just about everybody was working from home. But then I think, you know, coming around like June or so of 2020 is where companies started opened back up. But again, where it went from, you know, 15% being, you know, remote first or heavily remote is now 84% of companies that we surveyed are all remote or heavily remote and I’ll throw Hirewell into that bucket. I am, you know, shooting today’s video in our Hirewell office. I thought it’d be, I guess I try to come down one day a week. I’m one of two people here today. So I thought that’d be a little ironic to do a work from home, you know, video shoot from our office.


But yeah, so again, roughly 84%, and again, obviously having it be such a heavily skewed tech, you know workforce that we’re, you know, that we pulled, I think that’s kind of the numbers I expected.  Where we saw some numbers that they weren’t was, some companies were in the manufacturing space or  financial services were two areas that we saw like a little bit more  insistence on people being on site.


Got it. So hopefully at some point there will be a post COVID work environment. Fingers crossed that sometime soon, now that vaccines are starting to come out. So post COVID, what do you think work from home is going to look like or like are companies planning on returning to the office or will there be more long-term flexibility for folks?


Yeah. And that was ultimately like, this was the crux of what we were trying to measure for companies right. We’re curious kind of what the expectations were right now, but it’s more of what’s the plan next? And you know, the question we were getting from a lot of companies is, “Do we go a hundred percent remote?”


You know, you see a lot of stories in the Cranes or in the newspaper of companies  abandoning their office space and trying to sublease it and just not having an office space. And so, again, there was nothing real tangible from that. So we wanted to try to pull in some more hard facts and, you know, it was interesting. So as I said, 15% of companies pre COVID were remote first are all remote. That number jumped at 35%. So it was a roughly 250% increase in companies that are going heavily, heavily remote. That’s a big number. So, you know, again, you’re talking one out of three are going that route.


 The other piece is, you know, so there’s a huge trend in, you know, again, heavily remote, but then the second one is kind of the blended model and, you know, kind of what I think Hirewell will end up doing is, kind of that work from home as you see necessary. We’re going to keep our office space, you know, no, we’re not going to double our lease size by any means.


But we don’t want to abandon the culture. We want to allow kind of that central point where people can collaborate and work together but, you know, it’s taking a bit of a common sense approach. And so, the numbers we saw is that  66% of companies allowed occasional work from home pre COVID.


That number actually dropped to I think it was like 58%, but it dropped because of how much people are swinging the other direction. So again, 35% are saying a hundred percent remote or, you know, or close to it. And you know, the other key drop, as I mentioned, so, you know, 20% of companies allowed no work from home before this, that number is dropping to 7%.


So that’s again, 65% decrease in, you know, companies that are saying, no, you can’t work from home ever. And I think that’s kind of the trends we’re seeing. So there’ll be some interesting questions that still need to be answered unfortunately. Obviously the other piece we hold companies on is sort of why, how are they making decisions?


And also are they making policies that are standard across the organization? And the one trend we saw is that most companies are not going to the one size fits all, like everybody’s remote. I think it was like roughly 65% of companies want to have kind of policies vary based on either job function, seniority, where people live and things like that.


So they’re really taking a case by case approach to solving that. And, you know, and I think that’s kind of how it’s going to go and that’s how it’s going to go for the next six months. I mean, I think we, as Hirerwell opened our office up back in June, but I think there maybe then six people that have come here at any regular occurrence. You know, hopefully in the summer, like, that’ll start to pick up a little bit, but we’re going to have to really dig into what people want to do because you know, we’ll have to make some business decisions of what we do for our office space and how we manage it. I look at kind of what are our monthly rent, you know, rent paid and it’s seems kind of nuts that we’re paying that much for two people that work in the office.


 I have not been back in the office yet.


 Luckily I had somebody to drop off my laptop way back when be cause I did not take it home that Wednesday before everything happened, but eventually we’ll get back in there and it’ll be good. So I guess Matt, my final question for you is, you know, you’re in a really unique position where you’ve actually led a company that was primarily in the office pre-COVID and then, you know, found a way for your organization to still be successful in this completely virtual world.


What kind of thoughts would you share with other leaders that are maybe still skeptical about virtual environments or allowing for remote flexibility post COVID, if you know their business can sustainably kind of support that type of environment ? 


You know, it’s a good question. I think there’s a few  factors you have to kind of take a common sense approach. I mean, for me, it was always the fear of, well, what are people going to be doing? Are they going to be as productive? And obviously like the transformation that happened, you know, just so quickly, like that fear was taken away because there’s nothing we could do about it.


And so you’re forced into it.  So you have to look at that, like, is your business truly impacted or was it just your way of thinking? I think the second part that is important is, you know, attracting talent, right? I mean, we’re a recruiting firm.


And so, you know, you have a policy or you have sort of a  set of beliefs that doesn’t match the market, you are artificially shrinking the talent pool and you know, whether we apply it to Hirewell or our client’s like, why would you go into a fight for top talent and make yourself significantly less attractive to the people you want to hire?


And, you know, you look at like, I think what made a lot of this easier is some of the big tech players like the Googles and the Facebooks of the world, like so quickly went to heavily remote and it just, it dictates everybody else. You’re fighting for the same talent. Those companies are trying to hire your best people.


So they’ve got a better brand name, their stock was worth more than your organization, like it’s already hard enough to compete with them. If they’re going to then, you know, pay your people well and let them work anywhere, like you don’t stand a chance. So you just have to take that sort of approach.


And then just again, it’s that common sense approach. 


I don’t have any other questions, but anything else that you want to add in? 


No, I think that sums it up.  The survey is still open. Our plan is, you know, we’d love to double the respondents and get up to 150 people and then just continually utilize this data to help leaders, heads of HR and business leaders drive these sorts of decisions. And again, everybody wants to sort of compare what other people are doing so it’s continuing to be a big focus for us at Hirewell, and then, our partner company Holistic to capture this information. So if you’re interested in seeing the data yourself,  we’ll  share the link to submit your information. You’ll be able to download the results of what our survey found.


And you know, we’d love to talk to you about both. The numbers we’re seeing, the trends we have as well as, you know, how we can help you find that great talent. 


Awesome. Love it. Thanks Matt.


 Awesome, thanks Ryan. Talk to you later. 


Have a good one.


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