Home vs. office: Why there's such a disconnect between workers and employers

A new report from Braintrust finds only 6% of open positions for knowledge workers are remote; far more roles are office-centric.

Conflict.

Image: iStockphoto/artisteer

Knowledge workers who want to work remotely are not finding many new job listings that fit that requirement, according to a new analysis of 150,000 open jobs. Braintrust did a reality check on the supply and demand of remote-first jobs and the findings weren't good for anyone who wants to work from home: "The Remote Work revolution isn't translating into mass opportunities for remote first knowledge work jobs." 

Only 6% of open roles for knowledge workers are remote first. The report found that far more roles are office-centric instead of remote-first, even within the technology sector. About 29% of knowledge worker job openings are in tech, including data science, product, engineering and design. 

SEE: Should employers pay for home internet during remote work? (TechRepublic)

The top 10 companies hiring the greatest percentage of remote-first talent are:

  1. Maximus
  2. Medallia
  3. Dropbox
  4. Crowdstrike
  5. Stryker
  6. PerkinElmer
  7. New Relic
  8. Equinix
  9. Okta
  10. Intuit

The top 10 companies hiring the most remote-first talent is a more familiar list:

  1. Intuit
  2. Amazon
  3. Facebook
  4. Stryker
  5. New Relic
  6. Allstate Insurance
  7. Salesforce
  8. Carmax
  9. UnitedHealth Group
  10. Thermo Fisher Scientific

The report authors also found that this resistance to remote-first work is strongest in regions with the fewest local tech resources. The South has a strong demand for knowledge workers but the lowest percentage of remote work roles. That means that there are "not enough localized knowledge workers to fill roles, yet they (companies) have a limited remote work strategy to get more talent inside the organization."

Inertia is one reason companies are resisting the move to remote work. Real estate commitments seem to be another part of the puzzle. For leaders who want to support a shift to remote work, here is a look at why the barriers are so strong and what it takes to evolve a company's culture to make the change.

Understanding the opposition to remote work

Vanessa Black, head of people programs and engagement at the cybersecurity company Tanium, said that companies must let go of the past practices to meet the demands of workers now accustomed to flexibility.

"Many companies are trying to retrofit old ways of working to new realities," Black said. "Employees, on the other hand, are ready for the future — they want flexible, remote-first, people-centric careers."

Black sees this shift to remote work as "a once-in-a-generation blank canvas."   

"To support a transition, be clear about your values and the pillars upon which you want to build the future of work," she said. 

Tanium began with a hybrid workforce and shifted to remote-first early in the pandemic and has shaped its strategy around four pillars: Remote-first, flexible, people-centric and sustainable.

SEE: Are your COVID return-to-work communications confusing staff? Take a simpler approach (TechRepublic)

Kevin Valencia, head of people at Livestorm, an end-to-end video engagement platform, said that there is one factor that holds true regardless of the work setting.

"Hard-working employees in the office are hard-working employees remotely and the same goes for lazy employees," he said. "You can't force people to perform if they are not willing to."  

The key to creating effort, engagement, and loyalty from employees is choice and flexibility in how, where, and when people do their work, Black said.

"The best employers cultivate a consistent culture of measuring and rewarding output (results), not input (face time, hours)," she said. "The lever that optimizes output is talented, happy, and motivated employees."

Leading a culture change

Black of Tanium said that a company's culture, not its size, is the biggest influence on the acceptance of remote work. Big companies might have long-standing processes that make it hard to change to a remote-first approach, or large organizations could be leading the way to remote due to an existing group of remote workers in place before the pandemic. Small companies might be more flexible about work locations or want to have the entire team together to establish work habits. 

"In the end, it's not an organization's size but the culture they've built (or want to build) around work that sets them up for competitiveness," Black said.  

Raphael Allstadt, CEO and co-founder of asynchronous video company tl;dv, said that a company's attitude about remote work is shaped by its history.

"Starting from the same office shapes culture and processes in a whole different way than starting remote-first," he said. "The biggest indicator for this is the fact that even distributed organizations at large scale, who started in-office, will prefer their individual headquarters to stay office-centric, while most of their communication streams are already remote-first."

SEE: New CDC guidelines for fully vaccinated people complicates office reentry planning (TechRepublic)

The question for company leaders is whether or not they are willing to adapt their business model to suit the changing climate and if so, how much, he said.

Daniela Sawyer, founder and business development strategist at FindPeopleFast.net, recommends making these cultural changes to support a shift to supporting remote workers:

  • Refining the core value of the company 
  • Building efficient team communication and working relationships among employees 
  • Regular meetings and personal video calls to enquire about the shortcomings, fallbacks and improvements of the employees 
  • Moving people to create meeting content with a clear plan and context

How to make a shift to remote-first

Valencia of Livestorm said that companies need to invest time and money to shift to a remote-first culture. 

"Organizations are built on top of standardized ways of operating, and the bigger you get the more layers you create, the more complex the system gets and therefore you need to add processes to ensure everything works as planned," he said.

Valencia said that both employees and employers are afraid of change. 

SEE: How to build company culture in remote and hybrid work models (TechRepublic) 

"We're afraid of change, especially when there's a risk of breaking a complex system, but what we need to fight is the trust issue it creates between people," he said. "This side effect is what creates a toxic environment, it's not a remote issue, it's a management issue."

Valencia recommends using these best practices to support a shift to more remote work:

  • Keep the chain of command small and lean. 
  • Create weekly rituals to connect individual teams with each other and with the entire company, such as a weekly kick-off or virtual breakfast for a team and a company-wide all-hands meeting.
  • Document everything, keep the information neatly organized and surface the documentation whenever the topic emerges.
  • Keep a good balance between asynchronous and synchronous meetings.

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By Veronica Combs

Veronica Combs is a senior writer at TechRepublic. For more than 10 years, she has covered technology, healthcare, and business strategy. In addition to her writing and editing expertise, she has managed small and large teams at startups and establis...