Last week, I got a call from my Mom after her second trip to the emergency room in a matter of weeks. She needed another surgery – this time on her right hand. The catch? She was still recovering from surgery on her left hand due to very severe rheumatoid arthritis. In a week, she would be trying to function with casts on both hands. After having surgery on one hand in September, I could only imagine what she and my step-dad were going through so I talked to my (remote) team and now, I’m currently in Tampa helping out for the next two weeks while she has both casts.
My team is amazing and 100% supportive of my shift in schedule and has been flexible with meeting times. I realize just how lucky that makes me. It also has me thinking a lot about remote work. Thankfully, I’ve been working remotely for over 5 years now and have the flexibility to be here as my Mom needs the help but if I didn’t, I doubt I could have been here. I’m also getting married in August and if I don’t take the fiance on a honeymoon, I might not be married for long. In all seriousness, I just would not have been able to take this kind of time if I needed to take 2 entire weeks of PTO.
I’m not the only person taking care of a parent these days. In fact, more than 1 in 6 Americans working full-time or part-time report assisting with the care of an elderly or disabled family member, relative, or friend. That’s about 22% of the working population doing double time, working a full time gig while also being a full time caregiver at home. They estimate that these people spend at least 15 hours a week care-giving in addition to their full time jobs.
I’ve only been here a few days and I can’t imagine adding a commute to this routine. Between the constant up and down, sleepless nights, anxiety about what’s next and the hustle – it’s exhausting. You never know what’s going to happen next or what the day will bring. A business suit and a 30 minute drive twice a day would feel like the last straw.
This kind of data points to a trend that will disrupt the status quo of work. As more employees become caregivers, something will have to shift. The generation just starting work now or heading into the workplaces of tomorrow dont’ have the money saved to throw cash at the problem or hire help so inevitably, the work will be left to them while they’re trying to build their career. More people than ever will need flexibility and that’s going to play into how candidates make decisions about joining your company and employees are retained. Sooner than later, planting your heels and saying “no one can work remotely” is going to cost you.
Inevitably, every company that has taken a firm stance has some excuse about why not so, mostly to entertain myself, I wanted to share some of these ideas with supporting GIFs for a laugh and to help you think about the shift and how you might create more flexibility or go remote to accommodate future talent who won’t settle for less.
1.We won’t innovate. Two words for you: internet and phone. It’s possible to do a working call and to come up with great ideas without staring at your boss across a stale conference room table.
2. But, we just bought this ping pong table! Culture! Yes, building remote culture is hard but not impossible. Get rid of the space or keep a smaller floor plan. Cut costs. Use that money to celebrate and develop things that actually create the outcomes you’re looking to achieve like retention and growth. Know what people care about more than ping pong? Making money and taking care of their families.
3. People love coming to the office! Liar. And if you’re all “they told me they like coming in,” they’re lying to you.
4. We’re increasing productivity. This is a lie. In the interviews I’ve done with remote employees, they consistently mention that they work longer hours and feel more trusted by their managers. Trust often directly translates to retention.
5. I’m scared of change! OK so they may not *say* this but it’s the real reason. Companies are scared of the consequences to adapting new trends. Leaders who can’t trust themselves enough to hire people will always revert to control mechanisms, including forcing you to drive a car or take a train to work every day so that they can keep an eye on you.
Ultimately, remote might not work for every company but it’s in the best interest of companies to at least try and get telecommuting right — because your employees won’t have a problem moving to a company that does.
Katrina Kibben is the Founder and Principal Consultant of Three Ears Media. For most of Katrina’s career, she has been a marketer living in a recruiter’s world – listening to both sides of the talent equation to understand the real issues and find solutions for engaging and hiring better people. Today, she uses her technical marketing know-how and way with words to help both established and emerging brands develop and deliver content that fuels smart recruitment marketing that makes the right people apply.
Katrina has written for Monster.com, HR.com, RecruitingDaily and many other digital publications. She is a recognized leader in recruiting and employer branding who speaks regularly at conferences around the world.