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New workplace divide: Remote versus office jobs in San Francisco Bay Area

Opinion

Andrew McNeil (andrewm@arrowbenefitsgroup.com, 707-992-3789) and Rosario Avila (rosarioa@arrowbenefitsgroup.com, 707-992-3795) are senior benefits advisers at Arrow Benefits Group in Petaluma.

Many businesses are itching to get back to a pre-pandemic normal.

The question you must ask is will our teams physically returning be a good thing for my business long-term?

Bringing people back to the office post-pandemic will be one of the most challenging decisions a business will face this and next year. Since the beginning of this crisis, we’ve been debating this tough shift in workplace culture.

When speaking with clients about their plan to bring people back to the office, we first ask why.

We don’t necessarily believe that it is a bad idea, but we want you to think about how the past year has changed your business and the workplace desires of your valuable employees.

Now is an opportunity to design a new normal for the future of the company. A whopping 94% of businesses surveyed by Mercer said that productivity was the same as or higher than it was before the pandemic, even with their employees working remotely.

Decreased productivity?

You may be tempted to return to a pre-COVID normal, but should you?

That would mean five days per week, eight hours per day in the office, water cooler chats, hour long lunch breaks, and even office drama.

Statistics prove remote work combats these enemies of productivity. Employers think they want to return to the work structure we had prior to the pandemic.

But as people who are paid to help an employer maximize talent attraction and retention, we see that employers who really think the same old structure will position them for success long-term are indeed missing the mark.

Future talent attraction and retention

"People have experienced the power of work-life flexibility, enhancing the quality of their lives, their satisfaction," says Tsedal Neeley, professor at Harvard Business School and author of the book "Remote Work Revolution: Succeeding From Anywhere."

According to the Morning Consult survey reported by Bloomberg, 39% of adult workers say they would consider quitting if their bosses weren't flexible about working from home. It is important to note that 49% of the respondents who said they would consider quitting were from the millennial and Gen Z generations – one of the most fresh, valuable, and innovative generations in the workforce right now, and the future of your company.

A survey from FlexJobs, which polled people who worked remotely during the pandemic, found that 58% of those surveyed would "absolutely" look for a new job if they could not continue remote work in their current role.

Only 2% of respondents said they wanted to work in the office full time.

The same survey also found that the main benefits of remote work included cost savings by avoiding the office commute. More than a third of those surveyed said they saved at least $5,000 a year by working from home.

We’ve had many conversations with recruiters expressing their frustrations around job placement as some of the most qualified candidates do not live in the Bay Area, while the available jobs require them to be in the office.

Returning to work and the impact on employee mental health

Studies are pointing to a drop in employee mental health as companies reopen and make return to office plans. According to the Mental Health Index from Total Brain and the National Alliance of Healthcare Purchaser Coalitions, there is a 29% increase in PTSD among all workers, a 40% increase in anxiety among older workers and a 25% increase in stress among women.

We have seen this first-hand over the past 18 months: Employees are suffering with their mental health both while working remotely and trying to manage the stress of, “What’s going to happen next?” expecting their employers to help them. It’s vital for employers to realize this and make sure they are designing benefits programs and work circumstances around current employee needs.

Become an employer of choice

Your company culture is at the heart of the workplace decisions you make now. Based on the statistics listed above, and what is seen in the marketplace, we believe that employers who adapt quickly to the post-COVID world will become employers of choice.

So, the question now becomes what kind of employer do you want to be?

Opinion

Andrew McNeil (andrewm@arrowbenefitsgroup.com, 707-992-3789) and Rosario Avila (rosarioa@arrowbenefitsgroup.com, 707-992-3795) are senior benefits advisers at Arrow Benefits Group in Petaluma.

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