Flexibility rivals compensation for job seekers

Principal economist at Gusto breaks down the latest data regarding remote and hybrid work

Flexibility rivals compensation for job seekers

If you’ve been following HRD America’s coverage over the past few months, you know that employees value flexibility more than ever before.

But you might be surprised to know they consider it just as important as how fat their paycheck is.

More than one-third (35%) of workers believe location flexibility to be the primary deciding factor to accept their last job offer, above those who said that total compensation was the defining factor, according to just released data from Gusto, a San Francisco-based HR tech firm.

“Flexibility might be just as important to you as having health insurance,” Liz Wilke, principal economist at Gusto, told HRD. “Compensation is table stakes: if the compensation level isn’t right, we’re not even having a conversation about the job. But remote flexibility aspect has become the differentiator.”

Read more: How to respond to requests for a reasonable accommodation

Additionally, nearly half of workers (48%) said that the ability to work from home some or all of the time would be a major or the most important factor in determining whether to accept a job offer in the future. Gusto data shows that being a fully remote worker correlates to a 9%-13% decrease in the odds of quitting within three months of hire, meaning less expenditures for the business in attracting, onboarding and retaining new talent.

“What people really want is more autonomy and control and the ability to exercise judgment about where and when they work,” Wilke says. “That’s difficult for employers because they have these structures set up from before the pandemic and we’ve crammed 15-20 years of natural evolution into two years. Workers know they have the upper hand in the market and they expect to win that conversation. Employers who want to be able to attract and retain that talent will be fighting an uphill battle if they aren’t able to make the switch toward an engaging hybrid or remote work experience.”

Workers who previously lived close to their workplaces are moving farther away, and workers that previously lived very far from their workplaces are coming closer to their workplaces. The dual trend indicates that most workers expect to come into the office sometimes, but don’t expect to be required to come in most days per week. Companies like Apple and Google are finding that out the hard way, as recent Blind surveys indicate their employees aren’t happy about being required to come into the office three days a week. An Apple executive has gone so far as resigning over the company’s hybrid work policy.

“One of the reasons companies aren’t quite as comfortable as maybe employees are is because before the pandemic, you could see the work happening,” Wilke says. “Now things must change to encourage accountability, communication and documentation of processes across time and distance. A little bit of that is habit learning and a little bit is digitizing. This investment in tools needs to happen so companies can keep that accountability and maintain that connection no matter where their employees are.”

Women are leading this remote work revolution. According to payroll data, women disproportionately picked up remote work across all industries. For example, the number of women in retail working from home in 2021 surpassed the number of men doing the same, a first in Gusto history.

“Women are telling employers remote work is an even bigger benefit for them,” Wilke says. “We know women tend to have higher levels of caregiving responsibilities or family obligations, so they benefit from having the flexibility and ability to be able to balance those things.”

Bottom line: employees are moving and changing jobs for flexibility and businesses need to embrace that or significantly limit their talent pools and growth. These changes are also driving a need for a new HR playbook that strikes the right balance of collaboration and company culture amongst distributed employees.

“While the office environment is really good for innovative and collaborative work because it maximizes that serendipitous engagement, work at home is best for heads down focus and productivity,” Wilke says. “What HR leaders will be grappling with is figuring out how to maximize office time for what it’s best for and how to maximize home time for what it’s best for in order to enhance overall productivity of work time in general.”

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