CDI Corporation

Attitudes on Working Remotely

Recently, some large companies have curtailed the ability of their employees to work from home, now asking staff to work in corporate offices. These changes are focused on driving increased collaboration, creativity, mentoring and innovation, but may alienate top permanent and contract talent in the professional labor market – a sector that has been candidate-driven and challenged by talent shortages for the last few years.

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This move comes at a time when during the interview process, many candidates express interest in working from home. According to the 2017 Recruiter Sentiment Study conducted by CDI subsidiary MRINetwork, 68 percent of recruiters and 53 percent of employers state candidates ask for work from home options somewhat often to very often. Over half of candidates indicate that having a work from home option is somewhat to extremely important as they consider a new job.

“The competition is fierce when it comes to attracting top candidates in the professional sector, particularly because the unemployment rate is 2.8 percent,” observes Barry Mills, vice president of recruiting for CDI Corporation. “If companies do not offer options such as working from home, they are decreasing their pool of candidates even more. As organizations explore advances in technology that make managing remote employees easier than ever, they will find that they can use this strategy to attract the people they need to fill both permanent and contract positions.”

Mills notes that work from home arrangements offer a number of significant advantages. “When you can employ people who live outside your geographic region for specific functions or operate around the clock despite differing zones, you are increasing efficiency exponentially. Contract employees who may be unwilling to relocate for shorter term assignments, often jump at the chance to work remotely,” he says. In addition, often contractors and employees demonstrate compensation flexibility in exchange for working from home. “Ultimately, there is the potential for your retention rates to improve and your workforce to become more productive.”

Effective work-from-home programs, Mills believes, rely on careful planning and execution. “Managers and their remote employees must understand and agree on the guidelines, and employ the technology required to enhance communication and promote accountability,” he says. “Fine tuning and adjustments may be necessary as the program is monitored and evaluated.”

Mills offers some useful guidelines for managing telecommuters on a day-to-day basis:

Set the right tone. Working from home has become more acceptable, and even desirable, to employers, so it should no longer be viewed as a reward or a privilege. Instead, you should treat it as a natural option for working. Set the expectation that remote working days are the same as in-office working days. Agree on goals and deadlines for particular tasks. Keep a close eye on how well the targets are being met and give feedback promptly and sensitively if things go wrong.

Working from home is no substitute for child care. Employees who work at home must have adequate child care arrangements. Any calls between the at home employee and coworkers or customers must be devoid of noises from children, others in the home, pets (especially barking dogs) or deliveries. These noises create an unprofessional impression of the work from home employee and make it difficult for team members and customer to know if the work from home employee is focused on the business issues of the day.

Work at home employees should additionally be required to communicate via video conference as often as possible, as an easy method to ensure a consistent personalized connection. Communication via video requires the work from home employee to demonstrate a professional appearance and reinforces the need to stay at the at-home work station for the duration of the working schedule.

Determine metrics to measure progress. Monitoring and assessing the performance of people who work at home is perhaps the most significant managerial challenge. It can be helpful to measure their effectiveness in terms of their output rather than the hours they work to ensure that targets and deadlines are being met. You can set firm deliverables for work-from-home days (tangible pieces of work you can see have been completed), for example, or use time-tracking software. Since contract employees are already accustomed to working on a project basis with well-defined expectations, they are excellent candidates for at-home work arrangements.

Don’t forget about remote workers. Don’t just shoot off emails requesting updates on projects. Make informal calls to ask how things are going, allowing employees to express concerns and to feel appreciated and acknowledged. Take advantage of instant messaging and make sure that face-to-face meetings occur when possible or when needed. For times when it’s not possible to meet in person, video conferencing or Skype are great ways to provide a face-to-face element to brainstorming sessions or team meetings. These types of capabilities can make all the difference in helping remote employees, whether they are permanent or contract, see their co-workers occasionally, so that they feel connected and part of a community.

To further the feeling of community, treat remote workers the same as you do those in the office. If it’s ugly sweater day during the holidays, encourage your remote person to do the same and send a picture or leverage that video technology again. If you let parents scoot out early to enjoy Halloween festivities with their little ones, allow the same privileges to remote workers.

Pay attention to warning signs. If a remote worker is missing deadlines or being asked to redo work, there could be a communication problem. Meet with the worker to discuss what communication channels could be used to correct the situation or if working from home is not the best option for the individual. Keep in mind that it doesn’t always work out for everyone.

Mills believes that one of the biggest concerns of having virtual teams is that employees may feel disconnected. "It’s important as a leader, to ensure your remote workers feel just as much a part of the team as your in-office staff, he concludes. Whether it’s periodically bringing them into the office, having weekly Skype calls or encouraging them to take part in other perks like summer Fridays, these activities can go a long way in creating a sense of involvement and inclusion.”

Recent CDI Analysis

“As organizations explore advances in technology that make managing remote employees easier than ever, they will find that they can use this strategy to attract the people they need to fill both permanent and contract positions.”

Barry Mills
Vice President of Recruiting
CDI Corporation

Employment Situation (U.S.)

The August Employment Situation Summary released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed a slowdown from 209,000 jobs added during July, to 156,000 nonfarm payroll positions created. According to The Washington Post, August’s number notably undercut federal economists’ expectation that about 200,000 jobs would be added to employers’ payrolls. However, some private-sector analysts, like Indeed.com Chief Economist Jed Kolko, noted that this reduction in growth may be somewhat deceptive.

"Growth was slower in August, but that’s because there were fewer gains in growing industries, not because we’re seeing more losses in shrinking industries," Kolko told the Post in an interview. "We’re actually at a point of unusual stability."

Additionally, although the unemployment rate rose to 4.4 percent from July’s figure of 4.3 percent, the latter is a 16-year low, and because the Post reported that the uptick is considered small enough to remain within a reasonable margin of error, it is unlikely to worry public- and private-sector economists. CNBC noted that within a year, unemployment in the U.S. could easily fall below 4 percent.

On a sector-by-sector basis, professional and technical services saw some of the largest gains in August, with 22,000 jobs added. Mining, meanwhile, saw minor growth of only 1,000 jobs added, and other industries including information, financial activities and government changed very little over the month.

Average wages grew by 3 cents in the past month, a drop from the 9 cents seen in July. Also, the labor force participation rate for August 2017 held steady with July’s 62.9 percent, a total that analysts generally view as sub-par if not necessarily dangerous.

The New York Times noted that economists also believe the Federal Reserve is likely to raise interest rates on federal loans before the year ends, likely in December. Though the Fed will meet in September, a rate hike isn’t expected then. Wall Street traders, meanwhile, have reduced their own expectations of a rate increase from 50 percent to 30 percent. However, this does not necessarily indicate a negative perspective, as Torsten Slok, chief international economist at Deutsche Bank, pointed out.

"There’s no sign of inflation, which keeps the Federal Reserve on hold in terms of interest rate hikes," Slok said to the Times, "and it suggests stocks should keep doing well."

The full Bureau of Labor Statistics report can be downloaded by
clicking here.

Employment Situation (Canada)

Canada added 22,200 jobs in August, beating economists’ expectations by more than 2,000 positions, The Globe and Mail reported, citing data from the Labour Force Survey released by Statistics Canada.

"It’s … a slightly more moderate pace than what we’ve been looking at in the first half of the year, but it still represents solid hiring by Canadian firms," said Paul Ferley, assistant chief economist at the Royal Bank of Canada, in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

Though employment increased just 0.1 per cent between July and August, Canada gained more than 374,000 new jobs since August 2016.

The job gains last month also nudged the unemployment rate down 0.1 percentage points to drop to its pre-recession level of 6.2 per cent, a number not seen since October 2008.

Most of the employment growth in August was in part-time work, which added 110,400 jobs. Full-time work shed 88,000 positions. However, over the year, growth was seen in both full- and part-time employment, with 213,000 and 161,000 positions added, respectively.

The number of self-employed workers also increased in August by more than 32,000, marking a 1.2 per cent change from July.

Number of hours worked rose by 2.2 per cent in August. Average hourly pay increased 1.7 per cent compared to a year earlier, which is the strongest annual gain since October 2016, The Globe and Mail noted.

The services-producing sector added 35,900 positions in August, led by finance, insurance, real estate and leasing, which gained 14,600 jobs. Transportation and warehousing employment grew by 9,800 workers, while accommodation and food services added 8,900 employees.

The goods-producing sector lost 13,700 jobs in August, though construction gained 5,000 positions.

Interest rate hikes may be on the horizon
The August labour figures show that the Canadian economy continues to be solid, according to CTV News, which noted that the country has experienced a strong start to the year. This urged the Bank of Canada to raise interest rates earlier this month, marking the second rate hike of 2017. If the economy remains strong, the bank could increase rates again later this year.

Canadian ES Report:
Labour Force Survey, August 2017

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