Working in Silicon Slopes will never be the same
In May, I took my first flight for work in 14 months. I used to travel 3-4 times a month for work but 2020 grounded me (and everyone else), as we all stayed home to work. As I navigated the new airport and sat on the tarmac waiting for takeoff, I was surprised by the mental hurdles I was working through. Did I want to be traveling away from my family on a regular basis again, or even at all? Was I ready to go back to hitting Diamond status on Delta every year? Constant traveling was how I worked in the past, but did it need to be my future?
2020 changed all of us. The people who left with laptops and created home offices in March 2020 are not the same people companies are asking to come back and return to life as it was. As individuals and a whole, we have all changed. We don’t want the same things, or if we do, we look at those things differently. We measure success differently. We value being present and having flexibility more than ever before, and we want our future at work to reflect these experiences.
This shift has created critical challenge for business leaders. Their talent and team members have fundamentally changed in ways that will make what would have been business as normal undesirable and even unacceptable. To keep the talent they worked so hard to gain, they will have to understand these changes, and discover innovative ways to respond to them.
To help navigate this shift and the new talent landscape, Women Tech Council conducted our own research of Silicon Slopes workforce to see how people have changed, and what this means for companies and employees moving forward. Among all the data points, perspectives, metrics, and comments, these four core findings shone through:
First, remote work has changed people. As a whole, people liked working from home. 91 percent of employees say their productivity has improved, and 70 percent say their work-life balance is better. While there are some aspects of office life they miss, only 3 percent say they are ready to go back to the office full time. In fact, 40 percent say they would leave their job if required to go back full time. Whatever the future of work looks like, it can no longer be within the confines of a formal office space.
Second, employees have more leverage than ever before to determine how and when they work. 69 percent of companies say they have permanently changed their options for remote work. One member of our community shares that during the pandemic, she saw 300 remote-only, senior-level positions a week on LinkedIn, and consistently had at least three weekly interviews for such positions. 87 percent of tech workers say they will not take a job unless it has a remote component, which shows that while flexibility was always important, it has now become even more significant.
The third thing we learned is that hybrid is here to stay. 75 percent of tech leaders support a hybrid model, and only 34 percent of companies are planning to have enough space for all employees to be in the office on the same day. While everyone is still trying to figure out the right mix of live vs. remote, 55 percent of workers want 1-2 days in the office, and the rest remote from home. Whatever companies decide, this also begs important conversations about how to raise the bar on employee time in the office to ensure they feel it was well spent and respected.
Finally, this new world requires a new type of leader. Anyone using old models of productivity and management that rely on physical presence will quickly find they cannot attract and keep the talent needed to move their company forward. To thrive in a hybrid world, leaders must find ways to leverage the unique strengths that come from live settings, and the opportunities that come with remote work. Leaders and companies who fail to adapt and innovate risk losing their talent.
Throughout my whole career, I’ve always believed innovation is the answer to problem-solving—evaluate everything we learned and build in a new direction that keeps the good, corrects the bad, and lays the groundwork for an even better future. This is the process every employee, leader, and company needs to be going through right now. Before jumping back on flights and commutes, we all need to evaluate what’s happened, what has fundamentally changed, and what it means for each of us. Whatever the future looks like, it will take people at every organizational level working together to build a sustainable model for the new definition of happiness and growth.