Beyond chocolate and conversation hearts, many employers are looking to seriously woo employees this Valentine’s Day, and throughout the year. In fact, for most companies, retaining and attracting the best talent in today’s fierce labor market is a top priority in 2022.
The Great Resignation (aka the “Big Quit”) is in full effect. According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report released January 4, 2022, a record 4.5 million Americans left their jobs in November, with the number of private sector quits (not government or farm employees) hitting 4.3 million-and approximately 20 million people quit their jobs in the second half of 2021. And, there are just 0.62 unemployed job seekers for each available job, according to another BLS report. The forecast: employees are likely to continue to have substantial bargaining power in 2022. So employers who want to hold onto the great employees they have-and perhaps take their shot at hiring more- may need to look for creative ways to up the ante this year.
Here are five things employers are doing to retain and hire the best of the best talent in 2022.
Embracing remote work–because it allows for the flexibility some employees are demanding
Remote work was indispensable for many in the early pandemic. Now, having the option to work remotely-at least some of the time-is becoming an expectation. According to a survey of 209,000 people in 190 countries by BCG, 89% of people expect their jobs to be partly remote after the pandemic ends. Hybrid work is now a norm for many employers as they pivot to navigate the ebb and flow of COVID variants, allowing for the flexibility required by the pandemic and meeting employee desires. According to Forbes, in a recent survey of US workers who can work remotely, 74% would prefer to spend at least one day in an office environment post-COVID-19, with 30% looking to work from a space outside the home two or three days per week. Digital nomad visas-which allow employees to work in a different country after an application and a fee-are another lure for some employees who can successfully work away from the office.
What does this mean for employers? In industries and for positions where working remotely is a viable option, employers who don’t offer employees the ability to work remotely-at least part of the week-may see employees jump ship to employers who do. In one report published by Owl Labs, companies that provide the option for remote work have 25% lower turnover than companies that don’t.
But remote work isn’t as easy as just telling employees they can work from home-or wherever they want.
Employers must consider a myriad of employment law issues before crafting any type of remote work policy, including:
- How employers will define “remote” for their workforce–i.e. temporary “short stints,” permanent remote work, hybrid work (working some days from home and others in the office), or some combination of these. And, employers must decide whether employees will be permitted to work remotely only from home, or remotely from anywhere.
- “Guardrails” or boundaries for the workforce. Often, this is based on factors such as whether the company already has a legal presence in the subject jurisdiction and ensuring employees can remain subject to company rules and expectations in the jurisdiction from which the employee is requesting to remotely work. Other factors, such as head count triggers for application of paid sick leave laws, must also be taken into consideration.
- Designing an application process with established criteria. Where used, an application process should cover details such as which job positions can be performed remotely, eligible locations, whether a justification is required, and the objective criteria for accepting / rejecting applications. Decision-makers must be trained on applying the criteria objectively.
- Developing policies to support the remote model, including salary/cost of living adjustments, how necessary equipment will be provided and whether certain costs will be reimbursed, how the company will track hours/overtime/mandatory rest breaks, necessary steps to mitigate increased risks of misappropriation of confidential information and trade secrets, and revising the business travel policy as necessary to apply to remote workers.
- Providing employees with individualized remote work agreements, setting forth important information such as the effective date of the arrangement, expected hours of work, use of equipment, reimbursement/stipends, insurance requirements, and compensation. Agreements should also confirm the work location (to document the employee’s representation of the jurisdiction in which they are working and paying taxes) and protect the company’s right to recall employees to an onsite location.
- Training managers and supervisors on the importance of treating all employees equally, whether they are in the office daily with substantial “face time,” or almost never in the office with only remote meeting “face time,” to avoid discrimination claims.
However employers decide, any type of remote work program raises a plethora of compliance issues-including employment law as mentioned above, as well as benefits and compensation, tax, privacy, and corporate law issues-all of which change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. As employers design and implement remote work programs, they should work with counsel to stay compliant.