Covid-19 has triggered the world’s biggest remote work experiment, which has subsequently caused a paradigm shift in the nature of work – how it gets done, where it gets done and who gets it done. Society has moved into the era of global remote teams in one of the most sudden, profound social developments in recent history.

Pre-pandemic, companies blindly accepted the notion that location incubates talent, and that you could only perform at the highest level if you showed up at the office every day. But today, companies are looking outside the office, outside the city, even outside the country, tapping into the global talent pool to find the right person for the job.

This new working landscape benefits both the employer and the employee – companies can access the best talent, and candidates have access to great jobs, which in turn elevates local economies around the world.

A corporate epiphany

Let’s be in no doubt, the status quo was doing more harm than good. According to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace Report, back in 2017 85 per cent of employees were not engaged at work. However, study after study shows that of those who are engaged and satisfied with their job, there is a high likelihood they work remotely most or all of the time. Indeed, Gallup also reported that those who spend at least 60 to 80 per cent of their time working remotely were more likely to be engaged.

Even before the pandemic, 85 per cent of companies reported an increase in productivity with a remote or flexible work policy. But some feared that with the sudden shift to remote work, overall output would plummet. For many, however, the experience brought about by prolonged and repeated lockdown has created a kind of corporate epiphany and a radical change in opinion on the merits of remote work.

Companies such as Twitter, Facebook, Salesforce and Fujitsu are among many that have made permanent changes to their rules on working from home. And for many thousands of business leaders, instead of their worst fears being realised, new opportunities have opened up as their belief in the merits of remote working converts into action. It seems clear that at the very least, a hybrid culture where remote work is supported by the option of meeting in dedicated or shared spaces will be the preferred option in businesses around the world.

Flexible recruitment offers a win-win

In practical terms, leaders now understand that the talent pool doesn’t just exist within 50 miles of their office building, and that successful recruitment is about getting vital roles filled even when those best qualified for roles simply aren’t available in a commutable radius. This issue is compounded by widespread and growing skills shortages that have forced employers to adopt a global recruitment perspective.

This is a major problem. Recent research revealed that 77 per cent of recruitment professionals cited skills shortages as a top hiring challenge. Talent shortages in their home countries have prompted some companies to look further afield for the talent they need.

In contrast, those organisations focusing on building remote, global teams can expect to see a number of important advantages. For instance, remote working helps build efficiency, while the global perspectives of a diverse team can increase overall business performance. Workers on diverse teams are happier and more engaged, and the employer benefits as a result. According to our own 2020 Global Employee Survey, employees at diverse companies were three times more likely to report feeling happy at work.

Having global team members in-country is critical for any company that hopes to successfully scale at an international level. Local perspectives provide invaluable insights into each target market. Local hires speak the language, understand the norms and customs, and make partners and customers more comfortable.

For employers prepared to invest in building these remote, diverse team cultures, the result is a win-win: they get to address their talent and recruitment challenges, minimise the impact of skill shortages and build stronger, more effective teams. Employees seek out employers and roles that embrace flexibility as part of a modern workplace culture, and in doing so find more engaging and fulfilling work.

Benefitting society

Among the many issues that characterise a progressive, modern employer is the awareness of its impact on society, and a willingness to take action to play a positive role. By offering employees the opportunity to work from where they want to be, embracing global remote teams is transformational on a societal level. It leads to a whole range of cultural, financial and social improvements in addition to the positive bottom-line business impact.

These include lowering the cost of living by allowing employees to be based outside of the most expensive cities and suburbs. Many people will also testify to the benefits of partners and parents that no longer have to commute for hours on a daily basis. Key to everyone is the impact of employment on the climate, with fewer journeys helping to reduce emissions.

The world of work is at a crossroads. Organisations that remain convinced that a return to the “old normal” is inevitable and even preferable are at real risk of being left behind. How, for instance, can employers hope to compete for talent by insisting on a daily commute or operate with the implied lack of trust that refusing to allow remote working creates? How can organisations focus their long-term strategy around a single HQ location – and by definition limit where people can live – when their rivals encourage people to live wherever they want? Even for those who prefer to be in the office, an employer with a flexible philosophy is often going to be more attractive.

Instead, those organisations that not only allow remote work but embrace it as a core tenet of their talent acquisition strategy are going to come out on top. Businesses that hire anyone, anywhere are by definition more focused on their strategic objectives because they are removing perhaps the most significant barrier to success: finding the right people.

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