Okay, Everyone, We’re Going Back to the Office! Or Maybe Not.

By Kristen Harris

At Portfolio Creative, we’ve been helping clients find and hire marketing talent for over 16 years. Before that, my partner and I both held marketing leadership roles where we hired and managed teams of people. All of that to say that we’ve hired, managed, and worked with A LOT of people, and we’ve never seen anything like the current talent market.

What’s so unusual, you ask? All expectations of how and where people work have been turned upside down. Due to COVID-19 precautions, in the spring of 2020, companies were forced to send everyone out the door quickly and asked them to work from home for over a year. Employees got really good at and used to working from home. They felt at least as productive as before, maybe more so, and figured out how their work and personal lives could better coexist.

Remember all of that? The mad scramble for equipment, setting up at-home workspaces, figuring out how to use video conferencing tools, creating a new schedule for work time vs. personal time (and maybe online school time), setting boundaries since your home was now your office. It all seems so long ago now! And that is exactly what is driving the changes we are now seeing in the talent market. 

Many companies are eagerly making plans to return to their offices, and many employees are not so sure that’s what they want to do. Yes, some people are excited to get back to their assigned workspace. But many more are asking questions–a lot of questions–about the expectations for how and where they work going forward. 

Because, frankly, employees feel like they proved themselves. For nearly a year and a half, they have been planning, juggling, shifting, getting things done, performing everything their company has asked them to do, all from home. “So why do I have to come back to the office?” they are asking. “Certainly not five days a week, right?” they are assuming. 

A survey of 1,000 U.S adults showed that 39% would consider quitting if their employers weren’t flexible about remote work. For millennials and Gen Z, that number spikes to 49%. (Poll by Morning Consult on behalf of Bloomberg News.)

We’ve said it before–working from home is not for everyone. Some people don’t have the role, personality, infrastructure, space, or desire for it. And that’s great–welcome those people back to the office whenever you’re ready! But be aware that something like 40-50% of your people might opt for a new job or no job if their only choice is a five-day-a-week commute to the office. 

Does your company have to become a fully remote business? No. Most aren’t going fully remote; they’re trying a variety of hybrid options. Look at flex days, flexible schedules, rotating weeks, team rotations, or one of the myriad of other ideas companies are testing out. 

Think about what you really need from your people and what they need from you to be successful, and let that be your guide. If you have the right team members in the right roles, you don’t need to physically be with them every day to know they’re working. Although you might miss them (we get it, we miss seeing people too), there are ways to connect and work together when it matters. Flexibility and balance are essential, and companies that find that balance will win in this talent market.

Need to talk about filling gaps on your digital, marketing, or creative team? Already have some open roles or an overload of work you need to cover? Let us know; we’re here to help.