August 3, 2021

Career AdviceProfessional Development

On Cake & Virtual Work

By: Katelynn Barbosa

I’ll never forget the day my daughter first discovered cake. Her eyes lit up in a feeling of pure bliss, discovery, and shock. How had we been keeping this food from her?

Ever since, cake is never far from her mind. We recently hosted a large family gathering where she walked around to every person in attendance inquiring “Cake? Cake? Cake?” And now, even in the midst of a classic two-year old tantrum in which she has thrown herself on the floor in tears, all it takes is a serving of cake to turn her into the most pleasant and charming toddler the world has ever seen.

The discovery of cake changed her forever.

And so it is with the American worker and virtual work. During the pandemic-imposed year of remote work, millions of employees discovered they were more productive, got more sleep, had more free time, and were free of the shackles of a grueling commute and daily makeup for the first time. Asking many of these workers to return to the office is about as palatable as asking my daughter to eat boiled Brussels sprouts when she has a gooey triple layer chocolate cake in front of her.

I won’t go too deep into the data because in a Talent Tip we published earlier this year, we already talked about how hiring virtually will double your candidate pool. But it’s worth highlighting how seismic this change in employee mentality is proving to be. Surveys show as many as 40% of workers are thinking about quitting their jobs to get more work/life balance, that the percentage of workers leaving  for new opportunities is at its highest level in more than two decades, and that even if employees do return to the office post-pandemic, they expect more autonomy and to take on additional managerial responsibilities.

And with the pandemic hopefully nearing its end, it has changed workers’ expectations for the foreseeable future.

So How Can Free-Market Nonprofit Adjust and Maximize Their Appeal to Current and Potential Employees? Here are a few ways:

1. Be as open to virtual work as the role will allow.  Are you willing to let employees be 100% virtual? Great! If not, are you open to employees working virtually from the state or region in which your organization is located as long as they visit the office once per month?

2. If you can’t go virtual, incorporate as much flexibility, autonomy, and independence as possible. Many workers liked the independence they gained by working outside of the office and do not mind returning to the office as long as it means they can retain some of that autonomy. If you can’t go virtual, would you allow employees to work from home two days a week? Or maybe let employees work off-hours to avoid rush hour? Whatever you do, make sure you don’t welcome employees back to the office by breathing down their necks. They hopefully mastered virtual work over the last year, so they don’t need to be micromanaged when they return to the cubicle!

3. Understand that flexible schedules (i.e. work from home two days a week and work in the office three days a week) are NOT the same as virtual work. In other words, if you need an employee to make an appearance in the office at least once a week, you are essentially requiring them to live within close proximity of your office.
Take me as an example. In my previous job before I joined Talent Market, I had to commute to the office just once a week, but it was an hour and forty minutes each way. This arrangement became really burdensome after a few years, especially after I had kids. Pretty soon, I found that my entire week revolved around that one day. I had to wake up at 4am and was completely exhausted when I got home. I began to long for a full-time remote opening with no weekly commute, and here I am!
While flex-schedules are good, don’t mistake them for true virtual work. Only when you eliminate geographic boundaries will you see your candidate pool increase exponentially.

4. Can’t offer more virtual work or flexibility? How about more money? Ceteris paribus, some candidates prefer to work virtually. But if you’re willing to pay a candidate 20k more than another organization for a similar job in order to have them in the office every day, ceteris paribus just flew out the window!

5. Make your value proposition clear as day.  While it’s true that the pandemic has put the spotlight on virtual work, that’s not the only thing candidates care about  — especially in the free-market nonprofit sector. They want to work for an organization that is truly making a difference!
Make sure your website and job description clearly articulate how your nonprofit is changing the world.

Obviously, not every job can be virtual. You aren’t going to start seeing a bunch of job postings for a Zoom bartender (at least I hope not…imagine how dry the Martinis would be). But candidates’ desire for remote work is as strong as my daughter’s desire for red velvet cake. So to the extent free-market organizations can go in that direction, they will maximize their chances of finding good candidates!