In 2021, over 47 million people quit their jobs in the US, then 38 million more followed suit in 2022. We’re in the midst of a labor shortage, but it’s not for the reasons you might think.
More and more people are looking for a better work-life balance, and they’re willing to job-hop to get it.
So, if job loyalty is a thing of the past and people are willing to shop around for flexible work, how are some companies still seeing record profits and growth in this post-pandemic world?
In this post, we’ll show you how to boost output amidst labor shortages and how you can tap into the potential of remote work and home offices as a business leader.
The Growing Issue of Labor Shortages in the US
Back in 2022, over 50 million people quit their jobs in what’s now known as The Great Resignation. After the disruption of the pandemic, people realized that they wanted a better work-life balance and were no longer going to waste their lives in jobs they hated.
But what many thought of as The Great Resignation was actually The Great Reshuffle. Although many people were quitting, many more were being hired in new jobs. In fact, hiring rates have consistently outpaced quitting rates since November 2020.
Because of COVID-19, industries that require more in-person contact suffered the most. The food and beverage industry has had the highest quitting rate since July 2021, staying consistent at around 3%.
And many other industries are experiencing similar trends. Transportation, health care, and social assistance have the highest number of job openings, and many businesses are still struggling to retain workers.
Experts Identify the Causes of Labor Shortages
Now that the pandemic has all but ended, why are we still experiencing such serious labor shortages? Experts have looked at the data and found three major causes.
Tightening Immigration Laws
Strict immigration laws in the US limit the availability of skilled workers. Earlier this year, the DHS and the DOJ announced new rules that “incentivize orderly pathways” into the US, meaning anyone arriving by unlawful means will find it almost impossible to gain citizenship.
This has had knock-on effects on several industries, including construction and healthcare.
“Immigrants contribute significantly to the growth of the US economy, and research has shown that tightened immigration laws between 2017 and 2020 have caused labor shortages in several industries. Remote work is one possible way to bridge the talent gap we’re currently experiencing.” – Brad Banias from Pro Se Pro
Between 2010 and 2020, the US population aged over 65 grew at its fastest rate since the 80s. With a 38.6% increase in just a decade, we’re seeing a declining workforce, resulting in significant labor shortages.
This is intensified by the fact that millennials and Gen Zers are less enthusiastic about starting families. Falling fertility rates have been a concern for several decades, on top of financial, social, and environmental concerns that prevent many young people from wanting children.
Work-Life Balance Expectations
Gone are the days of people working long hours, putting in overtime, and giving up their free hours in the name of a career.
Workers now want to improve their work-life balance, which has caused millions of people to quit their high-stress jobs in favor of lower-pressure, flexible alternatives.
The Untapped Potential of Home Offices
Workforce dynamics are shifting, and it’s up to businesses to find ways to attract talented workers and keep them in their jobs happy and motivated.
One of the most effective solutions to bridge the talent gap and get people back into jobs is remote work. This provides that work-life balance so many people crave and incentivizes people into jobs where shortages are causing concern.
Benefits of Home Offices
We understand that not all jobs can be done remotely, but home offices have several key benefits to those that can be.
After offices got shut down for weeks because of COVID-19, workers realized how rigid their schedules had become. Many enjoyed spending more time at home and welcomed the idea of working remotely.
Offering employees the opportunity to work from home either part-time or permanently gives better flexibility to roles and can act as an incentive to attract new talent.
It also opens up the opportunity for people abroad to apply for jobs. Immigration laws may restrict access to the US, but remote work opens up entirely new talent pools around the world.
Working from home also gives people that work-life balance they are now searching for. Employees can set their own hours, work early or late as needed, and get projects completed in a way that doesn’t detract from their personal lives.
Studies have shown that people are more productive when working from home because they have the freedom to set their own schedules and work around their personal commitments.
Time and Money Savings
Commuters in the US spend about $8,466 every year on commuting – that’s almost 20% of their annual income.
Working from home means massive savings on commuting, lunches, gas, and vehicle maintenance every year. With the cost of living still rising, these are significant savings for workers and a huge advantage of home offices.
Imagine having an extra $8000 every year to invest in your retirement. With the help of a nifty compound interest calculator, we can see that it could easily turn into around $100K over the next ten years.
Remote Work: Solution to Labor Shortages?
We live in a digital work that isn’t limited by geographical location anymore. Now, you can easily work overseas without even needing a passport.
In many industries, remote work can address the current labor shortages by expanding the talent pool beyond the US borders.
The Boston Consulting Group’s Centre for Growth recently released a survey that showed around a third of business leaders had hired remote staff purely to address labor shortages. And only 8% reported it having a negative impact on staff performance.
With remote work becoming a growing trend, there has been plenty of research into its efficacy:
- A report by Owl Labs showed 55% of employees reported working more hours in a home office.
- Bloomberg found that 39% of employees are likely to leave a position if their boss isn’t flexible about remote work.
- A Flex Job Survey found that almost half of remote workers had a good work-life balance, compared to just 36% of in-office employees.
- A survey from Mental Health America (MHA) showed that 77% of workers said remote work improved their mental health.
Remote work gives people the opportunity to find jobs they would never be able to get locally. This means putting the right people in the right positions around the world – the antidote to labor shortages not just in the US but throughout the globe.
Leveraging the Potential of Home Offices
It’s not enough to simply allow employees to work from home, though; businesses need to implement practices to support remote workers and overcome the challenges that it brings.
And it’s not just tech firms that can benefit from remote workers. There are severe shortages in several markets that need to be addressed.
“Construction labor shortages are a real concern here in the US. Labor shortages are causing delays in house construction, which is having a knock-on effect on new build prices. Remote work within the construction industry has the potential to work through these back-logs, to get the housing market back on track.” – Ryan Fitzgerald from Raleigh Realty
Implementing remote work policies
If your company plans to offer remote work as an incentive for new hires, you’ll need a clear policy for remote, flexible, and hybrid work options. This new policy should answer questions like:
- How often can employees work remotely?
- What tech will be available to aid communication and teamwork?
- What office space will remote workers have access to?
- What are the communication expectations for remote workers?
- How will you measure goals and targets?
By creating standardized policies, you ensure remote workers feel included and supported while working from home.
Overcoming remote work challenges
Remote work does come with a unique set of challenges you need to address before hiring any remote employees. Here are a few concerns to address:
Studies have shown that remote workers are more at risk of cybersecurity attacks. This is largely due to the use of the public cloud, user error, and remote locations being outside of the internal security systems.
Before hiring remote workers, create effective systems with your IT department to ensure anyone working away from the office is protected.
Employee mental well-being
Although there is some compelling research showing the benefits of working from home, there are also many concerns about mental health.
A recent meta-analysis showed that remote working increases feelings of loneliness and isolation. Employees who feel lonely are less productive and more likely to quit, so this is a significant concern that needs to be addressed.
The best way to combat loneliness in remote workers is to consistently ensure they feel like part of the team. Organize regular virtual meetings, invite them to in-office events, and touch base regularly to let them know they have support when needed.
Communication tends to suffer when people work from home. If you don’t have the right systems in place, people are forced to communicate via email, which is slow and unreliable.
Instead, make sure you have modern systems in place to allow for easy communication and collaborative work. Tools such as Slack, Zoom, and Asana allow workers to create teams, talk directly, and organize joint projects much more effectively.
Remote Work in the Real World: Case Studies & Expert Opinions
This all sounds great in theory, but how does it translate into the real world? Let’s take a look at some companies that have successfully implemented remote work policies to address labor shortages and drastically boost output.
This company was founded as a remote company, and the owners believe in the advantages of a remote workforce. Although all three founders live in the same city, they had clashing schedules, so they decided to work remotely and have digital meetings.
Wade, one of the founders, firmly believes in finding the right talent for different positions, which can only be accomplished by opening positions up to wider geographical locations.
You probably already know the ticket sales platform Eventbrite, but you probably didn’t know that the company has several teams around the world. The company hires teams remotely based on market demands and has grown to a multi-million-dollar company as a result.
This internet giant is known for its hybrid work policies. In their own words, their policy is “designed to maximize flexibility while still facilitating innovation, collaboration, and camaraderie of in-office experiences.”
From their researchers to designers, many of the positions available at Google are remote.
The music giant Spotify is a Swedish company that hires talent from around the world. Spotify execs firmly believe in finding the right people for the job, regardless of location, and so they have many hybrid and remote positions within the company.
Based in New York, Mastercard hires remote workers because they are committed to helping workers achieve a work-life balance. Most of its workforce can work from home, and according to the company, it’s the results that count, not the hours put in.
Employees have reported they have decent tech to work from home and support from the company, which seems to back up the company’s flexible work policies.
Are Home Offices The Answer to Labor Shortages?
The bottom line is that remote work can be a useful tool to stimulate many industries, but it’s not the only solution.
For companies with the ability to offer remote positions, it can boost productivity and output, provide flexibility to workers, and open up the talent pool to new markets.
But it’s one part of a wider solution we need to combat labor shortages here in the US. With more and more people looking for a better work-life balance, it’s companies that provide these incentives that become the most successful.