Dear Ms. Smartphone: My coworker and I disagree over the next hire for our ten person tech firm. I would like to meet the job candidate in person even if it means flying them cross-country. My coworker says it is unnecessary to meet a job candidate in person since the position is going to be remote (off-site). I don’t see her point. This new position will be in marketing/sales and I like to know the people I am working with. Connor, San Francisco
Dear Connor: I can’t remotely begin to answer this (pun intended). As we come out of the Covid lockdown, we all recognize that the office is not going to return to the old ways. Yet, I do agree that I would like to meet a job candidate in person, particularly in an area as critical as sales and marketing. Whether you can convince your co-worker is another thing. Since your company probably does not have a human resources (HR) person, this decision will come down to the budget, plans for growth, and corporate investment in employees and their community.
There’s a related issue from the HR side. Before you and your coworker decide to hire someone who will work from afar, you should consider how you will onboard them. Do you need a face to face visit to bring the newcomer up to speed with your products and processes? How will they get comfortable with your company culture and know what the boundaries are? In the past employees learned this by “showing up.” If your new person does not feel committed to your organization, and does not come to share its values, they will leave. Frequent staff turnover will dilute the monetary advantages and time efficiencies of remote hires.
If there’s one thing we learned during the Covid pandemic, it is how brittle and impassive it is to exclusively communicate over electronics channels. Six hours on zoom feels like ten hours of meeting time. We crave person-to-person interaction. It is hard to articulate this but I imagine it is at the base of your question.
But remote work is a growing trend. A career site called Ladders says that about 25% of professional jobs will be remote by the end of 2022, compared to just 4% before the pandemic. You should contemplate these numbers with caution, since Ladders, while widely quoted, does not detail how their projections were gathered. Seat -of- the- pants or a recent probability sample of HR departments?
Back to the HR issues, it would be useful to probe with your coworker why the duties of the marketing/sales job are better served remotely. Should this be a short term need then you could consider hiring a consulting team. If it’s a long term need and the sales/marketing person is going to be part of your “team” then consider whether you all need to play on the same team at the same time. If you hire a junior employee at a distance, it’s not clear whether you can mentor them. With remote work, do we forfeit the opportunity to start in the mailroom and work up the corporate ladder?
While not trying to recreate the “The Office” TV series with Steve Carell and Jenna Fisher I personally believe it’s a good time, post-Covid, to advocate for local arrangements. Perhaps like your food, you want to know where and how it’s sourced. A lesser consideration is that your new person might be situated in a different time zone. You will not find that work-home balance you seek if they have to reach you on Zoom before or after your regular hours.
The New Local:
The good news is that if you hire locally you may now have an expanded network of candidates. One of the most soul-crushing problems of going into the office, the commute, has been tamed by the pandemic. Traffic calming occurs when employees can work different schedules and come in only a few days a week, or travel at non-peak times. There is a wider net of local candidates to hire from when there is less excess travel time and parents can work from home part-time. Most employees can find other uses for the hours they spent commuting.
The notion that office-workers innovated over the water cooler is over-romanticized. Many offices were soulless places with workers wearing headsets, crammed into cubicles, and hunched over screen consoles. However, if workers are part of a community, and communities are what nourish us post-Covid, then the places we want to work should be integral to that picture. We spend nearly half of our day ‘there.’ Going forward, we can hope there is value added in holding a working luncheon, organizing after-hours softball teams, and corporate groups that volunteer for civic improvements.