Work-from-home opens opportunities for job hunters

The pandemic has altered how companies and their employees work, most notably by solidifying work-from-home arrangements, and those shifts are expected to endure long past the development of a vaccine. It also has changed recruiting in a way that will mean more opportunities for job hunters but also more competition.
Recruiters say companies are moving away from naming specific locations on job postings, and more employees, who have gotten used to working from home, expect the arrangement to continue.
To be sure, some companies plan to fully return to their offices after the pandemic because they worry about the toll working virtually takes on workplace culture. But many employers have found that having a remote workforce suits them, and hiring from out-of-state immediately broadens the talent pool.
“It’s been nice because we’ve been able to think differently than we have in the past,” said Vikki Caruso, senior vice president of people at Clearcover in Illinois. “You’re so used to (thinking), ‘Well, we need to be together.’
“Well, we really don’t.”
Even before the pandemic, some businesses had started to let employees work from home to cut costs by downsizing expensive office space. But few wanted to make the expensive mistake of finding out that the downsides — like technical challenges or workers slacking off — outweighed the gains, said Ravi Gajendran, associate professor at Florida International University, who has studied telecommuting.
Now, virtually every business has been forced to give it a try, which could lead to more acceptance.
Companies that are hiring have started offering benefits aimed squarely at a remote workforce, such as providing ergonomic chairs for employees to use at home or paying for upgraded technology and Wi-Fi. That’s a shift from the perks previously dangled in front of employees, like swanky office spaces or commuter tax deductions.
In a PwC survey of corporate financial leaders earlier this month, more than half of U.S. respondents said they want to make remote work permanent.
Other companies are less concerned about where their remote employees are, though even tech companies generally look for people within two time zones of an office hub, said Matthew Massucci, founder of Chicago-based recruitment firm Hirewell.
Being on roughly the same schedule makes it easier for workers in different places to collaborate, and means people are still a relatively short flight away if in-person meetings are needed.
Young workers or people looking to switch careers could have a particularly tough time, since employers may be more likely to stick to experienced candidates if they worry it will be hard to train someone they can’t see face-to-face, said Eliza Forsythe, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois who specializes in labor economics.
At least for now, employees working remotely may have an unusually easy time getting acclimated to a new job, said Andy Challenger, vice president at Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. When the whole team is meeting on conference calls or Zoom, a new remote employee is on more even footing, he said.