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How companies can recruit and keep employees who are used to working from home


To work from home or not to work from home - that is the question that workers and employers have been trying to answer since the pandemic began. Neha Naik is the founder of tech recruiting firm RecruitGyan. She says companies have to make accommodations to attract and keep workers.

NEHA NAIK: The No. 1 primary motivator is flexibility. And I think what's really led into that is the fact that once COVID hit, a lot of us were - you know, even for me, my kids were home from school, right? So I was forced to take time off my computer to make them dinner, go for walks, do whatever it is to tire them out because everything was closed. Everything was closed. It kind of forced us to disconnect, eat dinners and lunches together and spend quality time with each other. So people really started appreciating the flexibility. And that's why a lot of times I say, I'm OK to take 10 or 15% off my base for that flexibility because then I can actually be everything and more.

MARTÍNEZ: Will remote and hybrid work remain the norm even as the pandemic starts to wind down?

NAIK: Yes, I definitely think that, you know, remote hybrid work is here to stay. It's not going away for a very long time, only because people are starting to see the impact of the flexibility and just being able to do what they do best in different times, right? Because not everybody is great in the morning. They might be better at writing copy, for example, at night, or engineers might be coding at midnight. And so managers are learning that different people function great at different times.

MARTÍNEZ: Does corporate America know that it's here to stay?

NAIK: That's a really good question. You know, I think that there's definitely a lot of companies, especially enterprise-level companies, who've invested in lots of areas of land and invested in building these areas and obviously all the utilities, right? And, of course, there's the concept of, are the people actually doing their job? Are they, you know, having other jobs on the side that we don't know about, which basically is affecting their productivity here? And so these are some doubts I feel that corporate America definitely still has, right? And the best way to kind of get over that is to really trust your employees and have objectives or, you know, milestone-based output instead of just saying, you have to work 40 hours. Give them actual objectives and milestones that they can conquer in a certain amount of time. And that's when you truly know if they're getting the job done or they're sidelining and doing something else.

MARTÍNEZ: So it used to be salaries, retirement benefits, medical benefits that used to sway employees to decide between the companies that they want to work for. But how much has working from home now entered that picture?

NAIK: Oh, my God, a lot. You know, I think that's - a lot of times, as a tech recruiter, one of the first questions I get is, is this a remote position? OK, it's not remote. Can I just come into the office once or twice a week? You know, I have young kids or I have a mother I'm looking after or I have my pets or whatever that looks like, right? And people getting used to that lifestyle during COVID, where people go to the gym at noon during their lunch break, right? You can't do that in corporate office.

MARTÍNEZ: What would it take for a prospective worker, the people that you work with, to go into work?

NAIK: I think the biggest thing that people look for is ownership. I think that's - you know, just that ownership of projects, ownership of, you know, whether it's being a manager role - but actually having some type of ownership in the company. It could be equity, it could be, you know, any type of mentorship programs. You know, if they say - I hear, if I'm going to go in office, I want to have a true impact on their organization. You know, I just don't want to clock in and clock out.

And then finally, work-life integration, right? So I don't really necessarily believe in this concept of work-life balance, but I do believe in work-life integration, which means that I will come into the office. But when I have things that I have to do, like a soccer game for my kid or a painting class for my daughter, I want to be able to leave, no questions asked, trusting that I will complete my work when I get back in the next day or complete it before I leave for the day.

MARTÍNEZ: All right. So then on the idea of trust that a manager needs to have, I want to play this clip from Mr. Wonderful from "Shark Tank." Kevin O'Leary has certain demands for his remote workers. Here he is on CNN's "This Morning" program.


KEVIN O'LEARY: I call my employees 24/7. That's the deal. If you don't work in the office, I can call you at 2 in the morning if we've got a crisis. And they're going to answer. That's the way they're used to it now.

MARTÍNEZ: Is that an acceptable compromise, where if I'm a manager saying, I'm going to trust you to work from home, but I need to be able to contact you pretty much whenever?

NAIK: You know, I think, yes. I think - and it also depends on which sector you work, right? Because, again, being in the tech world, there's sprint weeks. There's week where product managers have to make sure that the product working OK. Then there's, you know, the engineering team who sometimes get called - you know, called in at 3 a.m. because there's a bug, you know, in the software, and they have to come and fix it because if they don't do it, the product managers can't move forward. So there's going to be, obviously, times when, you know, the manager calls you. And I think that's totally acceptable.

Even as I run my own business sometimes, you know, I ping like, hey, we have this really important meeting tomorrow and I'll, you know, ping my executive assistant, you know, later at night 'cause that's when I think about it, right? Now, is my expectation that she respond right away and work on it right away? Again, depends on situation, depends on the criticality. Boundaries and communication are key. You have to define that early on in the process when you're interviewing them and when you're onboarding them and define what critical issues mean to you - right? - so that when the employee is onboarded, they're not shocked - like, oh, my gosh, why is this person reaching out to me at 9 p.m.?

MARTÍNEZ: Have you noticed any generational differences in the people that you're recruiting in terms of what they expect with this new work culture in 2023?

NAIK: Yes, I definitely have. If I think about my parents, they had to go into the office, right? And I remember when I got my remote job, like, they were like, are you seriously working? Like, is this for real? Is this legit? So there's obviously going to be that, you know, just because of how they were raised and the way they had to do things. So when I talk to people from different generations - right? - some people are like, oh, I don't really want to go into the office. And I see that more so now with, you know, millennials because now we have, you know, young families and we want to stick around and be around the kids and do all that.

And then I see kind of a divide, right? And so some of the people that are from the previous generations, some of them are, no, I want to be remote. I can't do the commute anymore. It's just not for me. And some of them are like, you know what? I actually want to come into the office because I don't really have much else to do right now with my life, right? I'm an empty nester and I actually want to come into the office because it makes my day go faster. It allows me to meet people.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Neha Naik, founder of RecruitGyan, a tech recruiting firm that works with early-stage tech companies. Neha, thanks a lot.

NAIK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.