Editorial: The remote work “hot potato”

Last Updated on Thursday, 24 March, 2022 at 1:35 pm by Andre Camilleri

According to many sources, one other pandemic sweeping the world this week is still not showing any signs of slowing down. That is, the “great resignation”. This week’s news emerged that forty-four per cent of employees are “job seekers,” according to Willis Towers Watson’s 2022 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey. Data suggest the Great Resignation, a pandemic-era labour trend also known as the Great Reshuffle, is continuing; according to the survey, over half of the workers said higher pay was a top reason they’d look for a new job. This shows the pandemic era phenomenon is going to continue way into 2022.

However, interestingly the data shows us people aren’t quitting to sit around and twiddle their thumbs, far from it. According to economists, a strong job market with copious opportunities and higher pay are luring them to find work elsewhere. Some people are reinventing their careers altogether. According to the survey, over half of the workers (56%) said pay is a top reason they’d look for a job with a different employer. Forty-one per cent would leave for a 5% increase.

It’s not hard to understand why, when households have been battling persistently high inflation, which has eaten into budgets and outstripped raises for many employees. Locally, we have all witnessed prices escalating, whether the weekly shop for essentials or dining out. People are looking for ways to keep up. Interestingly, almost 20% of respondents from this survey stated they’d accept a new job for the same pay, suggesting that many factors other than wages are important. These factors include health benefits, job security, flexible work arrangements and retirement benefits, which are rated behind pay, respectively, as the top five reasons employees would move elsewhere. And with that news, companies need to act to keep valuable employees. More than ever, people are looking for what was once considered “perks” not as a luxury but as an integral element for most roles.

 Some employees are leaving for a bump up the pay ladder, but many are not. One such hot potato is the topic of remote working; since the world of work was forced into working from home, more and more people are seeking flexibility from employers, and if that cannot be given, remote working opportunities. This has also been described as a significant disconnect by many economists, that is, between employers and employees. Employees want more remote work than they expect their current employer to allow.

Of course, remote work has its benefits, especially on an island like ours. According to the survey, there is less time commuting on roads, lower costs associated with going to the office, and better management of household commitments are the three most prominent benefits workers see with remote work. They see disadvantages, too: lack of social interactions at work, feeling disconnected and more significant challenge to build relationships round out the top three drawbacks of the remote working picture. Yet here in Malta, with our ever-rising figures in population, another week of yet packed roads, we need to be doing more to promote remote working and bring this up in conversation at a national level.

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