The concept of the workplace has undergone sweeping changes since the onset of the pandemic more than two years ago.
Education companies were forced to allow their employees to work remotely during the worst of the pandemic out of necessity. But even as health restrictions have lifted, many of those organizations have chosen to stick with environments that allow for remote work — and a new survey suggests that’s the way their workers, including relatively high-level employees, want it.
Amid a shifting workforce culture — whether driven by the wave of employee departures that have come about through the “Great Resignation,” or a recent phenomenon known as quiet quitting, there’s been an increasing belief in many companies that being able to work from home contributes to work-life balance and mental health awareness.
According to a new survey of 446 K-12 business officials published by EdWeek Market Brief, a vast majority of ed-tech employees prefer remote work over regularly coming into the office.
Almost three-fourths of those surveyed prefer to work remotely as much as they want. One-fourth said they’d prefer some combination of hybrid work, with some days at home and some in the office. Only 3 percent said they would prefer working in the office most or all of the time.
In fact, the survey also shows that remote work is already the norm in many organizations. Responses to a separate survey question showed that an overwhelming portion of education employees, 75 percent, say they’re already allowed to work remotely as much as they want.
Only a small portion of employees say they’re currently working in hybrid or in-office jobs. For instance, just 3 percent say they work in the office 4-5 days a week.
This survey, conducted this summer by the EdWeek Research Center and included in EdWeek Market Brief’s new State of the Industry report, suggests that the vast majority of employees in education organizations have grown accustomed to working from home, perhaps a signal to companies that it would be unrealistic to expect workers to return to the office full-time.
Many of the employees surveyed are in relatively high positions in their company hierarchies: Eighty percent identified themselves as working in either executive or managerial positions.
In a move to attract new talent, especially at a time when many workers are switching jobs, companies are offering remote options in place of roles that may have traditionally required staff to be in-office.
Prior to the pandemic, ed-tech company GoGuardian had 238 employees, all based around the Los Angeles area, where its headquarters are located. Because the organization had an office-centric culture, remote work was essentially not an option back then, said Elizabeth Dadanian, chief people officer for the company.
But when the pandemic hit in March 2020, the company sent everyone to work from home. New hires were also told they could work from wherever they were located, and GoGuardian has stuck with that policy. The staff has now grown to more than 700 fully remote employees.
Allowing workers to be completely remote has been a huge draw for incoming employees and a great reason to stay for existing ones, Dadanian said.
“What we’re finding from our employees is that they so appreciate the flexibility that this has afforded them to incorporate their lives into their work — and their work into their lives — in a much more seamless way,” Dadanian said.
From a recruiting perspective, remote work has also opened the door to a greater diversity of potential hires, she said. Since candidates are no longer bound to the area surrounding Los Angeles, the company now has employees across almost every state, and the workers come from a wide range of demographic backgrounds and skill sets.
“When you’re opening up to a bigger talent market, you allow more diversity and inclusion,” in your workforce, Dadanian said. “Being able to recruit across the United States gives us a much better chance of understanding the needs of our [district] customers.”
In a market where individual states and school districts may have their own requirements for ed-tech products, having a geographically diverse workforce could give companies an advantage in staying on top of those needs, said Colin Gillespie, COO at The Renaissance Network, a firm that specializes in ed-tech recruiting.
Offering remote work is a way to cast a wide net in the worldwide talent pool to find the most qualified candidates, he said.
Keeping Up With Competition
According to Gillespie, The Renaissance Network has seen continued demand for hiring in the past three years as more roles are being offered with the option to work remotely.
But as remote opportunities increase and the power shifts to the job seekers, the challenge for companies now lies in being competitive enough to capture candidates’ attention.
“It’s no longer about just offering remote, but offering remote in a really effective, inclusive manner,” Gillespie said.
To compete for candidates in a market where there are so many remote jobs, companies need to be looking at things like home-office support equipment, covering internet plans, or planning quarterly in-person events where employees can still feel like they’re part of something bigger, but can still return to the convenience of their homes, Gillespie said.
“The sheer demand — there are two open jobs for every available candidate — means that [education companies] have to be that much more sharp,” Gillespie said. “It’s the competitive nature of the marketplace.”