How the Shift to Flex Work Is Reshaping Northland Employment

A version of this article was originally published in the Duluth News Tribune on Saturday, October 29, 2022. You can view the op-ed here.

Ali Bilden Camps northforce
Ali Bilden Camps, NORTHFORCE Program Manager

With unemployment at historic lows (1.8% according to data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development) we’re hearing about more and more Northland employers who are offering greater flexibility in paid positions to attract applicants. 

One contributing factor to local workforce shortages is the rise of remote work, globally. According to Forbes, under 4% of all professional jobs were remote opportunities, before the pandemic. That figure skyrocketed to more than 15% in February 2022, and Forbes estimates 25% of all professional jobs will be remote by the end of this year. 

This is a colossal challenge for employers with business models that don’t adapt to remote work. If you’re one of those employers, there’s some good news: Not all employees want to work remote. 

The pandemic revealed advantages of working from home — along with some downsides. Another Forbes report indicated that while employees found they could be just as productive on their own (if not moreso), many also reported feeling disconnected from the workplace and missing their colleagues: Only 20% would choose to work remote full-time, while the majority (68%) want a hybrid of remote work along with the option to go into the office. 

In the current job market, what do Northland employers have to do to attract qualified candidates? Building greater flexibility into your job listings can be a powerful tactic. Here are three ideas: 

  • Offer remote options – If at all possible, give employees the ability to work off-site some (or all) of the time. Remember, you’re competing with a whole world of remote job listings out there. Chances are high that jobseekers will pass on your 100% on-site job in favor of opportunities that will allow them to work from wherever they want, whenever they want.
  • Introduce flexible hours – If you can’t go so far as to let employees set their own schedules, what’s the absolute minimum you need the whole team on site at the same time? Set “core hours” for those parts of the week when everyone’s expected to show up in person. This could take the form of four-day weeks, four-hour blocks in the middle of the day, or some other variation.
  • Emphasize company culture – Even if you can’t function with fluid hours, you can still focus on company culture. Nurture an environment where employees will want to come to work. And be sure to include some info in your job post to convey a sense of the “flavor” of your business. What makes you unique? 

Based on today’s workforce trends, hybrid might be the way to go, from a hiring standpoint. Take a look at the roles you’re having trouble filling. Can you add some form of flexibility to the position? It could make a big difference to the amount of applications you receive. 

Ali Bilden Camps of Duluth is a Northspan consultant and the NORTHFORCE program manager. Northspan is a nonprofit consulting firm in Duluth that powers the region’s NORTHFORCE program.

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