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You Don't Own Me, Employer!

Recently, a client asked me if there was any way I could help them figure out if one of their full-time permanent remote employees had a second job, or even left his last after joining them. The LinkedIn profile wasn’t updated, and his performance was not up to par. I was not involved in the placement of their permanent employee, but it’s question I’ve never been asked.

I thought – how many other companies out there have questions like this, or suspect it is occurring with their permanent remote hires? My guess is, maybe a lot of them, even after formal background checks and employment verification.

Never before in the history of ‘work’ has such a large percentage of the workforce-at-large been able to do their work from wherever they desire, for almost whoever they desire. Unbound by an office structure, most remote professionals claim they do better work, and are more productive at home. Last May, a CNBC survey of 9,000 remote employees said 57% were ‘very satisfied’ with their jobs, which is high. Nearly every candidate we identify for our clients asks about remote possibilities in the positions we present. Even in the federal space, where most highly-cleared work is onsite no question – we still get asked every time.

Yet, somehow large recruiting firms and staffing agencies are having unprecedented levels of success in the last year, and as the ‘brokers’ in this market – someone is leaving their jobs…or at least getting new ones. Small but aggressively growing companies can and do recruit from anywhere now, it’s exciting and bit terrifying for the ‘status quo’ crowd. They have less steps, less deliberations, less approvals and more speed. My question is – and I don’t know the answer – could they be hiring your employees, also?

Is what might have begun as ‘side hustle’ and ‘gig economy’ work - get it if you can get it - seeming to be trending into the full-fledged dual or even triple full-time employment? This is not to suggest that working remotely for a very demanding job is easy and packed with free time – but the opportunities, if one were so inclined, are everywhere. What a talented person can do with their time - without having to get up, prep, ride to and be in a place for 8+ hours every day is…well, more.

Most companies have restrictions on other competitive employment in their offer documents, but what was easy to manage and identify 15 months ago is no longer quite as easy. LinkedIn is still not a resume or employment verification. The phrase ‘I can see how hard you are working on this…’ during a performance evaluation is no longer an objective observation through actually watching work. Results are what matters, and if someone can manage those results for multiple companies – do those multiple companies even care?

I have several clients that strongly request their employees join them in the office, even for roles like recruiting, software development, web design, and digital marketing. Most of the recruiting firms I’ve worked for in the past have been back in for months, mainly due to their heavy employment of young people. We’ve seen major financial institutions and sports leagues make the same mandates. For them, the office culture is the company culture, or at least a major component. The question eventually will be equity, when newly-hired professionals are making the commute, and previously-hired ‘Covid-era’ professionals are doing the same work in their PJs. Something’s gotta give.

It is quite the conundrum that certainly keeps some CHROs and CEOs up at night. They have beautiful and expensive office space built to cultivate culture, growth and employee retention. But, they’ve also invested millions in pivoting to a remote workforce out of necessity, and that workforce has (generally) been doing their jobs well. They want the talent in the office, but the talent wants to work remote. How do they ensure, without insulting or potentially discriminating, that their remote workers are in fact their remote workers? How do their retention efforts shift when a star employee can get off a zoom call with them, and have two interviews before the next one? What does it say when they can actually do both jobs well?

To me, we are in the midst of such a fascinating social experiment.

For what it is worth, I don’t believe this to be a common situation, but I see both sides. For clients, I recommend what countless studies and articles have confirmed – build and maintain a remote culture of accountability - trust and verify, include and collaborate, and we can help you do that. For professionals out there working hard who are able to do it, please be respectful to your employers and the recruiting firms supporting them. I don’t begrudge you if you can pull it off successfully though, and I know of some who do.

I had to advise my frustrated client that there probably would be no ‘smoking gun’ and to work through the HR disciplinary steps to move the employee out. Regardless of how many concurrent jobs the employee had, he was doing at least one not well, and that is within my client’s power to change. For now at least…

* Geller, Jen 5/18/2020 Workers who still have their jobs are happier but working harder CNBC Newswire

About the Author:

Mike Nicholas is the founder of Davis Laine, LLC, an expert advisory firm specializing in solving talent acquisition headaches through TA setup advisory, specialized recruiter skills training, and RPO Recruiting services.

For more helpful information, visit

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