Experts see some remote work, job flexibility continuing in Iowa after coronavirus – The Gazette

At least some elements of remote work likely will continue after the pandemic, panelists said Tuesday morning as part of The Gazette’s Business Breakfast Series.

Jason Glass, who runs a human resources consulting company Glass People Solutions, said the pre-coronavirus work norms would not return immediately “even if we wave a magic wand and tomorrow there were no pandemic concerns.”

“That work environment has forever been changed,” Glass said.

John Sorensen, president and chief executive officer of the Iowa Bankers Association and Iowa Business Council treasurer, said that opens doors for many Iowa companies.

“That probably opens up workforce that we hadn’t even considered before,” Sorensen said.

“For many jobs, people can live and work from anywhere. That’s not the ideal for us. We’d love for people to live in Iowa and be part of our communities and create that fabric of our state, which is so very important. But it does create a broader workforce.”

Ryan West, Iowa Workforce Development deputy director, sees an upside of remote work for smaller, rural communities that lack many major employers.

“Remote jobs will maybe help keep some people in our rural communities,” West said. “Which is such a big deal.”

Many companies still anticipate a return to the office, albeit a gradual or unconventional one.

Claudia Schabel, whose company Schabel Solutions provides diversity and inclusion consulting, anticipates technology allowing for more flexibility between working from home and working in the office that can make a “huge difference for small and bigger businesses.”

“I think we’re going to have a hybrid approach to the workplace moving forward,” Schabel said.

Sorensen said he expects all 220 Iowa Bankers Association employees to be working in-person in a new office space in Johnston later this year.

Other companies need to work in-person by necessity.

“Clearly there are some positions, some jobs where remote working is just not going to work,” Sorensen said.

Glass said remote work also lacks the “human cohesion” people have been missing during coronavirus.

“We still need that personal connection,” Glass said. “These technology tools are great, but it’s not a replacement for face-to-face interactions.”

The trend of companies hiring workers to work remotely from other states also comes at a risk. While Iowa companies can recruit from outside the state, companies from other states can also recruit Iowa workers.

“I think it’s both a threat and opportunity,” Glass said.

Diversity and inclusion has become a focal point for many companies over the past year.

Schabel said demand for her services have gone up since George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis this past May.

Along with attracting employees from diverse backgrounds, Schabel said companies are also seeking help on “how to retain diverse talent and how to build inclusive workspaces.”

Bethany Wilcoxon, senior adviser at McClure Engineering, said companies need to ensure they aren’t just “paying lip service” or risk losing credibility.

In response to an online viewer’s question, Schabel said at least three pieces of Iowa legislation from this year’s legislative session could be “detrimental to inclusivity and detrimental to the sentiment that we’re all in it together.”

“For people who don’t live here, they don’t know. They just see the headlines,” said Schabel, whose company is nonpartisan. “That is where I think it could impact people’s ability to recruit.”

That comes as Glass sees the connection between politics and worker recruitment “accelerating.”

“Our politics in general has become such more of an open topic of conversation than it used to be,” he said.

“We tend to gravitate more toward people who agree with us.”

The panel was recorded and can be viewed at thegazette.com/special-events/business-breakfast.

The Gazette Business Breakfast panels are sponsored by BerganKDV. Community sponsors are the New Bohemian Innovation Collaborative and Corridor Careers.

The next Business Breakfast will be June 8, on the power grid of the future.

Comments: (319) 398-8394; john.steppe@thegazette.com

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