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Job seekers get more options — and competition — as working from home becomes permanent. 'If we decide we need people to come in, we can fly them in'

Lauren Zumbach and Ally Marotti, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Business News

With three young children, Eric Sauerhoff was not looking to move across the Midwest during the pandemic.

The Bexley, Ohio, resident was job hunting and knew a move might be necessary. But when offices shut down due to COVID-19, he began to wonder if he could avoid the move altogether and work remotely from Ohio.

"If a company had said, 'We need you to move to Chicago or Seattle or anywhere just to work from home here,' that would have been a tough sale," said Sauerhoff, 33, who earlier this month joined Chicago car insurance startup Clearcover as a vice president and works from his Ohio home.

The pandemic has altered how companies and their employees work, most notably by solidifying work-from-home arrangements, and those shifts are expected to endure long past the development of a vaccine. It also has changed recruiting in a way that will mean more opportunities for job hunters but also more competition.

Chicago companies, particularly in the tech industry, have started to hire out-of-state employees during the pandemic and telling them they can stay put, even after everyone else returns to the office. Recruiters say companies are moving away from naming specific locations on job postings, and more employees, who have gotten used to working from home, expect the arrangement to continue.

To be sure, some companies plan to fully return to their offices after the pandemic because they worry about the toll working virtually takes on workplace culture. But many employers have found that having a remote workforce suits them, and hiring from out-of-state immediately broadens the talent pool.

 

"It's been nice because we've been able to think differently than we have in the past," said Vikki Caruso, senior vice president of people at Clearcover. "You're so used to (thinking), 'Well, we need to be together.'

"Well, we really don't."

Nine of the 34 people Clearcover hired during the pandemic are out of state and will stay remote, Caruso said. The arrangement has helped the company, which has about 160 employees, find candidates with experience at consumer-facing tech companies, which are few and far between in Chicago.

"If we decide we need people to come in, we can fly them in and we'll budget for that accordingly," Caruso said. "We've proven, hey, we can do this remote work and we can hire where the cost of living isn't as high."

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