Local View: Shift to flex work is reshaping Northland employment

From the column: "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."

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

One contributing factor to local workforce shortages has been the global rise of remote work. According to Forbes , under 4% of all professional jobs were remote opportunities before the pandemic. That figure skyrocketed to more than 15% by 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 good news, however: Not all employees want to work remotely.

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 remotely full-time, the report said, while the majority (68%) want a hybrid of remote work along with the option of going 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 how.


One is to 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 job seekers will pass on your 100% on-site job in favor of opportunities that allow them to work from wherever they want, whenever they want.

Two, 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 middles of days, or some other variation.

And three, emphasize company culture. Even if you can’t function with fluid hours, you can still focus on company culture. Nurture an environment where employees 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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Ali Bilden Camps

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