As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, an unprecedented number of professionals are working remotely and companies are ditching their office spaces to cut costs. This shift is bringing ramifications beyond forcing employees to perfect their Zoom Meeting etiquette and create engaging virtual happy hours. It is also having a profound impact on traditional hiring practices and parameters, and early signs indicate that many of these changes will persist even after the threat of COVID dissipates. Unlike most business-related COVID-caused consequences, this one actually has the potential to be a huge positive opportunity area for businesses and job seekers alike, by expanding the scope of their search — for talent and job opportunities, respectively — beyond the region of a physical office.

According to an April 2020 Gallup Poll, 63% of Americans had worked from home at some point in the previous seven days due to the pandemic, and this number has likely increased in the months since. Gallup also found that only 26% of those who were working from home due to COVID reported that they would prefer to return to the office as soon as businesses and schools reopened, and another 25% would only consider returning to an office once the concern of COVID has been mitigated. That means that nearly one-half of those American workers would rather continue to work from home indefinitely, or at least have the option to do so.

After so many months of their employees adjusting to at-home work life, many companies are taking notice and making changes accordingly. In an interview with Jim Cramer on Mad Money in May, the CEO of Cisco, Chuck Robbins, said, “I think many companies that aren’t used to leveraging this technology to work from home have come to the conclusion that they can be productive this way.” With this realization, a number of companies have switched to a completely remote workforce, some will be giving employees the option to continue working remotely as they desire once offices are reopened, and others are keeping some employees remote and some in office, depending on their preference or their function. Robbins foresees some type of “hybrid model” will become commonplace, where some employees will continue working from home, some will go back to the office, and some will do both.

Some huge tech companies have already made decisions to fundamentally alter their operations and workforce strategies to maintain a sizable remote workforce. Twitter announced a hybrid model, where employees who are able to work from home will be given the option to do so once the company’s offices reopen, while Jack Dorsey’s other company, Square, will allow all employees to stay remote if they prefer. And in May, Mark Zuckerberg shared that Facebook will help accommodate workers who wish to stay remote post-pandemic, and that the company will refocus its hiring strategy in an effort to build a remote workforce outside of the regions where its offices are located. Zuckerberg estimates that half of Facebook’s employees will be remote within 10 years.

What does this mean for employers and job seekers?

Large companies like these are leading the way into shaping the future of the U.S. workforce, and a number of smaller ones are already following suit. For companies, building a remote workforce is no longer just a matter of  COVID-related safety, but the pandemic has allowed companies to test the waters. According to Cisco’s Robbins, “This has given us confidence that we can hire talent anywhere and have them participate productively on teams regardless of their location.” Expanding hiring geographically will also help companies diversify their workforce. This was a main point Zuckerberg made during a livestream back in May concerning Facebook’s planned emphasis on hiring remote employees moving forward: “When you limit hiring to people who live in a small number of big cities, or who are willing to move there, that cuts out a lot of people who live in different communities, have different backgrounds, have different perspectives.”

With all of this being said, job seekers should feel comfortable expanding their searches beyond their region of residence. When searching job boards online, most job seekers filter results by the city they live in, near, or where they are interested in relocating. Now, it’s a worthwhile strategy to also base your search on the companies that are the most appealing to you. Do some research to find the companies that do the type of work you want to do and that you would love to work for. Check out their openings to see if they’re considering remote candidates, or reach out to the hiring manager if possible to see if they would consider hiring remote talent. Just because a company doesn’t clearly state that remote applicants would be considered, doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t consider it for the perfect candidate.

It’s also the perfect time for job seekers to add new tools to their search strategy, like utilizing the “Remote” filter that’s available on LinkedIn and some other job boards to find positions that are guaranteed to be work-from-home. There are also a number of job boards specifically catered to seekers looking for remote work, like FlexJobs and Remote.Co.

Working with a third-party recruiter can also be helpful to job seekers who want to broaden their search to remote work opportunities and employers looking to expand their remote workforces. For job seekers, recruiters will know which of their clients are open to hiring remote employees, and they might even be able to persuade others to consider doing so if they think you’re the perfect fit. And for employers, the idea of expanding your talent pool so wide might be overwhelming, but outside recruiters can help relieve that burden.

It will take some time for both employers and job seekers to adapt to the growing remote work landscape that has been forced upon us by COVID-19, but ultimately, those that are willing to do the work to shift their focus should find the results of the effort to be fruitful. With remote hiring offering employers access to the very best and most diverse talent, and also giving job seekers the chance to work for their dream companies without regard for location, perhaps this pandemic will have some positive impact after all.

Meghan CartyAbout the Author:

Based in Brooklyn, NY, Meghan Carty has worked as a research analyst in the travel industry, as well as a researcher and strategist focusing on trends and innovation across multiple sectors, including toys and games, CPG, and fast food.

Connect with her on LinkedIn.