The Remote vs. Onsite Work Debate

September 1, 2023

The Push and Pull of Remote Work

The COVID-19 pandemic changed how we work. While many sectors quickly adapted to remote work, the engineering, space, and aerospace industries faced unique challenges. In these fields, leadership often means being there in person, making decisions on the ground, and solving problems in real-time.

The New Work Landscape

During the pandemic, even industries like aerospace had to find ways to work remotely. A 2022 Aerospace & Defense Workforce Study by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) revealed a telling trend: while 97% of employers have implemented some form of alternative work arrangements, a significant 72% of these solutions were hybrid models, emphasizing the importance of in-person days.

The Pull of Remote Work

The appeal of remote work is undeniable. A McKinsey study in 2022 found that 87% of employees across various industries would prefer to work remotely if given the choice. Yet, the AIA-AIAA study highlighted that 31% of professionals left their jobs in aerospace and defense sectors, seeking better work location flexibility.

Why Onsite Work Matters in Engineering

However, for the engineering, aerospace, and space sectors, the situation is more nuanced. Leaders in these fields often need to be hands-on, solving problems on the production / assembly / shop floors, overseeing critical operations, and leading by example. They're required to be present at sensitive locations, brainstorm complex technical issues, and share in-depth knowledge with junior peers.

As Neil Armstrong once said, "Research is creating new knowledge." In industries as intricate as ours, creating this new knowledge often requires collaboration, hands-on experimentation, and face-to-face interactions.

Striking the Right Balance

The challenge, then, is to find a middle ground. Here’s how companies can offer the flexibility of remote work while ensuring that the essential onsite roles are not compromised:

1. Hybrid Models: As the AIA-AIAA study suggests, hybrid models can be the way forward. Leaders can have specific in-person days, ensuring they're present for critical operations while also enjoying the flexibility of remote work.

2. Flexible Hours: The same study found that 85% of companies offered flexible start and finish times during the pandemic. This can continue, offering leaders a better work-life balance.

3. Enhanced Benefits for Onsite Roles: Companies can offer additional benefits like higher salaries, career development opportunities, and more for roles that demand a predominant onsite presence.

4. Building a Robust Company Culture: A strong company culture can make the workplace more appealing, reducing the allure of remote work.

The Best Leaders Know Where They Need to Be

The best leaders in engineering, space, and aerospace know that they often need to be onsite. They understand the value of being there in person. And companies need to recognize this too. They need to find ways to attract and keep these leaders, even if other industries are offering more remote work.

In Conclusion

The future of work in the engineering, space, and aerospace sectors will undoubtedly be a blend of in-person and remote roles. Striking the right balance is crucial.

At Foram Brown, we deeply understand the value of having leaders onsite. If you're in the pursuit of a leader to elevate your team and navigate this evolving landscape, then let's start the conversation.