As the nation continues to count down the days until 21st June and the promise of our near normal life returning, one of the big questions we are hearing from both employers and employees is – will working from home (WFH) be the norm once restrictions have been lifted?
Employers will naturally have different pros and cons for working remotely than employees, but what is the best option all round?
We work across a number of different specialist areas UK wide so we wanted to share with you our thoughts and suggestions and how this may affect recruitment going forward. In a market where there appears to be more jobs than people available, we are constantly looking at ways to enhance a company’s offerings and advise on how to be the number one employer of choice.
The past 12 months
These past 12 months have tested businesses up and down the country and overnight, managers were forced to trust employees when Boris gave the announcement to lockdown and work from home where possible. The usual quandaries over allowing this flexibility had to be put to one side and if a business were to trade, they just had to make it work.
Benefits to working remotely
There are a number of benefits that can be identified for both employers and employees for working from home and perhaps some you have not considered before.
For companies, the most obvious and cost reduction benefit is the amount of money spent on rent and the size of office required. If you have a number of employees working from home then you can adopt a hot desking approach and dramatically reduce your office costs. What’s more you could possibly seek to make the most of out of town or city locations with amore agile workforce only attending periodically as opposed to every day.
Depending on the nature of your business remote working can offer a fantastic level of flexibility and adaptability to suit your clients and customers and even your future recruits. Speaking from our own experience, our Veterinary Consultant Adams tends to work a few hours in the evening in order to speak to his clients who are normally in surgery during a normal 9-5 day and it works perfectly around his family commitments! What’s more, we can widen our net of potential hires to a little further away as we would be happy for them to work from home on certain days, thus limiting their travel time. This highlights that from a recruitment perspective, you instantly widen the pool of people potentially suitable for your vacancies that may not have been able to consider before.
We have heard of clients and again ourselves, increasing productivity and motivation by allowing flexible and remote working and this can be for a number of reasons. Staff may feel more trusted if they are given the option to work from home and may also thrive in the quieter working space that their home may offer allowing more focused, detailed work. With the reduction in commuting costs, a more balanced lifestyle and the possibility to fit more work around personal commitments it is suggested that staff retention would also increase if were a permanent option.
We have touched upon it above but a major benefit to offering working from home is the positive impact it could have on your ability to hire. If you are in a region that is struggling to attract certain candidates you could widen the net significantly but allowing people from further afield to apply and only attend the office once or twice a week. We hear frequently at the moment that recruitment is one of the biggest challenges to face many businesses so we would urge you to think through how flexibility could help you to fill your gaps and prevent any further loss to income. See our blog on the cost of having an open vacancy for too long by clicking here.
Lastly a major consideration is how your company impacts on the environment. Less people travelling to your premises and visiting clients can majorly reduce your carbon footprint and this topic is only going to become more important for businesses to think about and plan for.
Benefits for the employee
As we issue this blog, it is Mental Health Awareness Week and health and wellbeing is becoming more and more of a focus for candidates and employees, especially in light of the past 12 months. Removing some or all of the weekly commute leaves many people feeling less stressed about money, time constraints and their general wellbeing. Not having to spend time commuting each day allows them the opportunity to have more time doing the things they they may use that time to exercise and improve their mental and physical wellbeing.
The flexibility that WFH allows can be very helpful for people particularly with families. Being at home longer in the morning or afternoon can mean that parents can drop and collect children more easily but equally be there to support older children if required.
What’s more, for the pet lovers out there working from home can enable people to have dogs where otherwise they may not have been able to. Dog ownership has many benefits including improvements to mental health and for those who may be on their own, companionship.
Some people find it easier to concentrate at home without the distractions of an office environment therefore making them feel more focused and in turn more successful. When an individual is more “in flow” with their work they are naturally happier and more effective so this is an all round benefit!
Negatives to working from home remotely
For the employer
Managing performance is probably one of the hardest things for employers to keep track of with employees working remotely. There are ways to get around this with goal setting and regular performance reviews, but different personalities will react differently to new levels of monitoring.
Work servers, sensitive data and security breaches are considerations any employer will need to think about when allowing your workforce to work offsite. Open wifi connections or computers that are used by multiple parties in one house can all lead to potential security risks but there are measures that can be put in place such as encryption software.
Poor internet speeds can not only affect the speed at which information might be uploaded/ updated to shared areas but for client virtual meetings or business development opportunities broadband in rural Somerset can be a lot slower than broadband in the city. This should be a consideration and perhaps an open chat with employees to see what can be done or whether it is viable option.
Lastly the cultural implication of many people working remotely is one to seriously think about. How can you maintain your culture when your people are disbanded? There are certainly ways around it but will certainly take more effort and planning with a remote workforce and as discussed previously, culture is essential to raising employer brand. For more information on this please visit our blog here.
For the employee
Certain personality types don’t like being cut off from teams or working on their own and that can very quickly affect staff morale and mental health. Particularly people who live on their own will miss the daily interaction of colleagues and begin to feel more isolated. In addition, young people who live at home with their families may be forced to work in their bedrooms and you have to consider how healthy an environment this is for someone longer term.
During the last lockdown we found that some of the team enjoyed being permanently home based and others really struggled, and it was important to be aware of those who were struggling and ensure we gave them extra time/ interaction with other members of the team. Make sure you regularly check in with employees and make sure they are doing ok at home and feel ok.
Home distractions can at first seem like a novelty, but they can affect work performance quickly. These can be anything from a partner working from home, a new kitten or puppy that needs regular attention or perhaps the temptation of free/ extra childcare. These can be harder to get away from particularly for those who don’t have the luxury of a home office set up that’s quiet and away from the dinner table or sofa.
The temptation to switch the laptop on half and hour early or keep the laptop on in the evening may seem like a good idea for the few weeks but without the clear distinction between work and home staff may begin to struggle to differentiate their time which sounds good right? More work from your staff! But this after time can lead to employees struggling to switch off, increasing their stress levels and inevitably leading to them having a burnout.
Does this affect recruitment?
The short answer is yes it could affect recruitment going forward. Now offices are starting to open back up to their staff, there is a real mix between candidates wanting to remain working from home at least 2 days a week or those that purely want an office based role because they didn’t enjoy or couldn’t work remotely.
Naturally depending on the industry that you work in this will be more viable for some than others and it is important to assess whether you can realistically offer this based on the tools available to you.
What can you do to ensure you are still an employer of choice?
Don’t be on the back foot when planning for this next phase of our return to normality! Be open minded to the options available to you and sensitive to individual circumstances. We believe offering some degree of flexibility is really the way forward if you can to ensure that you retain and attract the very best people. Society has proven that work continues effectively even when forced to work from home so lets not be tempted to revert back to an old way of life that may well be very unattractive for some candidates and employees.
At Elite we don’t just find candidates we advise on all aspects of hiring strategy so if you would like to know more, get in touch with the team or sign up for our Buyers Guide here which tells you exactly how we do it.