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Which Covid-19 changes will become permanent for the workforce?

25 Jun 2020

Hays Talent Solutions’ Jacky Carter discusses how some of the recent work-life changes could become permanent in the future.

In the world of work, the effects of social measures that governments are being forced to take have proven to be incredibly challenging for businesses and employees. However, for many business leaders around the world, they are now starting to turn their attention to the potential long-term implications of the pandemic on the next era of work.

Will we continue to work from home?

Those of us fortunate enough to have a job that can be done from home have been forced to rethink our working lives in recent weeks and months, working closely with our teams to put new technology and processes in place to enable us to keep our businesses functioning in new ways.

While many people already had the opportunity to work remotely, for most of us, it was just occasionally. However, as we got deeper into this crisis, more and more organisations had to build infrastructure and operating frameworks to enable a much larger proportion of their workforce to work this way on an ongoing basis. An interesting question is, how much of that change will become permanent?

Of course, the idea of working at home in itself is not a new concept – reports suggest that teleworking has grown by as much as 173pc in the US since 2005 – presumably something to do with improvements in technology, innovation and communication. As a result, more than half of employees (56pc) now have a job where at least some of what they do can be done from home.

On the whole, people welcome it. A 2019 Owl Labs report found that as many as 80pc of employees wanted to work from home at least some of the time, before the crisis. In fact, flexibility is one of the top-ranked work benefits amongst the millennial workforce. Pre-crisis, more than a third of employees (35pc) would go so far as to change jobs if they had the chance to work from home, whilst over a third would take a pay cut of up to 5pc in order to work at home some of the time.

For prospective employees, the chance to balance their work and home lives can be a big draw. Prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, many organisations faced the challenge of embracing the benefits of regular remote and flexible working without disrupting or undermining established ways of working. Now we’ve been forced to work from home in a productive way, we could see this being the ‘new normal’ going forward.

It is therefore quite feasible that the previously held fears and concerns of employers have now been overtaken by necessity. In fact, we are already hearing (and seeing in our own teams) reports of the positive impact that more frequent, structured and focused communication is resulting in increased collaboration, teamwork and support.

Will we hire remotely more often?

The way we hire individuals has also changed. Today, the default way of interviewing potential candidates is by video call – only a few months ago the default was face-to-face.

For the roles we’ve been asked to hire during the crisis so far, all parties are quite comfortable to take this crucial first meeting online, even though it’s a first time for many.

Here at Hays Talent Solutions, we’ve even built a group assessment process, which is entirely online yet enables group interaction and offers the hiring team a chance to evaluate candidates in a group setting. Ensuring inclusivity is critical in those processes – everyone must be given equal access and opportunity.

We are all learning as we go

As we work through this crisis, things to be changing daily, so most of us are evolving our approach as we go. As we become more adept, we’ll be building in the elements we identify as missing along the way – because we are all looking out for those learnings.

It might be that we see a need to devise ways to replace the water cooler conversations, things you pick up in the corridors – this is hard to do when everyone is remote. We’re having to find new ways of having fun together over our video conferencing tool of choice and explore new ways to build and evolve our cultures in different ways than we’re used to.

So, having achieved all that, it’s important to use this precious time to think about which parts of the ‘old normal’ you will take forward into the post-crisis era and why, and which you will happily wave goodbye to.

By Jacky Carter

Jacky Carter is the group digital engagement director at Hays Talent Solutions.

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