Right around the world, developed economies are seeing the effects of the Covid pandemic on work. The impacts of stay home and work from home (WfH) directives issued by many governments during the darkest days of the crisis are evident and there has been much speculation about what it might mean for the recruitment market in the medium to long term.
While WfH was an established practice for some before the pandemic, it was not widely adopted. Some might cite a lack of managerial oversight, inability to train and support, or collaboration issues as reasons for the adherence to centralised geographic places of work.
However, the necessity of WfH during the pandemic forced a grand ‘experiment’ that demonstrated that it was perfectly feasible at large scale for millions to work remotely. Technology has enabled the processes of management practice, worker support and collaborative working to continue, allowing workers to remain productive and working in teams despite physical isolation. In short, this means remote working is here to stay!
For the recruitment industry, the effects of the forced global WfH ‘experiment’ are now becoming much clearer.
Most workers want to work from home, at least some of the time. This is because of reduced commute, including lower costs, reduced environmental impact, time saved and flexibility that boosts the work-life balance.
Working from home is particularly suited to office-based workers such as managers, professionals and clerical and administrative workers. This especially applicable where workers use computers, interact less with the public face-to-face, do not perform outdoor work or physical activity, and do not work with immovable structures, materials or equipment.
Employers are a little split on whether WfH is a positive or a negative. Some believe it reduces costs, improves worker focus, makes workers’ happier because it provides a better work-life balance. However, it doesn’t support some of the softer aspects of business such as ad-hoc interaction between people, creativity, and organisational culture.
Australian Government research shows a 60/40 split, where workers spend two to three days a week in the office and two to three days working from home is the most likely way to balance WfH with working from the office. Over time, as employers adjust job requirements to adopt WfH practices that meet their needs, workers are likely to move into roles that better suit their personal preferences.
About a third of the workforce is suited to jobs that allow for some level of WfH and the vast majority of those are likely to have preference for some level of WfH. The takeaway for recruiters is that there is a need to engage with clients to ensure job specs incorporate a WfH component. It’s very likely that this needs to be flexible, allowing for some negotiation and variability, so that days that are spent WfH can be changed as needed.
The world of work continues to evolve and technology is a major element. Sometimes it forces change. At other times it provides the means to implement a desired change. WfH is a case in point here – technology was the enabler that provided the capability for so many to work remotely.
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