4 months – that’s how long some of us have been stuck at home, working or otherwise, after the outbreak of COVID-19. As pubs, cinemas and hair salons start to open their doors workplaces are sure to follow.
Besides not being able to shuffle to your ‘desk’ in your pyjamas, what else should we expect as we begin to make our ways back to places of work?
We caught up with a few professionals from up and down the country to discuss what hiring after lock-down might look like, what pain points they may have and what we can expect moving forward.
Open offices with communal areas, gatherings around the coffee machine, ball pits and slides. These were all the thing of modern workspace legend – small spaces that encourage collaboration with an open culture. Now, they seem miles away from the socially distant reality we’re currently living with. Does COVID-19 spell the end for the Agile Office?
For Rob Curtis, Head of Delivery at wayfinding and mapping solution provider Living Map, there are a lot of questions.
“Do you need to have your desk cleaned every night? Will there be a clear desk policy? Suddenly it sounds a lot like a Victorian schoolroom.”
As companies plan how to bring their workforce together again in the office, numerous calculations are being made to provide an environment that will keep workers safe, healthy and productive. While some of that strategy involves testing and monitoring employees to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, there will be discussions being had about the more policy-driven do’s and don'ts – unfortunately these are all at odds with the open offices that pioneered hot desking.
“Perhaps you divide the workplace in half, and half the office can come in on Monday and Wednesday, half of the office can come in on Tuesday and Thursday,” said Gable Clarke, director of interior design at the architecture firm SGA.
Although research has suggested that the office isn’t going to disappear anytime soon, changes will have to be made to how we use those spaces with the office of the future looking very much like the office of the past.
In April 2020, statistics released by the UK's Office for National Statistics showed 49.2% of adults in employment were working from home, as a result of the social distancing measures introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
5 years before, in 2015, Statistics from the ONS showed that, only 4.2 million people across a range of sectors worked from home, and businesses both small and large are increasingly adopted the remote working strategy into their model.
This rapid transition to full-scale remote working has, for many, opened their eyes to the possibility of remote positions. For one Head of Talent Acquisition, we spoke to, a lot of people have ‘realised just how flexible they can be’.
Time will tell, as people adopt more long term working from home habits, whether this will be a trend that will stay with us. From a hiring perspective, this change provides an opportunity for hiring managers who might not have considered remote candidates before.
For Simon Lusby, Technical Director: Head of Transport Planning at City Science, broadening their talent pool is an exciting opportunity.
“Before lockdown, we were focusing on employment in the southeast for our transport planning team and now being more flexible within the UK. We’re more open because of what we’ve been able to achieve remotely over this period engaging remotely with one another and clients.”
During the early days of lock-down, some managers might have defaulted back to micromanagement as their team fell out of eye-shot. This is an extreme case, but over this period we’ve probably all experienced a bit of communication overload. Slack notifications, outlook updates, video calls after video calls.
As we begin to transition back to a shared workspace, how much of this information and notification noise will remain? And should we even be worried about it?
For one Head of Talent Acquisition we spoke to, it’s impossible to ‘eliminate your own sense of balance’ but there is no such thing as overcommunication if the information in question ‘is relevant’. A leader should know, ‘however big their organisation is, they should be cascading information up and down.’
For Jack Davies, Marketing Director at Codeherent, the pandemic has made future jobseekers more considerate of their next move with candidates shifting the value in new moves away from perks and towards achievements.
‘Now is the time to be strengthening your position as employable and valuable. If that’s in your current organisation, that’s what you should be focusing on. If that’s not achievable where you are, you should be focusing on moving on.’
Jack, who moved to his position at Codeherent during the pandemic and subsequent lockdown, ‘was able to weigh up the risk and the rewards, improve my job value and move to a company that was in an exciting space.’.
Will we see more candidates protecting themselves and improving their situations as we come out of COVID-19 restrictions?
Meaningful work, whether it’s developing an app for social as well as economic benefit, delivering value into the community or fighting for a cause you believe in, is something that has always been valued.
But now, as we come out of the other side of a pandemic that has, in some cases, had a significant, life-affirming impact on people’s lives there may well be some people looking to make significant strides towards working on something meaningful – that has a purpose, a trend that Mindy Daeschner, Health Tech Entrepreneur and Managing Partner at Daeschner consulting, can see developing.
‘I don't really know anybody that hasn't been touched in some way, I think the recognition that they're doing something that's greater than the sum of its parts is fantastic. And I think generally, that's the direction of travel, people want meaningful work.’
Office culture was always better suited to the extraverts in the room. Those with the loudest voice. But after a prolonged period of remote working where communication has mainly been confined to digital channels, we’re starting to notice the communication playing field level out.
Katharine Rooney, Director of Talent Acquisition at Mimecast, who herself has recently joined, first realised this ‘level-playing’ field while getting to know her team over her first few days.
“Using a tool like Zoom, everybody's there, everyone's present, and has the same opportunity to be able to have their voice heard. So from that regard, I think I've probably been able to get to know people across different geographical locations a lot better. I've also seen team members getting to know people better because it's not just about that physical presence in the office.”
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