The World of Work Post-Coronavirus: What will the lasting impact be?

As we start a new decade under the dark cloud of global pandemic Covid-19, it’s evident that our world of work is set to change. Certainly in the immediate short-term, but perhaps too with lasting effect.

Millions of us have been advised to self-isolate in a bid to slow the spread of the virus. Businesses, schools and communities are issuing guidelines and gearing up to cope with these emergency measures. The Recruitment & Employment Confederation have issued these guidelines to recruiters.

Of course it’s not possible for everyone to work remotely; health professionals, hospitality staff and construction staff to name a few, and for those workers these are especially worrying times. But for people equipped with a laptop, mobile phone and collaborative work-sharing tools, how will this interim enforced change impact their vision of remote working and desire to adopt more flexible working practices going forward?

For recruitment companies this new work dynamic affects their own staff, their candidates and their clients (employers). With a view to maintaining productivity, Odro suggests how to overcome the obvious roadblocks in the hiring process, of candidates being unable to physically attend interviews, through the use of video interviews. Keeping the wheels turning is in everyone’s interest to contribute to economic activity. Will this forced social distancing drive the wider adoption of video interviewing as more people have become familiar with video conferencing as a way to stay in touch with their colleagues?

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It will be interesting to discover whether during imposed quarantine periods job search activity increases as people have more perceived freedom to apply for roles. Or instead whether it will spike once they return to the workplace and seek out employment closer to home having enjoyed a better work/life balance? Could coronavirus lead to a bigger shift in preferences about where and how people choose to work? Local employment offers not only more time to spend with loved ones, but zero/low travel satisfies our quest for reduced carbon emissions, too. Could we ultimately see a reduction of large offices in favor of a return to more localized hubs — perhaps co-locating with partners within your ecosystem?

Staffing firms themselves have, in the main, been slower to embrace remote working than some of their clients. According to recent research by Capability Jane the demand for flexible working is substantial: 92% of millennials identify flexibility as a top priority when job hunting, yet fewer than 10% of UK advertised jobs currently offer flexibility; the gap between supply and demand is huge.

Will we see an increase in requests for flexible working once people return to their offices? While some employees will be keen to get back to their desk, having missed out on the social aspects of an office environment, will they assume a new-found respect for the discipline required of home-working? If you are making sure everyone is aligned and approaching tasks and projects as if they were in the office over the next few weeks, what’s stopping you continuing to operate this model in the coming months?

Until now, flexible working has not necessarily equated with social isolation. The rise of the gig economy and increase in people working as freelancers has in fact given birth to modern shared workspaces such as WeWork. So how will recruiters collaborate with team members they are more used to sitting next to? Google Hangouts and video conferencing platforms allow for face-to-face meetings and even virtual coffee or lunch breaks. Requiring more planning for schedule coordination than a casual kitchen encounter, they engender a more disciplined approach because the average office ‘routine’ doesn’t translate at home. Imagine if as a result of their new working arrangements people pushed back on meetings and became more productive.

The saying goes that out of adversity comes opportunity. Given the ban of most large-scale events and public gatherings, including work-oriented conferences, there is a window for new innovative ways to emerge for companies to reach their audiences. Perhaps it will be an existing channel or app that becomes used in a different way than originally envisioned. Take Loom, which is making Loom Pro free for teachers and students, as well as Google offering GSuite free enterprise features until July 1, and Microsoft Teams announcing six-month-long free trials. At Volcanic, we are offering existing customers of our SaaS recruitment websites free web banners to be able to communicate with their customers.

Hopefully a lasting legacy will be a more altruistic corporate world.

Back to the here and now. With potentially less scheduled in-person meetings, a new mindset might be required for employees to self-manage and motivate themselves. Equally managers will need to consider how to best engage with their team using the technologies available. For those new to remote working, Matt Comber, strategy director, Volcanic offers some practical advice:

🚶‍  Get out the house before you start work to make it feel like you’re ‘going to work’ (e.g.,walk the dog, or check on a neighbor).

🥘  Have a set lunchtime and stick to it. Take short breaks to get up from your desk.

🕰  Watch the time. Don’t work until 8 p.m. despite how easy it is to stay behind your laptop.

🚶  End your day as you started it: out the house for a walk to close the day.

📺  Don’t be afraid to have the radio on. Offices have noise and distraction, you’re not creating a home library, so don’t feel guilty for replicating the background noise.

How are you planning to support your employees and customers through these challenging times? What new tools have you adopted to encourage collaboration? How do you envisage the world of work will be impacted going forwards? We’re interested to hear your views and learn together.

MORE: Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Center

Rachael Moss
Rachael Moss is marketing director of Volcanic, a recruitment website and platform provider. She can be reached at mailto:r.moss (at) volcanic (dot) co.uk.


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