While recruitment in the times of Covid is already complex, recruiters need to prepare for the months ahead. Employers will be making decisions about the need for millions of workers to continue work from home (WFH) or to move back into the office. Here are some of the issues that will influence this decision and impact the recruitment and candidate placement process for years to come.
Employee Preference About WFH
Many employees have a clear preference after spending close to a year working from home. On the positive side, recent research shows that remote work results in improved productivity, lower real estate costs, happier and more engaged employees, less environmental impact due to less commuting, and employer access to a larger and more diversified talent pool. On the more concerning side of this WFH experiment, a survey found that a mere 16 percent of workers were thriving from their work from home settings (Martec Group survey). Employees are reporting a decrease in mental health that in part is attributable to WFH requirements. During the pandemic and the demands placed on employees by working from home, the share of employees who said their mental health was good fell to 28 percent, compared to more than 60 percent in the first few weeks. Job satisfaction has dropped from close to 60 percent in early days to just over 30 percent now. Employee motivation also dropped 20 percent from initial moves to WFH settings. New reports show that just 19 percent of employees said they were more productive at home, 40 percent said they are less productive. Employers are now considering options to safely reopen their offices.
There are contributing factors such as closed schools for workers with school-age children and unavailable daycare options for those with even younger children. The general isolation created by stay-at-home orders and social distancing has created additional stress for many that is making a trip back to the office look more appealing than in March or April of 2020. Cramped apartments and condos with 2 or more remote workers, and sometimes other family members sharing a single space, have added to issues for some workers.
There are also surveys showing more favorable news on work-from-home initiatives. A FlexJobs survey of approximately 4,000 people working remotely during the pandemic reported fewer distractions and a more comfortable work environment, contributing to higher employee productivity, satisfaction and engagement.
The reality for those seeking talent in the years ahead, there is no single right path forward for all employees, companies or positions.
Employers Set the Direction for WFH
Companies like Facebook, Zillow, Mastercard, Shopify and Twitter have already decided that a return to corporate offices will not be required. Google and other large corporations have hinted that WFH and remote work could be coming to an end soon. A few employers have already begun to require some workers to return to the office. So there is not a common response to a common problem.
A PwC survey indicates that the vast majority of CEOs are planning for a widespread remote workforce. Remote work is here to stay according to most research. In support of this reality, KPMG survey reports nearly 70 percent of large-company CEOs have a plan for reductions in office space.
While there are flaws in a the current WFH arrangements, the pandemic has created a unique opportunity to give remote work a trial run. Employers are going to need to use some judgment on who needs to return to the office and who can remain remote. Employees thriving in work-from-home settings should continue to do so and workers who are struggling might be offered the opportunity to come back to an office, where they are more likely to succeed or even excel.
What are recruiters to do?
There is not a single solution when it comes to remote work and businesses. Recruiters will need to work with employers and candidates on preferences for work location like never before. Some top talent will be unwilling to work-from-home while others will require a WFH option. It seems inevitable that some mix or hybrid of remote and office-based work will ultimately provide the right option for all new hires and existing employees. Recruiters will need to be diligent to make sure that candidates are able to accommodate the requirements of employers whether they be remote or office-based. Some offers will not be accepted by top talent as the candidate might expect or require a different work setting than what is offered. Over time, it will become a point of negotiation for some candidates and recruiters to manage through the employer. Salary, benefits and work setting options…more complexity to an already difficult process of top talent recruitment.
Recruiters should start adding details about desired work conditions and location to their applicant tracking systems. Each candidate intake conversation will need to include a minute or two on what conditions are acceptable and which will result in an offer rejection. Extra time should be planned into interview prep to address the questions around location of the job. Onboarding should consider the location of the candidate and the eventual work setting.
As we return to normal, or our new normal, the flexibility of work location will become increasingly important to candidates and perhaps either more negotiable or completely non-negotiable by employers and hiring managers.
Add preferred work environment to your checklists and get busy recruiting.