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July 2021 | Recruitment

The future of working practices

Pete Gwilliam is director of Virtus Search

There was a time when the boundaries between work and home were fairly clear; however, the pivot required by firms as a result of the pandemic has created lots of debate about future working practices.

There is no doubt that working from home has thrown up lots of different challenges, leading to individuals redefining how they focus on the core deliverables within their role whilst balancing the needs of their family.

We don’t yet know the extent of the shift to hybrid working models, but my discussions over the last six months have highlighted that every home and family situation is unique to that individual, and ultimately people have had to find the rhythm to their life that suits their personal situation.

So, more than ever, understanding how someone balances their work and life is a massive factor in ensuring that a candidate is a good fit for a role once the view of future working arrangements has been outlined by the hiring firm.

Exploring how someone has managed their responsibilities through the COVID-19 era, and how they feel their skills have adapted alongside their family circumstances, can create a better understanding of their capacity for a move.

Most roles include competencies such as planning, organisational skills and the ability to prioritise, but there is a danger of bias being applied when discussions move into how sustainably someone can adjust to new working practices given their home dynamics.

By understanding where people have relished the change in working models and where they have found things more difficult, it is possible to evaluate their capacity to move into the next phase of their career, and indeed what they might have to sacrifice in their personal situation if the new role requires a different approach.

My experience of recruiting since the pandemic arrived would suggest that the candidates who are sure they have adapted and balanced the changing demands from their remote working environment are those that feel most ready to progress onto the next challenge in their career.

There are lots of stories that suggest that this balance has not been easy to find for all.

Home schooling has given many parents big challenges, which along with the additional pressures of supporting someone shielding in a family bubble, has added a greater time commitment to family within a working week.

Of course, some of this has been recouped by spending less time commuting or being away from the home on business, which has led to many finding they need to work unconventional hours to move their workloads along.

There are anecdotes that indicate a wide variance in how firms have managed their teams remotely and whilst not in the physical form. Monitoring has meant for some a greater sense of being ‘micro-managed’, whilst for others they have felt more empowered being away from the office and trusted to focus on the outputs required from them with minimal supervision.

As people go back to face-to-face meetings, there are roles in our world that will need the patterns of family life established in the last 15 months or so to be reimagined.

For firms, there will be lots of discussion about employment contracts and hybrid working models, and having benefited from considerable savings on travel and hotel costs, whilst also reducing their carbon footprint, this undoubtedly for brokers and lenders creates many reasons not to return back to the pre-COVID model.

I personally cannot wait to return to interviewing, conducting negotiations and meetings in a non-virtual world, and in particular allowing placements the chance to be onboarded in person. I am sure these activities have lost some effectiveness when done remotely.

Whilst there’s plenty of discussions about the geography of work, as both individuals and companies shift out of large cities into suburbs, the pandemic has given many the chance to reflect on what is important, and in particular to assess how their mindset, wellbeing and working effectiveness have evolved – this is what will define the best ways to progress a career plan, which I sense people have put on hold whilst dealing with the more immediate business continuity challenges.