The COVID-19 crisis has dramatically changed the way we work, and some of these changes may be permanent, reshaping the future of work as we know it.
The global Microsoft 2021 Work Trend Index report recently found that:
- 70% of workers want flexible remote work options to continue
- Over 65% of workers are craving more in-person time with their teams
- 66% of business decision makers are considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments
It’s clear that flexibility and collaboration are more important than ever to employees, and companies will need to meet these needs if they want to retain talent.
To delve into the world of work further, we recently chatted to two HR leaders, Steve Bousfield (Head of Talent Acquisition at Itoc) and Nick Stebbings (People and Culture Business Partner at Jumbo), to get their take on what the future of work will look like post-COVID-19. Read on to discover their insights.
What will the world of work look like post-COVID-19?
Steve: It’s accelerated remote working and flexible work. The way of working now is that merging of your professional life and your personal life. I think that’s going to be the biggest one. When we talk about flexible working now, we’re not just talking about work from home or in the office, from your couch or whatnot. We’re also talking about the times that you start, the times that you finish, maybe the times that you start again in the evening, so you’re able to accommodate working around children or just your daily life. Overall, I think it’s going to be more output-driven than say the hours that you’re working. Instead of that whole clocking on and off mentality.
Nick: I think we’ll continue to see, as we do now, more work from home and hybrid work models. I think we’ll continue to see more collaborative tools. So, we’ll see some things like Zoom, but I think those will get refined and even better. But on the back of that, we’ll also see more things like Zoom fatigue and mental health issues.
I think there will continue to be a tight candidate market in Australia. I think it’s going to continue as long as our borders are closed, but I also think regardless we’re going to hit a new norm and I don’t know how we’re going to come out of that. We’re seeing a 20-30% uplift in certain salaries across the board. And that seems to be a really common trend from what we’re seeing. I think even when the borders open, I know everyone’s saying there’s going to be this influx of people coming in but I don’t personally think that will be the case. And if it is, I do think it’s going to be two or three years away before we get back to any type of normality. But I think we’re going to be so used to doing what we’re doing that we’ll think, why don’t we just hire the person in whatever country they’re in anyway? Like, why do we need to bring them over?
We’ve had to shift almost entirely, we were set up to go into the office, we didn’t do remote. Now we offer this nice hybrid model, but how do we replicate that in other cities and other time zones? You have to ask yourself, how will they attend our meetings? What are their hours of work going to be? How do we send them equipment? How do we onboard? While we have these virtual tools and processes set up, they work in Australia, but I just don’t know how that would work in other countries yet. We’re working on it. We’re looking at options for staff to be able to live overseas for periods of time.
What changes will become permanent after the crisis?
Steve: Being co-located is certainly no longer a prerequisite. And I don’t think it will be anymore. I don’t think there will be a swing back to full-time office hours. Otherwise, companies that do start to mandate that will fall behind their competition. For example, one of our employees is from New Zealand and with the bubbles opening and closing all the time she wanted to work and live near her family in New Zealand. And we’ve allowed her to do that. I think if you asked us two years ago that might not have been possible to do or would have been outside our sphere of thinking, but nowadays, go for it. And the output and the work is still absolutely there.
Nick: I think definitely the work from home, the remote work options, some of those skills shortages, and the flexible hours. It’s all now become a norm. I think we all cried out for it beforehand. We all got sick of it. And then now it’s just kind of the new norm. As a business, we did a business case and got the board to approve this distributed work model. This basically allows staff to be able to work, not yet wherever they like, but from home, with even more flexible hours than we used to. We have core business hours, but outside of that, how you make up your day is really up to you. I think that that just becomes the new normal.
I find it interesting to hear about the places that are still asking people to come back in more often than not. I don’t think that would work in tech. I think you would have a mess revolt from staff. I think businesses like us will just continue to refine our processes around how we make it work and how we keep staff engaged. Do we have to look just in the same city? How do we look elsewhere? Do we look overseas? Do we not? What does that mean for our culture and stuff as a business?
Has there been a power shift between candidates and employees and companies?
Steve: I wouldn’t call it a power shift. What I would say is that there are more options now available for employees to select the employer they want to work with. The challenge that brings is how do we stay connected? And how do you feel you’re a part of something bigger rather than your day-to-day job? You know, those water cooler conversations, how do they happen virtually? How do you train new people? That’s where we’ve got to be thinking now, staying connected and making sure you’re not feeling isolated.
We’re quite spread out as a company, so we’ve got something on a monthly basis where you get paired with another colleague that’s hopefully outside of your team. It’s randomly done and you set up a time with them, get to know them and have a chat. We’re also looking at doing things like virtual quiz nights and stuff like that. We Slack and we’re chatting all the time. We have weekly company meetings where each team gives their overviews, but we’re also really encouraging teammates to check in. And when we’re allowed back in the office, we’re making sure that you’re comfortable to come into the office. Certainly, there’s no obligation, but those that want to get the social aspects are there. It’s open for them to come in whenever they want.
Nick: Yes and no. I don’t think so generally but I think there’s been a power shift in terms of the flexibility, that’s now a norm. People are just mandating it. They want it, and they’ll walk away if you don’t offer it. We’re lucky, we play in the tech space where it’s always been relatively flexible. I think that’s the power shift, they’re wanting more, employees want to be able to structure the day that works well for them.
In terms of that flexibility, whether it be hours or where or how they choose to work, I think the good thing about Jumbo is that people will still see us as a great place to work because of that freedom, that sense of ownership and that autonomy. There’s no timesheets, we’re not clock watchers. It’s a trust system.
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