Is WFH the only way to attract new talent?

As the Government of Jersey brings more clarity to the workings of the Covid de-escalation strategy, many of us are breathing a sigh of relief that we are finally returning to a pre-pandemic life, while others still have concerns about living with Covid for health reasons.  The pandemic has forced a huge amount of change both with advantages and disadvantages.  To many WFH – Working from Home is one of them.

Although WFH is no longer a requirement, many island employers have recognised that it is not a temporary move, but a permanent change to their operating model and have been preparing for continued hybrid working.  They recognise they need to find a balance between the wellbeing of their staff and the needs of the business.  Business leaders argue that in-office working is required to enhance collaboration and innovation and want to ensure productivity and manage business risk, but many employees like the flexibility, autonomy and lack of office distraction that working remotely brings.

When we talk to candidates, hybrid working is a topic that comes up time and again. Around 80% of our candidates want to be in the office 3 or 4 days a week and work from home 1 to 2 days a week.

In this over-heated market with so many vacancies, particularly in the trust and funds sectors, it is important that organisations embrace this new way of working if they are to attract the people they need. The demand for hybrid working is having an impact on talent acquisition and candidates are in a position to push for it.

Many organisations are committed to working out this new work/life balance conundrum by getting people back to the office in some form. Some have already redesigned workplaces or put in place appropriate and fair policies that aim to maintain a certain amount of flexibility in line with business requirements.  Others have mis-calculated their office space and don’t have enough room for all their staff to be in at the same time bringing with it another set of problems.  Keeping everyone happy is one of the biggest challenges for employers in post-lockdown times.  While some employees don’t feel that they need to be in the office to do their job, they are aware that leadership need to implement policies consistently to be fair on everyone and their ability to do business effectively has to come first.  

Recent research carried out by global risk management and insurance firm, Gallagher, found that a third of the 1000 business leaders interviewed are meeting resistance from their employees to return to the office, even part-time, with 32% of office workers not being back to the office at all since March 2020.  Most businesses are suggesting workers should be in the office full time (40%) in the near future or at least part time (39%) under a hybrid working model with many of them unsure of how they can legally mandate for people to return to workplaces.   

Flexible working is also supporting diversity and inclusion by helping people access the labour market in a different way.  Those who previously found a 9 to 5 in the office difficult to achieve because of location or other commitments are now able to find roles that works around them.  Employers are able to access a section of the talent pool that was out of reach before.

Although the long-term effects of living with Covid are still unclear, one thing is certain.  Hybrid working isn’t going away any time soon.  The positives seem to outweigh the negatives.  Quality flexible working can help organisations attract talent, improve employee job satisfaction and loyalty, reduce absenteeism, and improve well-being; it can also make businesses more responsive to change.