More than half of businesses that experienced remote working during lockdown would consider hiring an employee who worked fully or mostly from home, a survey has found.
The poll of 280 business leaders, conducted by Management Today (MT) and Hays, found 55 per cent would now be more likely to consider hiring an employee who was not within commuting distance to the office and so would work completely or predominantly remotely. This compared to the 45 per cent who said they would not now be more likely to make such a hire.
The poll – conducted as part of the report Will hybrid working ever work? – found most employers were not currently advertising jobs as predominantly remote roles, however. Just a third (33 per cent) of respondents said they were advertising jobs as either partly or fully based at home, compared to 67 per cent who were not.
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However, almost two-thirds of respondents (65 per cent) said they expected to advertise jobs as partly or fully remote in future, compared to 35 per cent who said they did not.
Commenting on the findings, Claire McCartney, senior policy adviser at the CIPD, said it was “great to see” organisations being more open to new ways of working in the future, particularly as this would encourage employers to recruit and retain more diverse workforces, which would be good for the economy and society as a whole.
“Greater use of remote working can make work more accessible and sustainable, particularly for working parents and people with caring responsibilities and those with mobility or health concerns,” she said.
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But new flexibilities must go further than remote working, she warned: “It’s important to support wider flexible working for those that aren’t able to work remotely. That is why we are calling on the government to make the right to request flexible working a day-one right.”
The UK’s lockdown also saw an increase in the number of firms recruiting and inducting members of staff remotely. Two-thirds (67 per cent) of respondents to the MT/Hays survey said they had recruited staff without a face-to-face interview. Of these, the majority (65 per cent) found the experience just as effective as an in-person recruitment process. Another 4 per cent said it was more effective, while 31 per cent found it less effective.
However, just 23 per cent of respondents said they would feel comfortable recruiting people remotely in the future, with half (49 per cent) saying it would depend on how the pandemic progressed.
The survey also found two-thirds (66 per cent) of respondents had onboarded staff remotely. However, there was a more even split when it came to whether businesses found this as effective as a traditional face-to-face induction, than that found for remote recruitment. Half (48 per cent) said remote induction was less effective, compared to 46 per cent who said it was no different (6 per cent said it was more effective).
Gary Cookson, director at Epic HR, told People Management these figures showed many employers had not considered how online recruitment and onboarding needed to be different. “It’s the same with online learning. Simply doing what you do face to face and expecting it to work is a recipe for disaster, and yet so many seem to do it,” he said, highlighting that the virtual world required different skillsets and re-engineered HR processes.
Many employers that thought they could ride out lockdown and quickly go back to normal after the summer have “had a bit of a shock”, Cookson added, and businesses now needed to think longer term about their processes.
“It’s a good thing in general to see businesses being brought, either kicking and screaming or willingly, into the future world of work,” said Cookson. “However, it's clear that not everyone is convinced, and HR professionals should recognise that they can help the organisation and its leaders to change and become more comfortable with the future.”
Just 13 per cent of respondents said they would feel comfortable onboarding new staff remotely in future, with 34 per cent saying they would not and half (53 per cent) saying it would depend on the pandemic.
Overall, employers saw productivity maintained or increased during lockdown (52 and 32 per cent respectively), with just 16 per cent seeing a drop.
However, businesses still had concerns about remote working. Nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) said the more people worked at home, the harder it became for a company to maintain its culture (18 per cent disagreed, and 9 per cent were neutral on the matter).
Many employers failed to appreciate that, when companies moved to operate mostly or wholly online, culture would change, said Cookson. “Expecting things to be the same is, again, a recipe for disaster, and while the original urgency to get things online may have prevented proper focus on the organisation’s design and development work to make things effective, there’s little excuse for ignoring such things now,” he said.
It was the role of HR professionals to focus on this and help organisations “reset culture and work differently”, he added.