Traditional hours for recruiters are still contracted on a 9-5 Monday to Friday basis but as recruitment agency owners we all acknowledge that our top recruiters probably do most of their best work outside of these hours. So, with the rise in demand for a more flexible or even completely remote working structure growing every year, what's stopping us as recruitment leaders from embracing it?
Warning on this blog: I normally start typing away on a new blog topic fairly easily but I found this blog really hard to write which I have taken a bit of stick from my team for! What's so hard about it? After all, remote working increasingly looks like the way to go - there's even a survey that predicts that by 2020 50% of the workforce will be made up of remote workers... However the reality is running remote teams is hard and it dictates a complete managerial shift from the traditional 9 - 5 recruitment job.
I know first-hand just how difficult managing a remote team can be. I helped grow a technology company way back in 2003 from 20 to 43 employees in a year that we were all working remotely. We only latterly established an office space when we reached 40 staff as there became a definite need for a home for the company. Since then my last two businesses have had an element of flexibility but both have been based out of an office.
So, as I suspect, there will be lots of owners joining me in admitting that moving towards a completely remote workforce in line with this growing demand is, in many ways, terrifying! And by all accounts, I think Firefish have a fairly modern approach to work. We all dress down, we have flexi home time, and we're results driven rather than time clocked in. But I am not there yet with the whole total remote working thing. Here's why:
Gosh, isn't communicating effectively and frequently with everyone hard enough at the best of times? Throw a remote working structure into the mix and how would you ever know when someone is either going off on the wrong track or just plain stuck and needing your help? Yet, advocates of remote working environments would argue that all the technology is there to make this happen: recruitment software like Firefish, task management software like Asana, time tracking tools like Hubstaff, and communication tools like Slack which can all help to bring your employees together regularly online from anywhere in the world.
There is the feeling that if someone is not in the office they are on their own time and I have seen other employees prefer to wait until they are in the office to catch up with them on something they are working on. It is almost like a remote worker is not a real employee until you can see them in the office. I think the same sentiment is often shared by the customer you serve or pitch. Would they perceive the company as a real entity if your workforce is all over the place? There is a notable benefit to working from a brick and mortar office when you can bring a customer in and they can see the workforce working away on their behalf.
Let's not beat about the bush here; we all have friends who have been 'working from home' when they've actually been out on the golf course. So, employee trust is a big thing that needs to be unquestionable to allow the work to be delivered in line with when you expect it to be done. For this to happen, it's important to create an effective team that you can rely on absolutely. I have also read plenty of wonderful articles about how productivity would go up as employees are less stressed alongside how remote working can increase efficiency, too. But I'm still not completely sold on these productivity benefits.
I remember having to rewrite company policy documents, determining what is a suitable place to work and debating whom was actually responsible for employee health and safety whilst working at home. To be fair, this just hurt my head and the prospect of working all that out saddens me greatly! I appreciate it has become a lot more common now and there will be better employer guidance but there are still lots of grey areas and it would be so easy to move to a home working culture and then put so many rules and regulations around it that you end up at the other side asking why you even bothered.
OK, so with this one I can actually see lots of positives here. Suddenly your talent pool can open up to employees from all over the world and with areas of short candidate supply you can see why remote working is a no brainer. However, although lots of people think I want to be a remote worker, it's really not for everyone. A lot of people struggle with the sudden flexibility, lack of team interaction, and lack of routine to their normal working day when working from home. I mean, who else would you chat to about the latest episode of Game of Thrones? Many candidates have tried working remotely and found they miss the team structure, the banter, and the learning that happens in a fast-moving environment of a growing recruitment team.
In saying that, all of the above trends have a way of creeping up on you and forcing change. I think recruitment is one industry that actually could lead the way with remote working. In our industry the most productive working hours are often outside of the normal 9 - 5 day shift and we've always been target and delivery driven. So, remote working could open up new ways to allow fresh talent to enter our industry.
With all that in mind, I would be really interested in your thoughts. I am keen to talk to agencies that have embraced a remote structure, are thinking of it, or are totally against it. I would love to hear from you. Please either email me directly or leave your thoughts below.
Wendy McDougall is Chief Fish of Firefish Software. In her spare time, you'll find her playing squash or feeding her inner geek with the latest technology!