Remote working – A competitive advantage in the fight for talent

13th May 2020

The pros and cons of home working have been debated by business leaders for a number of years and attitudes to it have been mixed amongst both employees and employers. Historically, there has been scepticism about remote working, stemming from the idea that outside of the traditional office environment employees will work less. But what opportunities do remote and flexible working arrangements offer for talent attraction? Katie Hart, a consultant in Berwick Partners’ Consumer practice, explains.

The current circumstances have forced a shift in behaviours and working styles that some leaders may have been hesitant to adopt previously. In the main, and where possible, companies have transitioned relatively seamlessly to prolonged home working, where leaders have been able to witness first-hand the role technology can play in keeping people productive and connected – and in some cases more connected than before. Through conversations with leaders, the consensus is that this is the beginning of a long-term change in behaviours – more of us will work from home on a regular basis and an increased number of  meetings that previously involved a six-hour round journey, will be held over video conference instead.

No geographical limits

To ensure success in a post COVID-19 world, it will be increasingly important to attract and retain top talent, as well as enabling this talent to successfully achieve company goals in a financially responsible manner. With the restrictions around the traditional workplace removed, and therefore a fixed office location five days a week no longer an essential requirement, the search for the best talent is no longer limited by geography.

One of the frustrations often experienced as a search consultant is when the location of an office or a strict five days a week, 9 to 5 working pattern prevents the ideal candidate from being considered for a role.

Prioritising skills

By recognising that not all employees’ lives neatly fall into a typical 9 to 5 schedule and that five days in an office does not guarantee greater productivity, hiring managers can unlock previously unattainable talent. Allowing flexibility opens up new opportunities for people with disabilities and health conditions, working parents, those with caring responsibilities and people living in rural or economically disadvantaged areas. Ultimately, by supporting and enabling remote working, hiring managers can prioritise skills rather than office accessibility and hence appoint the most qualified candidate.

If a highly skilled, diverse team is then spending less time commuting, has an improved work-life balance and better mental health, it is easy to see how remote working results in greater productivity, more diversity of thought and a stronger business.

Remote hiring processes

Coupled with homeworking, if an organisation is also able to shift some or all of its interview process online, then a remote policy is supported even further. This transition may take longer, as completing the hiring processes remotely has not been tried and tested as extensively as home working. But it can be done successfully, as explained by Basil le Roux in the following article – Remote appointments: The changing interview process

This does not make the role of an office or face-to-face interactions obsolete, and home working will not be a model that suits every employer or employee. People will still benefit from and seek out human interactions, some meetings will always have the best outcome when conducted in person and there are of course roles that cannot be performed to the best ability, if at all, at home.

But if leaders can learn lessons from this period of imposed home working to improve future options, it could benefit them and their organisation greatly. By supporting remote working with the technology that facilitates collaboration and talent development and the people strategies that support employee wellbeing and engagement, leaders are better positioned to build talented, diverse teams. It is important for leaders to recognise that remote working isn’t just an employee benefit, but a competitive advantage in the fight for talent.

For more information please contact Katie Hart, a consultant in our Consumer and Retail Practice.