Hybrid working may not be perfect – Should candidates expect work from home options?

Working from home (WfH) has always been an option in some roles. Since the Pandemic it has become far more commonplace for many workers. In fact, some candidates now see WfH as standard practice and expect employers to offer it. The question we rarely ask though is whether WfH, and its companion hybrid working, are always a good thing.

The big change in working practices.

I am the first to admit that WfH sounds wonderful, and in total fairness, it has proved to be successful in some circumstances. As we said in the beginning, the practice of WfH has always been appropriate for some roles. What has changed is the frequency it is used and perhaps the view candidates sometimes have of what it is for and why it is available.

Up until the last few years, the option to occasionally work from home was usually seen as a ‘perk of the job’ and often it was a casual arrangement or very limited in scope. It is no mystery why that changed and why WfH has become so prevalent. During the pandemic we all went into lockdown, things were uncertain, and basically, that meant there was no choice but to set up as a home worker. Once things returned to normal many employers found that the productivity and cost-saving benefits of having a team of home workers made sense. As a result, they continued what was initially a temporary arrangement for a while. Now though, it seems cracks are starting to appear in the work from home ideal, and a lot of employers are asking team members to reduce or stop home working practices.

The reasons why WfH is becoming less popular are multiple but often it is about the efficiency of the business. In many cases, productivity is a concern, as is the availability of the team members when needed. It is clear that a business must operate effectively, and this shouldn’t be a surprise to any employee. In the end, your salary is paid for doing the job right and meeting your contractual requirements. If this isn’t happening, then it needs to be addressed. During working hours, the job should be your priority. I would be surprised if anyone was shocked at the boss getting a little upset if you were at the gym when he called at 11 am.

So, how does this affect recruitment?

Well, working life isn’t all about productivity or contracts. I would urge candidates to look past the shiny distraction of WfH and put it into perspective a little more. Firstly, in all fairness, the employer is making a reasoned choice when they offer reduced or no WfH options for a job role. That choice will have been made based on their experience, the needs of the business, what fits their working patterns and many other factors.

There is another factor here though that many candidates possibly don’t immediately think about. It may well be that the employer has the well-being of the workforce as a whole in the decision about WfH. The fact is that there are many benefits to being based in the workplace for all, or at least some, of the working week.

Being in the workplace could be better for you.

Working from home certainly has its charms and they are very attractive. The problem is that they can overwhelm some less obvious or immediate benefits of being workplace based. Candidates may want to take a moment to consider what they are missing out on by not being in the office.

A lack of routine can ruin your work/life balance

The saddest aspect of the switch to hybrid and full WfH is that it can sometimes destroy the very thing it was meant to create. Working in an office provides a structured day with clear start and finish times, which can help in establishing a healthy work-life balance. This routine is difficult to replicate in remote settings. The lines between personal and professional life can blur very easily. That ‘one’ extra email in the evening or the odd Saturday morning ‘catch up’ very quickly becomes overworking. What follows on the heels of this are higher stress levels and, as you are working at home, the respite of leaving the office is not there. When work and home mix, it isn’t always easy to maintain the right balance.

Career development points could be missed

You may well still have your reviews and your development plan, but you miss out on the office casual learning. Industry developments, changes in the sector, useful good practice hints and so on are commonly passed casually as much as in a structured way. It’s a mistake to underestimate the value of colleagues and the workplace when it comes to your future development.

Improving important soft skills

The office is often a place of collaboration and creative development. We all need to be able to get along with others and be part of a group effort when needed. When you are based in the workplace there is not only a social aspect there are also multiple opportunities for casual collaborations. Problem solving and development often happen spontaneously during the working day. Sorry, but a Teams or Zoom call is simply not the same experience as a cup of coffee and a chat with someone. While all this is happening, you are developing soft skills such as collaborative approach, empathy, negotiation, listening and questioning. All of which are vital for a successful career.

Networking opportunities and social life

Did you know that around 30% of people find their life partners through work? That’s because they are places where you meet and mingle with people while also having common ground. We often make friends for life in the workplace. WfH simply cannot duplicate the experience of working in the office when it comes to the social aspect. Isolation and loneliness are real factors for some home workers and they can lead to some rather unpleasant wellness issues. Humans are social animals… and the workplace is often part of that social life.

The employer may have their needs and yours in mind.

A good employer, the sort of businesses we recruit for, may well have your well-being in mind as well as the success of their business when they offer limited or no WfH in their job descriptions. They may well recognise that the most effective way to evaluate teams and individuals is to see them in the most common setting for an employee, and that is in the office. Promotions, development and so on are often considered based on more than just the performance in a role. People skills, teamwork, adaptability and so on are all easier to see in the office environment.

We also need to put this into perspective. Hybrid working and working from home is not an expectation for a job. Many employers may choose to allow them, but they are not automatic. You can always request them later as flexible working and if you have a good reason for wanting hybrid working then, of course, a good employer will consider it. However, to dismiss a role out of hand because WfH isn’t available seems a little rash. I can’t help but worry about how many candidates are not applying for what could be a perfect role because they want something that isn’t really that beneficial or actually needed. Would you really swap a perfect job for being able to nip to the gym or take the dog for a walk?

It bears thinking about, doesn’t it?

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