TUME Insights

Has COVID-19 killed the commute?
Published by Russ King | 27th April 2020

So here I am, trying to work from home. My internet works fine, I have a coffee machine that does not know what’s hit it and I may have a glimpse of what the future for our workforce could look like. I’m a recruiter in the energy sector and am always interested in how the workforce is likely to change and maybe, with this lock down, we could have a perfect time for a shift in attitude.

Remote working goes on in the energy sector. Mainly it has been where a role requires it or a privilege that some have earned. In general, bosses have been reticent to allow remote working as I’m guessing they feel productivity will fall off and their company ethos lost. Those allowed to work from home, even for a day a week, have proved that they are trusted to perform so they don’t need to be under the boss’s nose. 

But how many times have we heard a sarcastic “they are working from home today” with a knowing look. My favourite from a dinosaur boss of mine, was a sneering “oh he’s poolside today”.

If someone is working from home and can’t be reached straightaway there may be a few sarcastic comments but if they are in a meeting in the office, its fine. So if we can see someone being productive its good but if we can’t they must be swinging the led…….. An exaggeration? Maybe.

This is a mindset in the energy sector and wider workforce that needs to be challenged after COVID-19. When we recruit the first question should be ”why does this role need to be in the office”. 

The real question is “During the Covid 19 pandemic working from home seemed to work OK; so why can’t we seriously consider this for the future?”

Over the past 4 weeks pretty much everyone I know (who has not been furloughed) has been working from home. Its been different and a pain to set up, made even harder by having kids around, but are we OK? If you are (I am but know some may not be) then could this be a better way to work? Could we get this to work really well and could we reap the rewards?

We have 5G coming, its gone to London first (probably the last place that needs it) but connectivity is going to improve long term. The barriers for effective remote work are no longer going to be there from a tech perspective. Truth is, they have not been there for a long time, and we as leaders in climate change and equal employment rights need to see the opportunity we have.

If someone does not have a 2 hour commute, does not have a zillion mile an hour morning routine then are they more productive?

If we can open the workforce out to working Mums (and Dads) and non geographical limited candidates then this surely is a good thing. Could we minimise our workforce’s carbon footprint (I mean really minimise it), could we have a happier workforce, could we have a smaller office, could we get better staff for less salary? I sneaked that last one in! But it’s a valid question for business leaders. For me to travel to London is £5k net a year!!!! That’s £7k someone does not need to pay me if I am remote working. 

There is a north south salary gap, a gender salary gap and an age salary gap. We need to equalise, and this is an opportunity to change. The Globe has many challenges over the coming years and the way we work needs to be looked at as it plays a massive part.
 
So this is what I urge to HR leaders and C level energy execs. Could we embrace this change? Could we lead? Could your workforce be more efficient and more cost effective if they could work remotely. Could we at least ask the question?

Russ King is an experienced recruitment consultant, specialising in the UK energy and tech sectors. He has been in recruitment since 1997 and originally worked for agencies in the IT sector. In 2008 Russ set up his own specialist recruitment agency Garrard King. Russ specialises in specialist and senior candidates and is well known and regarded across the UK energy sector. Russ has joined The Utility Market Experts to jointly lead TUME Search, with his experience complimenting our unrivalled pool of industry expertise; to enable effective execution of a market leading solution for clients making specialist, senior and advisory hires.

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With the evolution of employee working arrangements, be it the recent gradual progression to a TWAT (Tuesday, Wednesday And Thursday) office presence, or the potential shift to increased remote working and increased office hours flexibility; the candidate pool you can access is rapidly evolving as geographical constraints are diminishing. With the evolution of Linked In and recruitment tools, everyone can effectively see the same candidate pool and advertise to it. However, to deliver the best results for your organisation there is an opportunity for a deeper client and candidate understanding, rather than a reactive vacancy led relationship.

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