COVID-19 Update:

The way we work is changing as we take necessary steps to protect ourselves and others

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Recruiting in Manchester, Stockport, Trafford Park, Bury, Warrington and the Greater Manchester area

How have rogue employment agencies taken advantage of the COVID-19 crisis? How to avoid them

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

The global response to the COVID-19 crisis involved shutting down entire sectors of the economy and restricting a wide range of revenue-generating activities, so it’s no surprise that despite furlough schemes and other stimulus measures, many people have found themselves out of work.

Of course, there were also many thousands of people in the UK who were already seeking employment at the outbreak of the pandemic, and have been forced to cope with a closed-down economy for much of 2020.

However, recruitment activity has continued throughout the year, and this has led to an increase in the prevalence of rogue employment agencies who are prepared to defraud legitimate candidates in a variety of ways.

Why are there more rogue employment agencies in 2020?

The events of 2020 have been a perfect storm for an increase in fraudulent activity posing as recruitment consultancy services:

  • A rise in people out of work and urgently seeking employment
  • A fall in the availability of legitimate and lucrative employment opportunities
  • Disruption to some legitimate employment agencies’ activities

With a sudden and significant change in the way people are interviewed and appointed into new roles, this has opened the door to the potential for applicants to become victims of fraud.

It is worth noting that the criminals carrying out such acts are not recruitment agents at all, but fraudsters using the industry as a front for their activities.

Common types of recruitment fraud

There are some common ways fraudsters attempt to trick would-be job applicants and employers looking to fill vacancies.

The most obvious is to ask for a fee or deposit to be paid upfront, at which point the fraudster simply disappears with the money.

Some examples of this include:

  • Charging employers a deposit or consultancy fee for a job listing that never appears
  • Asking candidates to pay a finder’s fee to be referred for a vacancy that does not exist
  • Spurious upfront charges e.g. transport/accommodation deposits, uniform deposits, CRB check fees etc.

The charity SAFERjobs offers support to individuals who work in the ‘flexible economy’ such as freelancers and gig workers, and saw reports of scams and frauds by UK employment agencies rise by two thirds in the six months following the start of lockdown.

Why choose a reputable recruitment agency?

It’s quite clear why you should choose a reputable recruitment agency to avoid falling victim to a rogue employment agent – but it’s important to understand what ‘reputable’ means in 2020.

SAFERjobs found some rogue employment agencies advertising non-existent jobs on legitimate online jobs boards, before collecting fraudulent fees and deposits from applicants who believed the vacancy had been vetted by the website operators.

In such cases, the website that lists the vacancy often cannot be held accountable, the fraudsters themselves cannot be traced, and the victim’s bank refuses to issue a refund.

For all of these reasons, it’s crucial to choose a reputable recruitment agency like Alexander Hancock whether you are recruiting or applying for jobs, and we will continue to work diligently to place the best candidates in the best roles as the UK economy recovers from recent events.

 


What jobs are available during the COVID-19 crisis?

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

The COVID-19 lockdown brought a sharp fall in employment in the spring months, with 673,000 fewer payroll workers between March and September 2020 according to the ONS.

But preliminary data for September showed a possible start to the labour market’s recovery, with 20,000 more employees on payroll, fewer people temporarily out of work and a rise in total hours worked.

As part of its labour market data, the ONS publishes figures for the number of vacancies available in the UK by industry – a useful indicator of where jobs can be found as we emerge from lockdown and the lingering economic effects of the pandemic.

Most vacancies overall

The largest number of vacancies overall in July to September 2020 was in human health and social work activities, at a total of 114,000 available roles.

This represents an increase of 11,000 job opportunities since the previous quarter, perhaps an indication of the rising demand for medical and care workers due to the pandemic.

A further 58,000 jobs were available in wholesale and retail trade including motor vehicle repair, up by 20,000 jobs over the previous quarter, and again potentially a sign of the extra demand within wholesale and retail supply chains since the start of lockdown.

Biggest ratio of demand

The data also shows which industries have the biggest proportional demand, defined as the number of vacancies for every 100 employees in each sector.

Again healthcare tops the table, with 2.8 vacancies per 100 employees in human health and social care jobs.

This time it is followed by jobs in electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply at 2.0 vacancies per 100 employees in the sector – the only other industry with a ratio of 2 or above.

Largest growth in demand

According to the ONS figures, there were 144,000 more job vacancies in the UK in July-September 2020, compared with the previous quarter, a rise of 42%.

The biggest proportional changes were in:

  • Construction (1.0 more vacancies per 100 employees)
  • Accommodation and foodservice (1.0)
  • Transport and storage (0.9)
  • Motor trades (0.8)
  • Information & communication (0.7)

Because these are the biggest changes per 100 current employees, they are a useful way to see rising demand equally across sectors of different sizes – and show the variety of industries with greater need for employees at the present time.

COVID-19 recruitment advice

Whether you’re an employer or a candidate, our employment consultants are on-hand to help with the latest Coronavirus recruitment advice as we move through the pandemic and beyond.

Our insight can help applicants to find industries with the largest number of vacancies at the current time, and we can also help businesses operating in sectors where demand for employees outstrips the availability of talent.

To find out more, give us a call on 0161 929 6665 and we can help you get started with your next recruitment campaign or job search, whatever the coming months might bring.


What to expect from the interview process during COVID-19

Friday, September 25th, 2020

The Coronavirus pandemic has meant changing many of the ways we live and work, and applying for a new job during COVID-19 is among them.

Early in the outbreak – even before the government-imposed lockdown began – we at Alexander Hancock took the decision to minimise face-to-face contact.

That allowed us to protect our staff and to give safe distance to anyone who needed to visit us in person.

However, the interview process is an integral part of getting a new job in COVID-19 just as it is at any other time – so we have continued in-depth interviews with candidates.

So what’s changed since March? Here are some differences you might notice in the interview process during COVID-19, both with your Alexander Hancock recruitment consultant and with any employers who interview you.

COVID-safe interviews

There are several different ways to hold COVID-safe job interviews (or COVID-secure interviews, as they are sometimes called).

One of the main ways is to hold first-round job interviews remotely. You may notice more of your job interviews take place by telephone or videoconferencing in the months to come.

This is beneficial for some candidates in other ways too – you can ‘attend’ more COVID-secure job interviews at times that suit you, as you don’t have to travel in person.

You might feel like your recruitment consultant is holding more in-depth interviews with you over the phone, because we are working hard to make sure we don’t put candidates forward for in-person interviews unless they’re a perfect fit for the job.

Equally, your first-round telephone interview with a prospective employer might feel more probing, but that’s because they too are trying to reduce the number of face-to-face interviews they carry out.

All of this means it’s important to take those initial interviews seriously, even if they’re just a phone call or web chat – they’re your chance to impress and get on to a potentially much shorter shortlist for the next round.

In-person job interviews during COVID-19

If you are asked to attend an in-person job interview during COVID-19, it’s sensible to ask what COVID-secure precautions are in place in the workplace you will need to visit.

For example, you might have to:

  • Sanitise your hands with alcohol gel or wash them with soap on arrival.
  • Wait outside until the interviewer is ready for you.
  • Maintain a minimum physical distance from others inside.
  • Wear a face mask in communal areas or in the interview.
  • Follow other sensible precautions e.g. avoid touching your face and eyes.

Obviously if you have any of the main symptoms of COVID-19, you should not attend an interview in person; however, you could still have interviews by telephone or webcam.

You might want to keep a smart bag or briefcase ready with essential supplies like spare masks, alcohol gel, tissues, hayfever pills, throat lozenges and so on – whatever you need to feel comfortable and safe on your way to, during, and home from the interview.

This year has been challenging and many people are facing unplanned career changes. By doing everything we can to keep the interview process safe and on track, we are helping as many candidates as possible to find the best jobs available in COVID-secure workplaces.

Contact us today to help with your job search!


Mental Health and Redundancy

Friday, September 18th, 2020

At the beginning of this month, the Guardian reported an estimated 194,706 people had been made redundant, and unfortunately, this number is rising. For many people, the immediate response to redundancy involves panic and an urgency to find a new job. It is important, however, to take stock of your mental health at this time. For many people, working is an innate part of their identity, and is important for intellectual satisfaction and overall wellbeing. Men are particularly susceptible; indeed one in seven men develop depression within six months of losing their job. Regardless of gender, work provides purpose, a social network and a sense of belonging as part of a working team. It is important to recognise the distress that redundancy can bring mentally, often involving a loss of self-confidence, social contact, purpose and financial distress. Losing your job is emotionally challenging at the best of times. But with the added pressures of a recession and global pandemic to deal with, it’s completely understandable if you find yourself struggling with your mental health.

If you have found yourself facing redundancy this year, there are steps that you can take to make this transition a little easier. The first thing to remember is that you have nothing to be embarrassed about and you are not alone. As noted above, hundreds of thousands of talented, capable people are in exactly the same position, and this is simply a product of the unfortunate global landscape. Before you throw yourself straight into a new job hunt, take time to pause and acknowledge your situation, accept your negative feelings and allow yourself to grieve the loss of work. Robust mental health is pivotal to the resilience required for applying for new roles, and it is important to take care of both your physical and mental health.

It is also important to talk about how you are feeling, whether that be with a partner, a friend, or a relative. Many people benefit from professional help too, so do make an appointment with your GP to find out what services are available in your area. Many mental health services have self-referral schemes and online resources that may be helpful. The charity, Mind has a wealth of online advice and support that may be useful at this time. Guided meditation apps like Headspace and Calm can be accessed for free, and can also be helpful in reducing any anxiety, sleep troubles, or stress that you might be feeling.

Creating a plan for yourself moving forward can aid the transition and assist in maintaining a feeling of control over your own life. The obvious impact of a job loss for many is financial uncertainty. If you have worked for your employer for at least two years you will be entitled to either statutory or contractual redundancy pay. If you have been made redundant because your employer has been liquidated, contact the government’s Redundancy Payments Office to see if you are eligible to claim statutory redundancy pay. Moving forward, create a weekly budget to prevent payments from piling up. Look carefully at your spending. Switching bill providers, reviewing shopping habits, and prioritising debts and outgoing payments can assist in getting a handle on your finances. You may also be entitled to benefits whilst you look for a new job. The main benefit you can claim while out of work is Jobseeker’s Allowance, or Universal Credit if you live in an area where it’s already been rolled out. There may be other benefits available to you, depending on your circumstances, such as tax credits or help with housing costs.

Feeling easier about your finances, then take advantage of the opportunities presented by redundancy. Invest time in yourself. Physical activity and being outdoors have been proven to boost mood and improve mental wellbeing, as well as aiding overall health. Going for walks, running, doing online yoga and exercise classes are all activities than can help to provide a new routine and lifestyle that you may not have otherwise had time for. Why not also take this time to clean out your home, partake in some DIY, and enhance your space? Clearing out items you no longer use can help you to feel more content with your surroundings and provide a physical manifestation of new and exciting changes ahead. Diet also plays a crucial role in boosting mental health and wellbeing. Practice cooking new meals and baking, add fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet, and stick to regular mealtimes to further enhance a new structured routine. BBC GoodFood and Mob Kitchen are just two examples of websites with free recipe that can help provide excitement and make a real event out of mealtimes. Try to cut down on caffeine, alcohol, and sugary foods, especially in the evenings as they can disrupt sleep. If you’re someone who prefers to keep your brain stimulated and challenged, listening to podcasts, reading or doing puzzles can all be helpful in keeping your brain active and helping you to relax.

When you do come to think about your next role, create a realistic action plan to help you become controlled and organised in your search, being sure to break down your tasks into small achievable goals. Think about your previous role, the skills you developed, and your key achievements. Take a moment to celebrate all of your qualities and achievements so far. Be sure to also ask your former manager for a written reference. Once you have taken this time, update your CV and create an online networking presence on LinkedIn demonstrating your strength as an employee. Take the time to assess the aspects of the job you enjoyed, and the aspects you would like to avoid in your future role. Ask yourself if there are similar roles or industries that would suit your skill set and the work you have previously enjoyed doing. Reach out to any contacts you have who could tell you a little more about their industries and companies. Identify any areas your skill set could be further enhanced and used this time to enrol on courses to develop these. Coursera is a website with a wealth of free courses from universities around the world in almost every area imaginable; these can not only inform a personal or professional interest, but also help you to develop a sense of daily purpose and fulfilment and enhance your CV further.


Tips for getting a job in the COVID-19 era

Thursday, September 17th, 2020

The full economic impact of the COVID-19 lockdown remains to be seen, but some sectors have already been badly hit by the difficulties of social distancing and reduced footfall in urban centres.

At the same time, many people are looking for new challenges, a change in working conditions, or were just ready for a new job before the pandemic began.

Here are five tips for getting a job in the COVID-19 era, whatever your reasons for looking.

1. Be patient

If you’re able to be patient, try to appreciate that this is a difficult time for many people and for many employers too – even if you are highly skilled and experienced.

Companies are facing a lot of disruption to working practices and workplaces, with social distancing rules that keep changing, but that has its benefits too.

At Alexander Hancock we are working hard to place talented candidates into suitable roles as quickly as we can, taking advantage of more telephone and online interviews to help you find your next job faster.

2. Be realistic

If you find yourself out of work unwillingly, try to draw up a budget and decide how long your savings will pay the bills, and how much you need to earn to survive over the long term.

Look at other options to reduce your monthly outgoings, such as remortgaging at a lower monthly repayment, or ask your lender if they have any repayment holidays available.

You may need to get through several weeks of jobhunting with no income, followed by a period on a lower income than usual.

Either way, we can help you by finding the best rate of pay currently available and getting you into a job faster – and we’ll be honest about the current conditions in your industry, too.

3. Be ready

When an opportunity presents itself, be ready to embrace it – this is where your patience can pay off.

If you can be available for telephone interviews at short notice, you can get your name higher on the list, which improves your chances of landing a job sooner.

4. Be flexible

If you normally work in a sector that has been hit badly by Coronavirus, consider whether you could move into a related discipline even if only temporarily.

We can help you to decide whether you want to do this, by looking at your skills and experience and comparing them with the industries we know have capacity for more jobs at the moment.

You never know – by placing you into a role that suits your experience and personality well, we might put you on a brand new long-term career path for the post-pandemic years.

5. Be optimistic

It’s easy to assume the worst if you find yourself out of work during a pandemic or the recession that may follow – but we can help you navigate this difficult time.

Many employers are offering more flexible roles and remote working, which could save you a lot of time and money on your daily commute.

Overall, this is a great opportunity to strike a new work-life balance, try a new career direction, or fill any skills gaps on your CV, all of which is good reason to be optimistic for your job prospects in the final months of 2020 and beyond.


Why you need a recruiter right now

Monday, September 7th, 2020

As we deal with Covid 19 we are aware that unfortunately, there are a large number of unemployed individuals. New circumstances however, provide new opportunities for employers.

Here at Alexander Hancock we are receiving up to 200 applications for every job we advertise, each from talented individuals who have been affected by this extraordinary climate. But there are still roles to be filled and companies looking to recruit and it is tempting to take on this task yourself, believing that this is the most cost efficient solution. However the reality for most employers is that there simply aren’t the resources nor time that can be diverted to the recruitment process, limiting their ability to take full advantage of the opportunities presented by this unusual job market.

In this precarious global environment, there has never been a more pressing time for companies to adapt, to find new and more innovative ways of working, and to look to the future of their firms. The UK is filled with talented, capable people with a variety of experiences that can contribute to your business.

As airline after airline went bankrupt, with thousands left out of work, the NHS employed these workers, recognising that their skills could be well utilised in the establishment of temporary hospitals across the country. It is this kind of innovate redirection of skills that recruiters are uniquely placed to tap into. With a holistic view of the job market, and over fifteen years’ experience, the consultants at Alexander Hancock are uniquely placed to identify the skills of a wide talent pool to fit your business.

Whilst many companies are reluctant to pay the fees associated with recruitment agencies, in reality, we are positioned to save you money both in the long and short terms. Recruitment processes are stressful and long in normal circumstances. Between the processing and verification of CVs, the organisation of interviews, the procurement of references, and the identification of genuinely qualified candidates, managers can find themselves diverting days to find the right candidate for just one role, often only to be met by further complications with their new employee.

In the current climate, the training and assimilation of new employees has also never been a more arduous task with the obvious obstacles of closed offices and buffering WiFi signals on Zoom calls. It has therefore never been more important to get it right first time. By taking full advantage of our services, we will save you the time and money it takes to train and retrain new recruits.

With our assistance, managers are left to get on with the jobs they are employed to do, leaving the rest to us. We are experts at identifying talent, skills, and suitability, processing hundreds of applicants to find the few that are well-matched to your needs. The value of our recruitment cannot be quantified with a single hire. It is our years of experience and our place within the industry that allows us to create the conditions for magic to strike.

We have a vast network of candidates, the experience of salary benchmarking, a deep understanding of companies, products, markets, and professions, and the stamina to doggedly pursue the right talent for you.

At times like these, we are the two caplets of paracetamol when you have the headache of recruiting; we immediately deal with all the pain, but you have to have us in your medicine cabinet in the first place! You can try and work through the pain, but soon realise that if you had taken those tablets in the first place, you could have saved yourself a lot of unnecessary angst!

Quite unlike paracetamol, we can guarantee our work and there is no limit to the number of times you can use us. In the event of any problems we can provide you with a full refund, with more excellent candidates ready to go with immediate effect.

Are you looking for a new job? Contact us today on 0161 929 6665 to get started.


Why working from home can be good for your business

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

The Coronavirus pandemic has forced many more people to work from home than has previously been the case. Employers have adapted quickly to provide collaboration and conferencing tools to make this possible.

But you might already be planning to ‘get back to normal’ once social distancing rules are relaxed, which is likely to occur in the coming weeks to some extent, and continue over the course of several months.

However, it’s worth considering whether working from home can be good for your business in the long term. You could find that in more stable times, flexible working conditions can unlock considerable benefits for you and your staff.

Employee Satisfaction

First of all, many employees would love to have the opportunity to work from home once the COVID-19 pandemic is over (and it will end, although that might seem unlikely right now).

Working from home doesn’t mean lower productivity. In fact it can increase output for some employees, while others will be more willing to keep working after 5pm to finish their duties for the day.

Overall, companies that fully embrace homeworking as a part of their regular culture – and provide staff with the tools they need to do their job from home as standard – often make significant productivity gains as a result.

Talent Pool Access

Working from home is a form of flexible working, along with others like job-sharing and flex-time that accommodate employees who are unable to work precise 9am-5pm hours.

Together, these kinds of flexibility give you access to a wider talent pool including individuals who might normally be shut out from jobs due to fairly arbitrary contractual requirements like working hours and workplace location.

By catering for their more flexible needs, you can pick up the very best individuals for the roles you recruit into, and gain talent that your competitors have missed.

Transport Disruption

Working from home, the only commute is from bed to the home office or kitchen table. In some jobs, it might not even be that far, as employees might reasonably log on from a laptop without leaving the warmth and comfort of their bed at all.

In any case, on days when there is significant transport disruption due to delayed or cancelled public transport or road closures, your workforce will still be able to log on remotely, whether homeworking is their default or just there as a backup.

Reduced Overheads

Finally, allowing employees to work from home can substantially reduce your overheads. If they never normally come into the office, you don’t need to provide them with a desk space, a computer (many will prefer to use their own laptop or PC if it’s safe and secure to do so) or consumables like stationery and tea or coffee.

Your utility bills will be lower, and your insurance could cost less too. In cases where your entire workforce can be home-based, you might be able to eliminate physical offices completely.

The potential benefits vary between different businesses, but they are often extremely compelling. So whether you have been forced to introduce homeworking by COVID-19 or you are simply curious about how it can help your business, it’s certainly worth considering for the long term.


What does job hunting look like during COVID-19?

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every business to a greater or lesser extent, so no matter what industry you are applying in, it’s likely that job hunting has been affected for you too.

Whether these changes will create a ‘new normal’ for the long term remains to be seen, but with social distancing measures likely to remain in place to some extent for many months, there are a few things worth keeping in mind at least for the medium term.

1. Be patient

First of all, every stage of the job hunting process is likely to take longer, as many employers are dealing with significant disruption to their normal recruitment procedures.

Be patient – give them extra time before chasing for a response to your application. If possible, make a note of any deadlines for applications, so you know when to time your follow-up for the best impact.

Working with a recruitment agency is a good way to make sure your applications don’t get missed or misplaced by HR professionals who are not used to working from home.

2. Jobseeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit

At the moment, even talented candidates could face delays in finding work. Again, a good recruitment agency can arrange the introductions you need, but you might still want to apply for Jobseeker’s Allowance or Universal Credit.

These benefits are designed to bridge the gap when you are not earning anything and special arrangements have been made regarding eligibility and how quickly you can start receiving benefits payments during the COVID-19 pandemic.

3. Face-to-face interviews

Strict social distancing rules mean very few employers will currently be holding face-to-face interviews, but that will change as those instructions are eased by the government in the coming weeks.

However, you may still want to request a video interview. Many employers will have used video calls and video conferencing apps for interviews during this time and might be happy to continue doing so even when it is not entirely necessary to do so.

4. Video interviews

If you are offered a video interview, treat the opportunity with respect – even more so than a normal video call in the course of your job.

Plan in advance so that you have a professional-looking background, are dressed and groomed to the appropriate standard, and if possible locate yourself somewhere quiet where you will not be disturbed.

There are plenty of technical aspects to consider, such as lighting, video quality and microphone volume, but especially at the moment, employers will be a little more flexible as these are unusual circumstances for interviewers and candidates alike.

5. The future

Keep up to date with any changes to social distancing rules as the Coronavirus pandemic unfolds – especially anything that could affect your ability to attend an interview or even attend your new job at all.

If you are successful in an application, make sure you know if you can work from home and if so, whether that is a permanent arrangement or you will be required to commute into the workplace once it is safe to do so.

Job hunting is not impossible, in spite of the significant impact COVID-19 has had on all our lives. Stay aware and be flexible, as conditions will change.


Real jobs that you can do working from home

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020

If you’ve worked from home in the past, you might have found friends and relatives treated you as though you didn’t have a ‘real’ job. This is especially the case if you were self-employed.

Many people are still amazed that it’s possible to earn a living working from home. While the ‘easy money’ ads you see all over the internet are usually a scam, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a substantial income to be earned without leaving your house.

Accountancy Services

Accounting and bookkeeping are essential services for most businesses, so they form a discipline with relatively guaranteed levels of demand and no real need for physical premises.

If you have the skills and relevant qualifications, you have everything you need to get started offering accountancy services from home.

Dropshipping

Most of the jobs mentioned in this article are service-based, but dropshipping bridges the gap between a service role and direct-to-customer retail.

Basically, you list products for sale at a markup. When a customer places an order, you pass that order directly to the wholesaler who takes care of the inventory and shipping.

It’s a way to turn a profit without handling any physical goods yourself. You’ll need to be savvy with marketing the items you sell, but if you’re confident you can master that, dropshipping is relatively low-risk and potentially high-reward.

Etsy Store

Websites like Etsy provide a platform for creators to sell handmade items and homemade crafts directly to customers worldwide.

This is a little more hands-on than dropshipping and the service-based ideas mentioned in this article, but if you’re passionate about what you create and you’re confident you can sell it at sufficient scale to generate an income, it’s a rewarding career choice for many people.

Multimedia Services

Individuals who are talented in graphic design, sound production and video editing can capitalise on these skills to earn a good living from their own homes.

For many people, these skills started out as a passing interest before developing into a hobby and then a passion – meaning you can generate a solid income doing something you actually enjoy, in a place of comfort.

Training Services

Online education is growing fast and native English-speakers have a distinct advantage, as there is demand worldwide to teach English to international students.

You can do this remotely from your own home and there are online platforms that give you a reliable rate of pay, along with lesson plans and any other essential information you need.

Writing Services

There’s a wide range of writing services you can offer from home. Outsourced blogging and copywriting, editing, proofreading and translation services are all in demand.

You don’t need any equipment – just a computer and an internet connection – and as your reputation as a writer grows, you can scale up your business and raise your prices accordingly.

Pursue your passion

The above ideas barely scratch the surface of the different ways to make money from home, whether via the internet, awareness in your local community or otherwise.

If you have a true passion project and you can afford to take the risk, have a go. You can start many online initiatives in your evenings and weekends until you’re sure there’s a market out there.

Entrepreneurial spirit is a hunger that can only be sated by giving it your best shot – and if your idea is a strong one, it’s likely there’s money to be made from it.


How will COVID-19 affect office working?

Friday, May 15th, 2020

We’ve all made changes to the way we live, work and play due to the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing regulations, and office jobs have been some of the most significantly affected.

In recent years there has already been a trend towards working from home. Employment law has required that employers give serious consideration to employee requests for flexible working conditions, but these may have been dismissed in the past for various reasons.

The Coronavirus pandemic shifted the balance. It’s no longer a case of employers considering whether to make an exception for individual requests to work from home – instead, entire workforces were ordered by the government to stay in their homes if at all possible.

As we move through the pandemic and into the period that lies beyond it, it’s going to be much more difficult for employers to legitimately reject working from home requests from any employee, whether they have a ‘need’ for flexible working or not.

Working in pyjamas

We’re in a state of flux right now, but looking to the long term, will we all be working in pyjamas in the years to come?

It depends in part on how quickly we return to ‘normal’ social distancing conditions. At present, and for the foreseeable future, there will be a need to keep two metres apart wherever possible, including in the workplace.

That is simply impossible in most offices. Remember that two-metre exclusion zone applies in all directions – face-to-face, workers seated side by side, facing each other across a desk, in meetings, at the water cooler or coffee machine, and so on.

While it could be achieved in some workplaces by constant self-awareness and changes to working practices, it’s much easier for many companies just to let their employees stay home and dial in over the internet.

Keeping in touch

This raises the question of communication and collaboration. There are plenty of tools that allow teams to collaborate remotely, such as online platforms to enable multiple users to edit a document at the same time, and of course video conferencing apps.

At the moment many of those tools and applications are being offered for free, or for a significantly reduced price, but it could be hard for companies to find free or low-cost alternatives once the usual subscription models are reinstated.

By then, many employees will likely be reluctant to return to the daily commute and formal office attire, having had a taste of working from the kitchen table with their own preferred brand of coffee on tap.

Applying for office jobs in COVID-19

The truth is, nobody really knows which parts of the old system will return and which of the many significant and sudden changes will become part of the ‘new normal’.

When applying for office jobs during COVID-19, it’s worth asking the interviewer how much they have been impacted and what temporary and permanent changes they have introduced.

At the very least, this shows you have a long-term interest in working for their company, while giving you some insight into how quickly – and to what extent – they hope to return to their previous practices regarding flexible working conditions, once the Coronavirus emergency begins to ease.