By Ashley Olliver, Compass MD.

A lot of talk

With the lockdown easing and businesses re-opening offices there has been a lot of talk around what the ‘new’ normal will be. Businesses will need to re-evaluate how they engage with their workforce especially when considering permanent staff vs a contingent workforce.

The reality of the situation

As I write this close to 9 million workers have been furloughed by over a million businesses to the value of £17.5 billion – that’s a staggering set of statistics and its only set to increase.

In times of adversity and uncertainty there tends to be a lean towards using contractors over employing more permanent staff and I suspect this trend will continue but not just in the short term but for the foreseeable future.

Now is the perfect time for businesses to take the opportunity to re-structure how they operate and engage with their workforce to mitigate risk whilst adopting to the needs of the modern workplace.

Businesses and organisations will have a greater appetite with moving towards having a reduced number of permanent employees by having a core team of staff supported by an increased contingent workforce.

This allows them to be me more agile and flexible in their approach which in turn may well suit how the workforce want to be engaged.

This is supported by recent trends where there has been significant growth over the last 20 years in the number of contractors operating in the UK The Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported that  the number of contractors in the UK grew from 3.8 million in 2008 to 4.6 million in 2015 which represents around 15% of the total working population.This is a trend that I expect will continue as businesses look to future proof themselves.

What will the future workplace look like?

Working from home is nothing new but Covid-19 has accelerated this, with businesses having to adapt quickly and turning to technology. Whilst working from home was becoming more common place prior to Covid-19 not all businesses had the capability and infrastructure to do so.

By all accounts this has been relatively successful with companies being more equipped for change and clearly there are many benefits to working from home whether that be the reduced commute times, cost of travelling to the office, work life/homelife balance and the general wellbeing and health of individuals.

So if working from home is the new normal, does it benefit all parties concerned?

In the short term working from home works – long term I don’t see it as sustainable for most.  Though it may have been a great success so far I fear some businesses have fallen into a false sense of security that it’s the only way forward.

Many that are new to working from home will have enjoyed the novelty of it – no commute, the virtual video meetings, no dress code, not getting caught up in the office politics, managing your own schedule etc. For the majority the novelty will at some point wear off.

As the lockdown eases, we’ll also see an increase in distractions for those working from home. Right now we cant just pick up and meet a friend for lunch or go for a cheeky drink in the afternoon – those distractions don’t exist right now. As the novelty wears off and with the increase in distractions will employers be as trusting with working from home in the future? Hence my views on this being right for now but not a long term solution.

What I foresee is businesses adopting and embracing a culture where staff have the flexibility of working from home and the office – the best of both worlds.

All of the above means businesses will likely need to re-evaluate the people that they bring into their business. Does that open the door for a bigger contractor workforce as contractors are more accustomed to working in isolation or remotely.

Whatever the new normal is we look forward to embracing change and leading the way as we have done at Compass.

Our senior management team has many years of experience in the recruitment industry, so we understand the requirements and priorities of our clients which is why our business is underpinned by leading technology. This gives us the ability to be agile and flexible in our approach which is why during the lockdown our teams have all been able to work remotely without any interruptions to the high level of service we provide to end hirers, agencies and contractors.