What Can We Do About Office Working?

Offices lay almost empty across the world

In response to our last blog regarding depression experienced by homeworkers, what are managers feeling about the situation? We are receiving feedback that managers feel that things will never go back to how it was before Covid-19, when you needed to have someone at their desk 5 days a week, but they feel people need to be back in the office interacting with each other.

Even though lockdowns are coming and going with seeming regularity, we have data from polls throughout last year which point us in certain directions. A ManpowerGroup poll conducted in June point to findings that UK and US workers were much more reticent than their fellow workers in Europe, Mexico and Singapore.

Towards the end of the year, a poll conducted for Morgan Stanley showed that just under 50% more French office workers returned to work than UK office workers.

And managers are fully aware of this and are struggling to find solutions. A recent survey conducted by Martec Group found that only 16% of workers considered themselves ‘thriving’ when homeworking. The negative mental health impact from being separated from the working and social community of the workplace is damaging confidence. And that is not even touching the decline in productivity reported, with around 40% of respondents noticing a decline.

The tech leaders like Google have hinted that office working will return as soon as it possibly can. The first question that requires answering is ‘who first?’. Reed Hastings, one of the CEOs of Netflix has commented that the lack of face-to-face meetings is a “pure negative”.

As most things are, this cannot be a ‘one size fits all’ solution. Rather than selecting the return of those with a certain role, one must consider an individual’s situation. It must be ascertained whether a worker is one of those who are thriving or one of those who are suffering. Managers must be agile and sensitive to the approaches they take as most will never have experienced this way of working and have never been required to make these kinds of decisions before, decisions that are integral to the full productivity of the company.

The Martec poll identified ‘thriving’, ‘hopeful’, ‘discouraged’ and ‘trapped’ as the four main categories of worker that managers must figure out how to deal with appropriately.

The ‘thrivers’ tend to be introverts and also, interestingly, are predominantly female and predominantly in entry-level jobs. They are happy to have a reduced commute.

Those who are most ‘hopeful’ are a mixed bag of seniors and juniors, dedicating themselves to making it work despite missing chats around the watercooler.

A ‘discouraged’ worker could be either male or female, usually extroverted and aged from mid-20s to mid-40s. Interestingly, these are predominantly management level employees and could explain why managers are keen to get everyone back to the office.

Those feeling ‘trapped’ were primarily younger employees frustrated by both working from home and how the working from home situation has been handled by management.

Of course, bringing people back not only depends on the employee, but the employer. The only way to maximise the potential within a company is to create a space where the employee is allowed to identify and communicate their needs to a receptive organisation.

The C-suite need to leave their own personal preferences out of the equation. A response from a CEO about certain employees ‘gaming the system’ must be dealt with on an individual basis, not as a team. If allowed to fester this can affect the whole team and destroy a productive atmosphere. On the flipside, those who remain remotely working must not be forgotten about and passed over for promotion because they are not able to participate in face-to-face meetings all of the time.

We have been helping businesses access talent that wouldn’t normally be considered due to location or distance from the office. Creating unique hiring plans and strategies, particularly around whether some skill sets need to be in the office or not, means we can make a real difference, so if you are in any doubt over how to precede, you can always engage Zenshin Talent to help.

Curious about how Zenshin Talent can help your organisation? Contact us today for a no-strings conversation about your needs and our experience.

What Is Going Wrong With C-Suite Candidates?

A businessman stands in front of a window looking at a high rise building
Businesses are struggling to find the right C-Suite candidates

I was speaking with a friend and they mentioned that for C- level hires (Senior Directors and above), companies only get the correct fit 20% of the time. That is an astonishing figure. But what might be behind it and what can we do to remedy that situation?

A little research reveals that there is a real issue around leaders who possess the technical knowledge needed for the role they have.

There is definitely mismanagement going on within the search process.

There also seems to be a correlating between unpreparedness and the frequency of roles, meaning that those who have not moved around a lot and have not experienced the job market as much are less likely to have up-to-date training.

What appears to be happening is that C-Suite executives who are the perfect fit for the position are ill-prepared at interview leaving those who are prepared but technically inexperienced to fill the roles.

On the flipside, recruiters must ask the right questions during those interviews. Asking what a candidates greatest weakness is, can give a one dimensional impression of them. Questions along the lines of ‘How have you improved XYZ?’ or ‘How do you deal with conflict?’ will help to understand how their mind works and what interpersonal skills they bring to the table.

There are many different routes to the positions they have attained. A candidate that looks good on paper is a great start but their resume must be interrogated. There is no shame in exposing their flaws because that gives a fuller picture of the individual. One should also never be intimidated by someone with an impressive CV. At the end of the day, they need to fit in with the long-term future of the company and spending time doing this kind of work, saves time in the end.

From a recruiter point of view, some of the big mistakes prospects make are a lack of understanding of what the relationship between recruiter and candidate should entail, too much ego and a lack of strategy on the part of the C-level exec.

Candidates who are perfect for these types of roles misunderstand that their interactions with a recruiter at this level should be about relationship development not merely transaction. Rudeness is also not tolerated. Instead of picking up and dropping their recruiter, they should endeavour to build the relationship for the future, especially as a ’job for life’ is a distant memory in this new business world.

Operating at the highest levels within a business, these candidates will be used to getting their own way, being praised and expecting things to happen when they demand it. That attitude will have served them well within the business but when looking for a new job, these attitudes can inhibit any further successful progression.

Humanity and humility are so important. In order to stand out from the many candidates also vying for the job, they must be willing to show that they can accept coaching and advice, that they will take on some extra training if they need to. Recruiters will always remember discourteous candidates and if they do not actively engage, they will be forgotten.

Finally, one can get nowhere without strategy. The candidate often believes that they are the buyer, interviewing the company, rather than the seller, pitching what they have to offer to the company. Every way the C-suite exec interacts with a recruiter or company, be it via Linkedin, the story they tell on the phone, their resume, must all match up and demonstrate a unique position which is also consistent.

Both sides must define their strategy and, slowly but surely, that number will rise from 20% to 100%.

Curious about how Zenshin Talent can help your organisation? Contact us today for a no-strings conversation about your needs and our experience.

What Are The Downsides To Working From Home?

Working from home can breed loneliness and paranoia

With the upcoming anniversary of the first Covid-19 lockdown approaching, and with no end in sight for working from home, we looked into what is actually happening on the ground. There’s an emerging opinion that remote working may not be the panacea that it first appeared to be.

When the lockdown hit, major companies like Google ordered all staff to work from home and startups started cancelling their office contracts. A brave new world beckoned but where do we stand now? Has the novelty worn off?

A few managers we have spoken to have highlighted such issues as loneliness, paranoia, lack of social interaction and lack of boundaries.

Firstly, people are feeling lonely and isolated. Being with your family at home is different to social interaction with work colleagues and that camaraderie is starting to be sorely missed.

At the start, there was positivity about the possible end of commuting to work and a break from office politics with around 49% of people working from home. There were those who did not live in spaces conducive to working but generally it was seen as a good thing.

Who amongst us didn’t initially celebrate being freed of the time-and-energy drain of travelling to work? We were able to get out of bed, go to work and not even have to get properly dressed. It was a positive during the overwhelming negatives of life under Covid-19.

A Jefferies survey has found that, in the UK, 61% of respondents would return to work right now if they could. Mark Zuckerberg has stated that only 1 in 5 of all Facebook workers, who are set to be permanently working from home by 2030, are happy to do so. ‘Feelings of loneliness’ was one of the top reasons given by respondents to a Bradburn survey as being the driving force behind the desire to return to the office. For younger workers with no dependents it is even worse, according to Totaljobs, with 74% admitting that they have struggled with loneliness in lockdown.

The blowback from mass homeworking was definitely unexpected as there was no real impetus to really research it before. An important study was undertaken by Nick Bloom, a homeworking expert, for the Ctrip travel agency. It showed that while productivity rose by 13%, 50% of the workers in the study wished to return to the office citing loneliness as the reason.

Workers experiencing paranoia over their status within the business is another reason for the unhappiness. Imagine you are working on a project and you send messages to your manager via Whatsapp. You see that they have read the messages but they do not give any feedback. In fact, you don’t hear back from them for a long time. If this pattern repeats often, it can breed paranoia. In an office, you can visit the manager or they will be back in the office the day after. You are assured of your position because you can see your colleagues working and they can see you working. But working from home, in isolation, read but unanswered Whatsapp messages can become harbingers.

Another factor is that everyone is accessible pretty much all of the time because they are at home. People don’t think twice about calling colleagues late into the evening to discuss work issues because they know where you are and assume you have nothing better to do. There is always the assumption that if you are working from home, you are working flexi hours. If people were working in the office, then there would be more of an understanding that when someone walks out of that front door, that is really them logging off work until tomorrow.

Curious about how Zenshin Talent can help your organisation? Contact us today for a no-strings conversation about your needs and our experience.