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Henry Field

Resourcing & Talent Manager, NewLaw

Day 100 of not being in the office. Day 85 of Furlough (…at the time of writing)

I don’t know about you but the idea of going back to ‘normal’ feels really daunting to me. Over 12 weeks of not being in work is a long time; it’s the longest time in my adult life I’ve not had to be in an office. I imagine many people will be feeling the same at this point. Going on furlough is one thing to grapple with; coming off is also going to take time to get used to.

The furlough rules have now changed and the appetite to bring people back into work will start to increase, I’ve started consider how this makes me feel, and how I think my role will change moving forward.

"As someone that likes security and to be busy, I am worried – and that’s OK."

How do I feel?

I’m nervous. Will I remember exactly where I left off? I’ve not had access to my emails for three months, what’s going to be waiting for me? How long until we are back to normal recruitment levels – will we ever be in the same position? What will my role look like? All very reasonable questions. All questions people I know have asked themselves, me, or talked about openly.

There is no answer at the moment, any plan that’s in place now may change. The world is still reacting to a pandemic (let’s not pretend that because you can get a bargain bucket and buy Ikea furniture again, this is over. People are still dying).

All I know is, as someone that likes security and to be busy, I am worried – and that’s OK.

I’ve been given no reason to be worried at all. All the messages coming to me from my employer are positive but I’m only human. It’s normal to worry and that’s what employers and HR professionals will need to manage for those returning from furlough.

Recruitment: the practicalities

I’ve been thinking a lot about how recruitment is going to be affected when we come out of this.

There is no doubt in my mind that many business have seen the benefits that come with remote working and the additional flexibility and productivity that can come with it. Where many companies may have had the occasional person working from home one day a week, we’re going to see many more reversing this and spending more time at home.

But what could that mean for me and my role? Well, not only does it mean that I need to hurry up and get my home office in the attic decorated and kitted out, but it also means readdressing and changing my recruitment methods and strategies.

Career fairs won’t happen in the same way for a long while. Universities can’t send student groups in for open days. In Wales, we can’t even interview face-to-face whilst staying two meters from each other in many offices. All this means that new ways of working need to be considered.

I’m pleased that prior to Covid-19, NewLaw already utilised online video interview software for some roles which had positive results. We were able to work with law students who may have struggled to attend an interview without missing lectures.

I am confident that utilising technology will not only fill the gap left by not having that in-person interview.

The same theory works for other sectors. Businesses are more confident in the ability of their employees to work effectively and positively from home. Why wouldn’t you consider hiring someone that works from home who is happy to travel in once a week/fortnight? Having said that, there will always be employees who can’t cope with working from home – or those who want to work from home.

In the last month or so, ‘Zoom Burnout’ has become an issue, but I think it will be less so when employees have more of a work/life balance; once they can see their family and friends and have quality downtime.

I’m not saying this works for everyone, in every sector. A reasonable, sensible approach is essential to create an engaged, committed and happy workforce.

What about on-boarding?

One of my favourite parts of my role is being able to meet our new team members during their induction, sometimes as many as 35 people starting in a month. It’s going to be a very, very long time before that many people can be in a room at any one time again, in smaller offices anyway.

On-boarding itself will have to take a different approach, but that’s OK. The vast majority of us have all sat through enough webinars, calls and online learning sessions to know that technology is the way forward, and that we can easily make up for the lack of face-to-face contact by keeping sessions engaging, interactive and informative.

It’s different, sure but remote working means we’re not restricted to meeting room availability, train and traffic delays or that dreaded ‘first day feeling’ of starting a new role. For new recruits, it means people can start their new position in their own home, calm and surrounded by a setting they’re already familiar and comfortable with. As the Coronavirus remains a threat, it may reassure existing employees as well as new ones, that we can grow without people’s health at risk.

Don’t forget the existing team!

In many ways new team members may find the cultural transition easier as it’s all they’ve known of the company they join. The difficulty comes for people that have worked within a business for a number of years. They’ve stayed with the firm because they like the people, the work, the culture, the office and the environment.

"My opinion of myself has changed - I CAN be productive at home, however that doesn’t mean everyone will, nor that I can sustain this."

What I’ve learned during lockdown

At the beginning of lockdown I was terrified. I never thought I would be able to focus working from home. I was worried that I’d get distracted but I surprised myself. I’ve been on furlough for a while now however I have managed to complete a number of personal projects, conducting learning that I would never normally have achieved at home. (I owe a lot of me completing my CIPD qualification last year to Virgin Money Lounge!)

My opinion of myself has changed – I CAN be productive at home, however that doesn’t mean everyone will, nor have the space to do so.

I have a house with a garden, a room to work in with a desk, no children and a cat that reminds me to take a break when he wants attention. (OK, there’s one distraction…)

I couldn’t imagine trying to work from home with a small child, or without a separate work space. Different considerations will need to be made for parents, I think.

Maybe law firms can create more realistic and therefore valuable flexible working plans so that parents can work their hours when they can? Perhaps looking again at condensed hours, and more.

By adding remote working to the mix, law firms as well as employees can benefit in a number of ways but wet need to start with a blank sheet of paper, rather than reverting back to our pre-Covid ways and opinions.

These are some ideas that law firms will need to consider if they want to keep their best talent and attract new talent in Wales and from England. I don’t have any of the answers, just a lot of ideas and plenty of time to put them to paper!

Henry Field

Resourcing & Talent Manager, NewLaw

Henry Field Assoc CIPD, is the Resourcing & Talent Manager at NewLaw, based in Cardiff. Henry is currently on furlough and using his time to volunteer within Cardiff and Vale University Health Board. To find more volunteer opportunities within the trust, please click here.