Back to work

How will high-skilled professionals work post-coronavirus

I work in an open office, which is great! I can freely chat to my colleagues and there are few restrictions. There are no cubicles or physical private offices. Teams can easily meet at the same table or work area. We can communicate with each other better in this type of environment and share ideas.

4 June 2020

Yet this way of working could come to an end.

When working professionals in Switzerland return to the office on 8 June, things will have changed. Some will wear masks at their desks. Others won’t. It will be a very different work environment than what we were used to before. Although we will be working in the same office, it will be at a social distance.

More of us will be working from home

Not everyone will return to the office. There is no need to if the home office is still an option. The Swiss Federal Council has even recommended that people do this after restrictions are lifted.

This is not to say that conferences, in-person meetings and handshakes will be reduced to the minimum or even disappear. Home office working, however, is here to stay. We also won’t need to be in the office all the time. And there is no reason why the companies that we work for wouldn’t want to embrace this change.

Work is set to become a lot more flexible

In a professional work environment, like an office, everyone has their place. We are all expected to take responsibility and deliver the targets we have set. What the coronavirus lockdown has taught us is that our teams can also perform wherever they like.

Do we need to be in a specific office? or work at a particular time? Could choose a more flexible and social co-working place? In the recruitment industry, these questions are open and difficult to answer now. I believe this change in work lifestyle will also change the hiring process, especially for talented professionals.

Employers will, therefore, need to adapt. They will have to rethink the way teams are recruited, accommodated and organised. Retaining highly skilled professional workers like ourselves, will become a lot harder. Attracting new talented candidates will also be more challenging.

Will recruitment significantly change post-coronavirus?

Recruitment has already changed a lot over the past two decades. Jobs are no longer printed in newspapers or found in professional journals. CVs do not need to be posted by mail or faxed. Thanks to the internet, recruiting professional workers is a much more efficient process.

However, that does not mean it’s easy. Talent is still scarce and hard to find, especially in Switzerland. I always believed the best strategy is to build a portfolio of talented candidates that you can recruit over time. To achieve this, these relationships need to be managed carefully.

But how can you do this in a post coronavirus world? Recruiting highly qualified professionals is a long-term social affair. It requires listening to the needs of who you are recruiting and lots of patience.

Although social distancing may prove to be a short-term phenomenon, flexible working is here to stay. Consequently, the overall employment package offered to professional employees will have to be improved. The competition to secure and attract talented candidates for a role, may also become tougher. I suspect even more patience will be require during the recruitment process.

Even the way recruitment is handled may change

Face-to-face interviews could change quite significantly. During the lockdown, they were impossible to carry out. Although some took place by video conference, many plans to hire were cancelled or postponed. The effects could be seen in job market listings. Two weeks after the lockdown was declared, the number of job advertisements declined 26% according to the Adecco Swiss Job Index.

The recruitment process is already starting to change and adapt. Even after the restrictions are lifted, there is no certainty that candidates will want to come in for face-to-face meetings.

Fortunately, video conference calls are already filling in for this role. However, even these come with their own set of unique challenges. For instance, when you meet a candidate in person, you are quickly able to assess them in a way that is impossible by video: like their body language, appearance and overall persona. Without this personal touch, you need alternative methods to assess them.

For instance, more checks might be carried out on the candidates’ social media accounts. References that have been declared, will be looked into more rigorously. Candidates will be assessed in a completely different way. There will be less focus on how they fit in with office life and much more assessment on how they can work autonomously in a remote setting.

The recruitment process will therefore adapt. It will change to reflect the way high-skilled professionals will work once the coronavirus has gone.

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Luca Semeraro

Head of Badenoch & Clark
Zurich, Switzerland

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