An argument AGAINST working from home. (for Recruitment Agencies)

Playter Admin
17th Dec, 2020

It’s a contentious topic that has the majority of the HR community debating ‘what is the new norm’ for businesses. With most armchair viewers debating for a more flexible working environment, we’re taking our time to build an argument FOR and AGAINST ‘working from home’ without mincing our words. Yes, we know you CAN work from home if you’re in recruitment, but it doesn’t mean that it’s good for business, or the consultant.

So, here’s our no bullsh*t argument AGAINST working from home.

Onboarding is more difficult:

Let’s not be complacent here, yes onboarding virtually is doable, but it’s certainly not ideal. You can’t embed your new starter and make them feel at home on Zoom, it’s purely functional. Having the ability to ask questions on your first day is much easier if you can simply walk up to the individual, not email, call or book time into their diary. Onboarding just isn’t as good virtually as it is in person.

Training is more difficult:

I’m unsure there is too much of a difference in training methods when you’re looking at more experienced workers, but if you’re hiring junior employees, my god they’re not getting it nearly as good as their office-based predecessors. To learn remotely when you’re entering into your first job is a steep task for both employer and employee. Asking questions, finding mistakes, reassurance and empathy are all hard to come by via Zoom or a phone call. I remember taking our new starters out to lunch so that they get to know the team, as well as those outside of their team, and just relax a little. Say goodbye to that if you’re a WFH fanatic! Recruitment is also a pretty tough job when you’re starting out. It was always fantastic to hear the more senior consultants on the phone and in fact, I picked up some awesome tricks doing so. Without the ability to do that, I think junior consultants miss out on crucial learning outside of their formal training.

What is company culture?

Most recruitment agencies have debated on what actually defines their company culture, which has been made even harder to define with the removal of offices. Was it the personality of the business, the atmosphere, the beanbags, the day trips, the lunch clubs or little coffee breaks? Because none of that will exist if you’re working from home. In fact, in most cases, you simply become a worker, not an employee. I find it difficult to believe that small businesses will be able to build a solid and sustainable company culture if your entire team is remote, it’s just not possible in most cases, but, it is dependant on size and industry of the company.

Harder to retain employees?

Following on from that lack of company culture, you’ve got to then ask yourself why you stay at a business. Okay, let’s say we’re all working from home, what differs from one company to the other. You’re a consultant in IT Recruitment, great… that role won’t change in any other IT Agency, but it would have done if you had the office to lean on. Let’s not forget that the vast majority of employees are simply content, meaning they’re not loving life, nor hating it, which is good, by the way. But, if a similar company, similar ‘culture’, and a similar job comes up for £10k per year extra, why wouldn’t you take job? Without being in the office, you can’t build that loyalty. You can’t accidentally stumble across an employee who’s having a hard day, take them aside and cheer them up. You can feel the ring of that bell in the office, the clap of those hands from your colleagues congratulating you after making your first placement or the pat on the back from your boss. They’re remote, so god knows what’s happening in their lives. No constant contact, no loyalty and low retention… all created from a WFH company.

Progression is harder to offer on anything other than results:

With most of us working away behind the scenes, you’re generally only able to judge an employee on their results. But that’s not really how it works, is it? If someone is putting the effort in, but not seeing the results, we need to take this into considering. How do you ‘see’ someone’s effort if you’re not with them physically in an office? If you don’t have the budget for fancy tracking software, how do you know your salesperson has made those calls? It’s not impossible, but it’s much tougher and yet another reason to get yourself into an office.

Social Contact:

There’s not a single person who can persuade me that Zoom can take over physical social life. Especially in recruitment. Those end of day drinks on a Thursday, that Monday morning gossip and debrief on what happened over the weekend before you hit the phones. It’s all fine happening over Zoom, but it doesn’t come close to replacing the type of social interaction we’ve grown to love in recruitment.

Motivation is down to yourself, not others:

I was speaking with someone the other day and it reminded me of a situation in my old recruitment agencies office. On a blue Monday morning, all consultants wonder in, tired and lethargic from the weekend and spend 30 mins having coffee and chatting. When suddenly you hear the top performer hit the phones and everyone can hear his/her voice. This was the kick up the arse everyone else needed and suddenly everyone is on the phone! Sometimes motivation is taken from someone else around you. That won’t happen at home and watching someone at Zoom is far from motivating. Atmosphere is SO important for recruitment agencies and small businesses alike, without it you’re just at a job at some random company.

A start-up journey changes:

I can certainly vouch for having a better time in the office than at home. Running a small business, it’s much easier to have oversight and offer up support when you’re next to each other. I’d go as far to say that some of the best companies in the world wouldn’t be about if they had to start and maintain a WFH policy from the very beginning.

We’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Don’t forget, this is our argument AGAINST work from home, so we want to hear why you’d disagree, or agree with us. Next week I’ll post our argument FOR work from home too.

But here’s my personal opinion. I think a mixture of WFH and in the office is important but it absolutely depends on industry and size of your business. As a smaller business, I’d prefer to be in the office as much as I can. We need to build a culture and support each other through the tough times. I truly don’t believe it’s fully possible over the phone or on Zoom. So for Playter Pay, I’ll be advocating for a mixed and flexible life, but… not too flexible.