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Why we need to think differently about remote working 

January 31, 2023

“I really can’t wait to commute today,” said no one ever. The joys of remote working have been discussed to death, but in this brave new WFH world, we explore whether we recruiters are using remote working tools as effectively as we could be.

Beware the horrors of ‘app overload’

This brilliant Bloomberg piece by Matthew Boyle looks at the phenomenon of app overload, or “IT bloat”, and how the overuse of workplace tools can hamper our productivity and ability to retain staff.

As Matthew observes, we’re now living in a world of “apps upon apps, all with incessant notifications, cryptic passwords and byzantine protocols. And unlike your uncle’s Facebook posts, they’re not easily muted”.

While apps, in theory, can make our work lives more efficient, in reality these workplace tools are often taking our best people away from actual…work.

“Employees are swamped by an ever-expanding array of specialized software that’s made the workday a disjointed slog,” Matthew writes.

Whether we’re catching up on Zoom, Teams or Slack, or fumbling around looking for documents on Dropbox, Google docs or email, the sheer volume of this tech overload is simply making bad use of employees’ time.

The piece quotes Tori Paulman, senior director analyst at Gartner Inc.’s employee experience technology group, who says: “Technology has gone from the great enabler to the great inhibitor.”

In fact, a WalkMe survey of big companies found that frustrations with technology led to an average of 76 employees quitting last year.

“The hard thing,” says Scott Fingerhut, a Silicon Valley marketing executive, “is that most people don’t see it coming. You don’t get a notification for burnout”.

To sum it all up, the piece even treats us to a brilliant story where “an HR leader who said employees were feeling fatigued by all these apps and asked if there was an app to fix it”.

In an increasingly tech-dependent world, one solution could be to simply cull the number of apps you use. Do candidates really need an onboarding app, then a training app, then different apps for booking holidays, securing a desk space or choosing how many sugars they want in their tea? 

And if we’re all using the same remote apps as every other company, how do we “differentiate on culture”, as this Square Peg blog expertly outlines. Plenty of food for thought!

AI recruiting tools ‘fail to eliminate bias’

Just as we shouldn’t be over-reliant on tools in our day-to-day work, the same is true for the way we recruit staff. The BBC has reported on Cambridge University research which suggests that so-called intelligent hiring tools often amount to “pseudoscience”.

Far from being a panacea in reducing interview bias, the study found that AI tools can actually make matters worse – particularly in relation to video and image analysis technology.

The piece quotes Dr Kerry Mackereth, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Gender Studies, who said: “These tools can’t be trained to only identify job-related characteristics and strip out gender and race from the hiring process, because the kinds of attributes we think are essential for being a good employee are inherently bound up with gender and race.”

Ultimately, we think the best people to determine which candidate attributes really count are your existing employees. We need referrals – not robots!

Why face-to-face interactions matter

We’ve established that video interview tools ain’t all that, but there’s even new research from MIT that brings into question our entire remote-first future.

In relation to the mass uptake of WFH policies, the researchers identified that “a major concern with such developments is the decline in knowledge flows that might result from fewer face-to-face interactions”, and they back it up with stats galore.

They say Video Killed The Radio Star, but let’s not let Video Kill The Hiring Manager. And for that joke, we can only apologise.

“What people want now is job security”

With all this talk of WFH, and working patterns that are more flexible than an elastic band, are we missing a trick? Forbes has reported on a huge BCW study of 13,488 employees which uncovered some startling stats:

  • 52% rated job security, especially at a stable company, as the factor they value most.
  • For all respondents, the ability to choose where they work only ranked at number 51 in their priority list.
  • It was only hybrid and exclusively remote workers who valued the freedom to work wherever – the former ranked it as the 12th most important feature, and the latter put it at number 7.

So, when we’re thinking about securing the best candidates and outlining what makes our organisations different – EVP, anyone? – should we cater more to those talented folks who want to be somewhere for the long haul?

Remote working is here to stay

One thing’s for sure – the days of working in a bathrobe from the comfort of one’s sauna (is that just us?) are here to say. On Twitter, @Carnage4Life artfully demonstrates this point.

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