WFH: much ado about nothing? – The Property Chronicle
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WFH: much ado about nothing?

Investor's Notebook

Has adapting to a distributed workforce really been such a big change for organisations? Martin Schwarzburg finds out, with a recruiter’s viewpoint provided by Tim Green.

With the pictures of camouflaged men storming the US Capitol fresh on our minds, crowd management has become a hotly debated topic around the world. While the phrase will make many instinctively think of street riots first, a barely concealed battle on how to manage a distributed office crowd rages in an increasing number of organisations – and not only since covid-19 forced companies to adopt a WFH culture.

Now, without a crystal ball but judging by signals in a number of industries, it is fair to assume that we’ll see at least partial WFH policies in a wide range of organisations in future. But is a distributed workforce really such a big change for organisations to adapt to?

Looking at regionally or globally distributed companies, WFH is rather similar to what we’ve seen across multinational corporations in the past. Matrix reporting setups where, let’s say, a local finance director based somewhere in mainland China reports into the regional Asia-Pacific chief financial officer based in Singapore, with another dotted line to a global headquarters in London, are not that unusual. (Partial) WFH just takes these relationships to a new level, but with very similar characteristics.

I talked to recruiter Tim Green to get a recruitment perspective on the WFT trend.

MS: Tim, as a recruiter you’re talking to both sides of the aisle, companies and candidates. What are you hearing?

TG: When the UK went into lockdown last March, businesses had virtually no time to prepare for what has essentially become the largest WFH experiment in history. But due to technological advances, it can, and has, largely worked for those whose job functions allow them to WFH. Enforced lockdown when schools have been closed has proved one of the largest challenges for people, as they struggle to work and home-school their children. Work and home lives have merged into one. I think it’s important to differentiate between enforced WFH (lockdown) and what the future might look like (hybrid working).

From conversations I’m having, it is clear that we are heading towards a hybrid working environment. And post pandemic, businesses and their people will have to decide what that looks like for them. Larger organisations may find this easier than smaller, privately or owner-managed businesses. Most businesses and leaders have passed the ‘sceptical of people WFH’ stage and are willing to embrace change. And the reality is that in order to retain and attract top talent, they may well not have a choice. People wanting flexibility is here to stay, and this could be very good news for businesses. New talent pools are emerging as a result. Women who have left their careers to raise children have often struggled to find roles that allow them the flexibility they need. Not any more. Attracting top talent may not mean fishing in the local talent pool any more. Why not attract the best global talent you can? Well-run businesses with strong leadership and management will be clear on the challenges and opportunities that hybrid working is bringing, and they are working hard to make sure that they are the leaders of tomorrow. They are determined and willing to raise their game.

Investor's Notebook

About Martin Schwarzburg and Tim Green

Martin Schwarzburg is based near Zagreb, consulting with clients on a variety of strategic and operational topics with a focus on international markets, real estate and private equity. He previously served as Global COO Real Estate for the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) and Finance Director Europe for AIG Global Real Estate. Tim Green has been helping real estate businesses with their senior recruitment needs for over 20 years. He has worked with a wide variety of businesses both in the UK and overseas. He also runs a quarterly real estate CFO breakfast forum with BDO Real Estate.

Articles by Martin Schwarzburg and Tim Green

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