Over the last two years, the Covid crisis has elicited stark changes within multiple business areas and Executive Search is no exception.

In my opinion, there have been two noticeable structural changes to our industry:

The wider use of video conferencing allows us now to significantly reduce the lead time to a first interview between a consultant and a candidate, or a client and a candidate. Arranging in person meetings, with all the diary negotiations that necessitated, was always problematic and in many ways life seems to have become more fluid. However, this ease of business is not all positive.

I have observed an increasing volatility of candidates within selection processes. Indeed the 'plug and play' aspect of video conferencing appears to result in many candidates committing to the process much less than in a face-to-face as the former requires a far lighter logistical input than the latter.

Some candidates engage in a recruitment process without any sincere motivation for making a professional change. And even if motivated, some candidates also would consider video interviewing a lesser process, versus face-to-face, and so sometimes do not give it the necessary preparation, time or attention. Some may even unconsciously believe they will be given a later opportunity to have a 'proper interview' but actually they adversely impact their chances to even qualify for the next step.

Video interviews can limit our capacity of thoroughly assess an individual as traditional paralinguistic nuances are distorted such as waving, opting for a blurred or fake backgrounds, poor connectivity etc.

There is no doubt that the rise of remote working has shaken up organisations by giving a reduced focus on where people decide to live relative to the the location of the company. This recent change elicits a larger pools of relevant candidates and consequentially a higher quality shortlist. This new WFH culture needs to be supported and lived by our clients - either through their own culture and conviction, or by mere pragmatism in reaction to what is a hugely competitive Talent market.

In spite of all the recent changes imposed upon our ways of working, effective Executive Search remains strongly based on the basics -  simply finding the very best leaders or problem solvers for the benefit of our clients.

Julien Wilhelm, Partner

We asked more than 500 senior executives what they were most looking forward to when they return to the office, a staggering 28% of them said “Nothing.” Many said that they simply find their work environment unmotivating and can work better at home.

After a year of WFH, many people are genuinely worried about returning to their offices. They feel a real sense of dread and anxiety about wasting hours in traffic, or on crowded public transport, paying for overpriced lunches and not spending enough quality time with their families.

But for how long will employers remain flexible?

Very soon I suspect many will start to demand that people return - and quickly. David Solomon, the Goldman Sachs CEO, called remote work, “an aberration that we’re going to correct as quickly as possible.” And Amazon told its employees that it expected, “to return to an office-centric culture as our baseline.”. Office-centric – now that is an interesting way to define your culture.

Some employers are actively preaching the gospel of flexibility – being overtly receptive to concerns and appreciating that the free time given by the pandemic is something their employees are simply unwilling to relinquish

Not wanting to lose great people, some companies have spent the past year trying out different models, to figure out which one works best.

Whether that's allowing a hybrid of WFH and in-office work, or treating the office as a clubhouse where you gather for specific reasons, there are lots of innovative ways to approach this transition that keep both employee preferences and productivity in mind.

But most organizations still seem to be struggling with what will actually work best. There is however a rare opportunity to rethink formerly rigid conceptions of what an ‘office-centric’ culture should be.

There is no doubt that for some people, return-to-office anxiety is real.

It is important that businesses take steps to support their staff to feel safe when returning to work.

Avoiding a knee-jerk approach to reopening and strictly dictating when employees come back, and on what terms, might just be the safest option for everyone.

Lorri Lowe
Partner, UK

The challenges of working from home... and how to overcome them!

Throughout the past year our work environment changed dramatically and work from home (WFH), or a home office, became widespread like never before. Let me share with you some – and surely, there are many more – challenges I saw many firms face, as well as having talked to many employees.

Managing your own working time

At first glance it sounds just great! You don’t need to get up early, you can skip your commute time, you can avoid quick lunches and you can set your own hours to work when you feel like it. Unfortunately, in reality it doesn’t always work that way - it is very difficult to set up and stick to normal business hours. You might have to homeschool your children and so can’t do everything you’d intended to. This means you end up working into the evening or worse still, put off your tasks. Most employees complain about the rigid structure of a regular schedule, but that structure can actually be hugely beneficial.

Some ideas for better time management:

Working too much

Based on many research studies and also on my own experience, people in home office mode tend to spend more time working than before.

When your personal life and your professional one are under the same roof, it's harder to switch off either one.

How to avoid overworking:

Annoying issues affecting your work

Well, we’ve all faced distracting circumstances while working from home.

These might simply be due to the set-up of our home office: an uncomfortable chair, not enough space for the laptop, etc. It might be a technical issue such as a slow internet, an electricity outage, etc. which are annoying and sometimes difficult to fix. Other disturbing things could be the noise from the neighbour’s house renovation right in the middle of your video presentation, or your partner just using the espresso machine.

At times some disturbances can be funny such as in the middle of your Zoom presentation your cat crawls across your desk in front of the camera, or one of your kids insists you to fix his/her toy asap.

The important thing is to never lose your sense of humour!

Social interactions, or lack of them.

In a ‘normal’ work environment human interaction is very important - in some roles it is even crucial.

Social contact is vital and can boost your productivity. You should find those platforms, apps and time to talk about the weekend events or other non-work related events. You could set up time with your colleagues before or after work to chat freely about more personal things.

Little or no recognition of your work

When working from home, it is possible that you, your workload or the results of your work are only partially visible to your employer or manager. This can easily happen, especially in larger organizations where remote workers are not as recognized or could be the last in line to get a promotion.

Understandably, this sort of low visibility and lack of recognition can be demotivating and possibly limit your performance in the long run.

What to do?

We all have our own ideas of working from home – in many ways this unites us as a shared global experience. The future may well result in us all returning to office based lives, but even if that is the case I feel sure that over the past year we will have learned more about ourselves and our own working practices.

Zoltan Petho
Partner Hungary

It can be difficult to maintain, grow, and develop company culture when most of us are working from home - and will probably be doing so for months to come. Your remote team culture will flourish or fail, purely on communication. Get communication wrong, and you’ll find that your culture just won’t stick.

When we can’t bump into colleagues in the lift, put the world to rights by the water cooler or have an impromptu lunch to chat about life, the universe and everything, teams can become disparate and misaligned. I have been chatting with our clients recently and here are some of their best ideas to keep remote workers feeling part of the wider team:

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