Working from home and the potential implications for graduates and other younger team-members

I haven’t measured it but there does seem to be more graduates I speak with who are looking to work from home than there was in 2021, with some actively looking at businesses who have a wfh policy. It’s still not a large percentage, but I would urge any graduate who is looking to do this to make sure it’s for the right reasons. Particularly in certain career types.

An example being sales and other commercial roles, where many little tips in approaches can be learned by just being around and listening to others. There are also factors such as a vibrant office, bouncing off each other, receiving support and encouragement when things aren’t going so well. And the discipline to avoid procrastination when sales calls are to be made. All hugely important factors that are best offered in person, and with experienced staff alongside (just as those experienced staff once learned from others). Similar thoughts will apply to many other jobs.

I spoke with a graduate recently who is looking to enter sales, but also to fully work from home. I advised him against this, if possible.  Most experienced staff are able to do this due to years of experience.  Non-experienced staff, I’m not so sure. And it could potentially lead to a bad experience and leaving the industry.

There is also the risk that working from home can lead to some team-members feeling isolated- they may not feel comfortable saying if they have a problem, and of course it’s not as easy to pick up on body language if only speaking online and on limited occasions

Before Covid a bit of momentum was building from many who wanted to work from home; a lot of employers were resistant, partly due to wanting staff to be in the office, but also because working from home required a special kind of organisation and discipline.

By necessity it was brought in; but without the luxury of time to plan, there is no doubt that steps were skipped in many cases.

Areas such as occupational health, insurance, equipment, and cyber security were not always addressed properly, at least initially. Makeshift offices were set up in corridors, bedrooms, and on dining tables. Personal WiFi, laptops, and phones were used in many cases.

It was almost a kind of Dunkirk spirit to make sure that things carried on; businesses and staff showed remarkable adaptability and resilience, and business continued in many ways.

Not all businesses had the infrastructure for staff to wfh properly, but they muddled on. Two years later many are still doing so, and are not able to transfer calls internally.  I call a lot of businesses, and in mid-2022 I have heard voicemails on main line numbers that say ‘due to the current situation we are working from home, please email us at info@…’.  The pandemic is largely over (fingers crossed) so it can’t really be used as a reason now. If I had been a potential customer then I would have gone elsewhere.

For more experienced members of staff, working from home has been great in many ways: spending more time with family, savings on travel costs, less hassle receiving deliveries. Even so, many were keen to return to the office; but others did not find it easy to return after so long working from home, there was some reluctance, and this will need to be managed effectively on an ongoing basis.

If wfh continues then policies need to be developed and there needs to be investment in infrastructure including equipment and WiFi at home. But not all businesses have this kind of money spare. And many may feel it is not the best solution for the success of the business, so tough decisions may need to be made. Also, for many graduates and other younger staff in particular, there can often be socio-economic implications as they may not have the space, or environment to work from home effectively- it’s important that they do not miss out on opportunities.

It’s clear that developing a wfh policy is not easy, and I’m glad I don’t have to do it. The hybrid model definitely offers a compromise and solution. But even then I have seen it described as a cop-out on LinkedIn.

Either way, there are many factors that need to be considered when developing a wfh policy, and the overall success of the business needs to be taken into account, along with the needs of younger staff – not just those who have more influence and shout the loudest.

And graduates need to consider what is going to be best for them and how they are going to learn more.

Matthew Parry,
Director. SME Graduate Employment

Interested in hearing more about the graduate employment market? Please contact me on 0370 7749500 (local rate number) or email matthew@sme-graduates.co.uk

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SME Graduate employment is a specialist graduate recruitment agency. Covering permanent roles, fixed-term contracts, student / undergraduate and graduate internships, and sandwich placements. All areas of the UK, and most industries and job types.