Mar 20

The Future Of Work And Covid-19: Advice For Seeking Remote Work Opportunities

The Future of Work


From a vibrant, boisterous open-plan ‘deal-making’ office of 35 people last week to the eerie silence of an almost empty office this week. I dug in my heels for a last futile stand against our management team and then accepted the new realities of Coronavirus and we implemented our Covid-19 plan at Paton Personnel (our 23 year old financial services recruitment firm) and at Nomad Now.

Apart from the obvious fears, our biggest worries were:

  • Would Employers continue to hire flexi and perm staff ‘at pace’ if they couldn't meet our candidates person-to-person?
  • At Paton and Nomad Now we have offered work-hour and location flexibility to staff for many years but would sending all staff to work from home, drop productivity?
  • Would a total remote-work stance brutally increase costs associated with setting up the necessary infrastructure for staff to work from home?
  • Can quality standards be maintained from home?

So we kicked-off by sending home 1 out of every 2 team members to test what was needed to make working from home optimal. After taking feedback from the remote workers, this was followed by rushing around having to buy extra laptops, dongles and data (Telkom was 4 times cheaper than Vodacom!).

We were reminded that access to data is expensive for most and not to be taken for granted. Throw into the mix, Eskom’s load-shedding interruptions.Feedback on our remote working arrangements so far is positive.

Interestingly, staff have much more time as they are not distracted by others and also find that they can be much more creative (you saw the WhatsApp message about Isaac Newton in 1665 having to work from home when Cambridge University closed due to Bubonic plague in 1665? It was the most productive period of his life, in which he developed his theories on calculus, optics and gravity. Nothing less for us!).

Clients have been amazing – most are totally comfortable working remotely themselves and very accustomed to using Skype or Zoom to interview our candidates online. There are still some clients conducting interviews in person but they are taking all necessary precautions.

I am very excited about the change in our ‘way of working’. We created Nomad Now in 2016 – launched in 2018 – to service exactly this market and need for remote work. Nomad is an end-to-end online solution to hiring all professional talent and we are even releasing our latest HR Tools feature later in March.

These tools will enable Employers to track and record the entire hiring process from sourcing to signing offer letters, all in 1 place. Forget the old-school and cumbersome off-the-shelf HR packages. Nomad is intuitively easy to use, represents huge cost savings and speed-to-hire is drastically reduced.

This period of forced work-from-home will make business owners squarely face the question as to what impact remote work will have on their businesses. Many business owners have ducked the question or were resolutely opposed in principle.

Now they will experience first-hand whether their fears are valid. I predict a permanent change in ways of work. South Africa has lagged international precedent in terms of work-from-home.

Let us know what YOU have learned about remote work so far – the good and the bad.

About the author 

Ross Paton

After almost 8 years in corporate finance at Investec, Ross Paton co-founded Paton Personnel in 1997. Paton Personnel focuses on specialized technical Recruitment, and Ross and the team have consolidated Paton’s position as a top talent supplier in Financial Services and beyond. Paton is well-known and respected for its’ professionalism, accuracy and business integrity. Ross also co-created and built Thrive Café on the historical Vilikazi Street (Soweto) in 2013, which was sold to a consortium of Private Equity Investors in December 2015. Ross’s latest entrepreneurial venture is Nomad Now: South Africa’s very first digital end-to-end hiring platform which has brought the same technology that has disrupted the metered-taxi and short-term accommodation markets, to hiring and recruitment in SA.

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