This time last year, the Talent Summit conference on employment and hiring issues brought 1,000 delegates to the Convention Centre Dublin in one of the last major business events before the pandemic upended the landscape.
This morning, this year’s summit kicks off online with up to 2,500 expected to log in to discuss a transformed global work culture, with remote working high on the agenda.
The summit was founded 10 years ago by Robert Mac Giolla Phádraig, chief commercial officer of Sigmar Recruitment, who says lockdowns have caused a “forced dislocation of work from the workplace”.
Although the new culture of remote working creates opportunities for both staff and employers, he warns it could also be a “double-edged sword” for workers who persist with it full time – the potential hiring pool for roles will increase if employers are now able to take on remote staff based abroad.
“How remote is remote? How much competition will there be now for your role, if you choose to do it remotely?” says Mr Mac Giolla Phádraig. “There is more choice for employees but also for employers.”
Research commissioned for the summit by Sigmar and the insurance group Aon has found that 81 per cent of staff in the companies surveyed are currently working full time remotely, with just 13 per cent based in the office due to restrictions.
About 6 per cent currently work a hybrid model, the research found. However, this hybrid number is expected to jump to 44 per cent after the pandemic as employees seize the opportunity to create a better work-life balance by doing more from home.
The research also found that 7 per cent of workers in Irish roles relocated to another country during the pandemic while keeping their jobs here. About 30 per cent of those workers are expected to return after the pandemic.
Almost a quarter, or 22 per cent, of workers are expected to work remotely full time after the pandemic, while 55 per cent of the employers surveyed, including tech firms and multinationals, have hired from outside the country in which they operate.
Mr Mac Giolla Phádraig warned that lockdowns and restrictions have also facilitated “isolationism” in the workplace: “We’ve gone through a transformation around the psychological contract of work itself.”
He warned the new culture of work would create issues such as “proximity bias” between workers who work exclusively at home or in the office, or a hybrid of the two. Managers will mostly be based in the office, which is where “the decisions will be made”, he said, and workers based away from the office may struggle to stay connected with decision makers.
“Some people will gravitate towards the office because it’s where decisions will happen. The hybrid workers will need to be ambidextrous in this respect. They will need to be politically savvy.”
Sigmar, an Irish corporate recruiter owned by the French Groupe Adéquat, was “flat or slightly down” last year, as the pandemic hit, said Mr Mac Giolla Phádraig. The firm, which employs 140 staff here, is focused on multinational and tech sectors that were least affected by the hit to the economy.
“We’re just finalising our February numbers now and they are the strongest we have seen in 18 months. I think there is a renewed sense of confidence coming back among many employers,” he said.