Thinking of working from home? Now might be the time

We spoke with recruiting expert Graham Major about why more than four million UK workers are now ditching the daily commute in favour of working from home.

By Remy Maisel

According to recent data, more than four million UK workers 1 are now ditching the daily commute in favour of working from home. This is equivalent to one in seven UK workers. 

Working from home can have a big impact on everything in your life, from your mental health to your home insurance. So, why are so many people opting out of commutes and offices and working in their pyjamas? 

Nobody knows the answer to that better than recruiting expert Graham Major. Graham owns and runs GJM Talent, a recruitment consulting company, and has 16 years of experience in the fields of HR and recruitment.

For one thing, Graham says, companies are a lot more open to the idea of their staff working flexibly than ever before – which is good, because more candidates are insisting on it when they are looking for new jobs.

We spoke to Graham more about his experience in the recruitment industry, and about trends in working from home:

What are candidates looking for now? And how have employers adapted?

Everybody wants flexible working. It’s not just parents – everyone wants to be able to leave early, whether it’s to go to the dentist, collect kids or whatever else it may be. But most candidates also want to work somewhere interesting – they might take a 5k pay cut because they’re going to be working somewhere they’re passionate about. 

I know of people who are probably underpaid, who could stand to get a 10k pay rise, but they’re happy to stay because they have the flexibility. 

The other trend that I see a lot at the moment is an emphasis on culture – what’s the culture of the employer we’re working for? Am I going to learn from the people I’m working for and develop? People have a thirst for wanting to develop themselves. Maybe that’s the Millennials and Generation Y coming into the office.

What are the benefits of working from home?

As an employer, if you offer flexibility, your talent pool will be bigger – you can attract more people. You’re also keeping your costs down slightly. For example, how many desks do you need? And workers are happier, slightly more rested, pay less for travel and more productive.

And employees tend to be happier, more motivated and feel more loyalty towards their employer. And who doesn’t want an extra hour in bed? 

Are more people looking to work from home now than they were two or three years ago?

Yes. A lot of people are putting ‘remote work only’ in their applications because of Brexit, because they figure it won’t affect their job – they could go back to Spain or Portugal and work remotely most of the week.

I’m also seeing a lot more people who live in Bristol or Cornwall applying for jobs with bigger, more established companies in London saying, “look I’m not going to relocate – I’ll come to the office two or three days a week”.

Another scenario I’m seeing is people with side businesses who want to work from home because if they did a 9-5 at home rather than having an hour commute, it won’t affect their second job. 

Which jobs are more likely to allow home working, and which are least likely?

The tech industry is most likely to allow working from home. On the other hand, salespeople are generally not allowed to work from home because they need access to systems with sensitive information. They’re usually not allowed remote access. Technology is also one of the most competitive recruitment spaces globally with lots of companies going above and beyond. 

How can you persuade your employer to let you work from home?

One time I’ve seen this work is at a company where I was consulting, and they wanted to find out how to attract more people.

There was a great deal of feedback from the employees that they wanted to work from home and HR agreed to a trial – the result was that productivity actually increased.

We knew that some people travelled up to an hour and a half to work. And we saw in that output of the product, hitting milestones, in any way they measured it – productivity increased. It was a compelling case.

If there are people around you doing it, just ask. Check the policy and speak to your manager.

Should you discuss work from home arrangements before accepting a job offer, during negotiations, or after you start work? 

Discuss this from the outset. Think about it from everybody’s perspective: if you are hired and then at the very end say “hang on, I want to work from home 3 days a week,” and the company doesn’t offer it, you’ve wasted everybody’s time. You may have lost money by buying train tickets for example, and you’ve maybe burned a bridge. 

What other flexible working arrangements might exist besides working from home?

Besides just working from home, employees might like flexi time. In my case, I have my kids every Wednesday night, so I need to leave the office early to get them. But that’s fine, because I come in half an hour early. I’m doing the core hours. Working from other or multiple offices is also an interesting one. People want flexibility.