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Many people will raise at least one eyebrow to the suggestion that a balance of work and life is possible in recruitment. The old rulebook will dictate that if you’re in the industry, you should be working hard and accept that your time outside the office will diminish. It’s a fair exchange for the high financial reward.
Recruitment’s never been a 9-5 job. You fit your availability around your candidates and clients, because that’s what pays the bills. This is the first barrier to achieving a balance. You’re never likely to not respond to a contact, no matter what time of the day it is. And this is probably why your employer is so keen to get your work emails on your personal phone.
If however you’re assuming ‘work-life balance’ just means working less, you’ve got the wrong idea. There’s a new rise of recruitment businesses offering innovative working practices and greater flexibility. The days where your recruitment career meant working eleven hour days in a boiler room type environment seem to be evaporating.
The balancing act
So, how is the balance of life and work materialising in recruitment? Typically, recruitment consultants in pro ‘work-life balance’ environments are finding they have more control over their day. Alongside a flexible attitude, to recruit around their life. This may well mean working a 12 hour day on a Thursday but taking Friday afternoon off for a long weekend. Maybe you’re able to start early and finish late, but take a 2 hour lunchbreak to hit the gym, or dine with a friend. Just because you’re not working every hour god sends in a typical day, doesn’t mean you’re not working hard.
It probably means you’re working smart.
33 Talent are a company on Hunted who offer ROWE (Results Only Work Environment). This means their consultants control the clock and their responsibilities. There are no set office hours.
A case for the defence
A lot of recruitment companies will have spent a lot of time and effort to create an atmosphere of ‘togetherness’. People thrive in a team. A senior recruiter will offer a lot of experience and lessons to more junior members of staff for example. And people bouncing ideas off each other is always beneficial. Therefore, being flexible with when people are in the office may be detrimental to this effort.
Many people work an 8 hour day as a minimum. However there’s modern research that shows that in an average 8 hour day, just 3 hours will be spent as productive working. That’s quite a low number. There are undoubtedly recruiters who don’t manage this number, and equally a large number who probably feel like they fit in 8 hours productivity to into 3 hours work.
Driven by technology
New advancements in technology are making a work-life balance much more achievable. There are now opportunities for the recruiter that weren’t available a short time ago. Cloud technology means you’re able to work from anywhere in the world. Even if the most exotic place that takes you is your sofa.
Everything from email to your CRM to candidate CVs can be accessed from the Cloud, so you don’t need to physically be in the office to work. Video conferencing software has transformed interaction between people and offices. Whether you’re using Skype, FaceTime, Link, GoToMeeting, Viber or the many others around, you have plenty of options. These and other mobile collaboration tools such as Slack allow instant communication and greater productivity.
In theory, technology allows you to run a recruitment business from your smartphone.
Contest for consultants
You may have seen the raft of employment benefits coming through from companies recently and wonder why they offer such diverse perks.
The answer is competition.
Every employer out there knows they’re in competition for your attention. You only have to look at the plethora of benefits companies now offer, such as unlimited holidays. Some of these perks are truly beneficial to both employer and employee. Others are perhaps a little fruity. But the point is, the landscape is changing. And it’s changing in your favour. In the recruitment industry, more so than in most other industries, the real assets in any business are its people, which means attracting and retaining the best recruiters is imperative to business growth and success. Never before has there been such demand for talented recruiters.
Most benefits are nice-to-haves, but for many people – typically parents – flexibility over hours spent in the workplace is a necessity. For others, the flexibility to start late/finish late and miss the rush hour at either end can be the decisive factor in choosing where to work.
Indeed, research completed by Randstad showed a favourable work-life balance was a key driver behind employee retention. Robert Half have equally stated that a lack of work-life balance is the number one reason for their consultants seeking a move away from their business. In the ‘old days’ this would have been greeted by a handshake and best wishes for the future. Today, there’s more of an open conversation about whether that’s the best course of action.
If you’re working in media or creative market in recruitment, it’s quite likely you’ll be working in a similar style to your clients. You’ll be dressed casually, and may even be in the office for a similar length of time. Why? Because people like working with similar people. A shirt and tie clad recruiter meeting the jeans-and-tee creative agency sends the wrong impression. Few industries require the flexibility you’ll need as a recruiter and as an industry, we should be encouraging it.
Where traditionally recruitment hasn’t been the most flexible of industries, it’s also traditionally been an industry with a high rate of staff turnover or burnout. It’s a completely meritocratic industry. So if you’re working for an employer who looks at the effort put in, rather than the outcome at the end, you’re working for the wrong employer. Some time ago, it may have been a choice: continue in your recruitment career or have children.
Unfortunately, this also saw the discrimination of women in the recruitment workplace. Regardless of a female employees’ billings or skill, were they a risk to hire? Thankfully this is becoming a draconian and outdated thought process.
Like most things in life, flexible working can’t be a one size fits all solution. If you hire graduates and train them up as a business model, you’re unlikely to be offering working from home on day one. Trusting your staff is absolutely key. However if you can’t trust your staff, the question should be asked as to why you hired them. You’ll no doubt have metrics over output anyway, so taking advantage of the leash being loosened likely won’t get you very far for very long.
If the shoe fits
You’ll know whether you’re currently being afforded the right balance in your own job. You’ll also probably know whether that’s fair or in line with your aspirations. If not, there are plenty of companies who will offer you more of a balance. And finding them is easy.
Bear in mind flexible working can put even more pressure on you to get results. If the output isn’t there, it’s likely the input will be scrutinized heavily. If you’re able to thrive in this type of environment, however it’s likely your happiness in the job will sky rocket. A lot of recruiters are very capable, but find themselves in the wrong environment. Don’t let this be you.
Find a company that offers you the balance you need to succeed. And blossom.
About the Author: Tom Wish spent over 6 years working in recruitment within a variety of specialisms and agencies. He’s been writing since University and his current role is to provide quality industry content by writing, creating and engaging with the Recruitment Industry at Hunted.