Olivan: “The normalization of remote working will be a great opportunity.”

Montse Olivan is Executive Office & HR Director for New Work, a Germany-based employment company. She discusses how the pandemic has permanently reconfigured the labor market and what employers can do to adapt.

Posted Thursday, April 21st 2022
Olivan: “The normalization of remote working will be a great opportunity.”

LL: How has the pandemic affected the labor market?

Olivan: The pandemic has had a major impact on the labor market, but with variations between the different sectors. As hiring never stopped in the technology sector, that industry has not been overly impacted. In other sectors, the impact of the pandemic has been much more problematic, with serious economic consequences. This is particularly the case in Spain, where many people have been affected by ERTEs [Record of Temporary Employment Regulation, a legal measure adopted by the Spanish government that allowed companies to temporarily lay off employees or reduce their hours during the pandemic].

So it depends a lot on the sector you work in. However, it is important to recognize the opportunities that have arisen. For example, many companies that used to focus on the market in which their offices are located are now opening up to a broader professional market.

Spanish legislation allows us to hire throughout Spain without any restrictions, so that candidates benefit not only from local employment but also from the opportunity to work remotely for companies without an office in their area. For example, a person living in Malaga could work for a company based in Valencia.

The normalization of remote working will be a great opportunity. It represents an open door to discover new profiles without being restricted to a limited territory. It also provides geographical flexibility to our employees. There is much to be gained and learned from this new way of working.

I would say that this is a global trend, which has caused companies to re-evaluate how they want to allocate their workforce by asking themselves whether they want to be hybrid, working entirely remotely or on site. In my opinion, the IT sector is going to move towards a hybrid configuration, which will force companies to be remote friendly and adapt their tools and strategy to this configuration.

In addition, the pandemic has led people to think about what they really want in their working lives. Companies need to re-engineer the candidate experience in recruitment processes. It is no longer enough to move candidates from one stage to the next; companies need to be thoughtful and intentional in every interaction and make sure that their values are reflected in the recruitment process. There are different strategies to improve the candidate experience and the emphasis on transparency at every stage is one of them.

 

Are you seeing more interest from outside Spain for Spanish IT workers?

I think the pandemic has shown that we can work from home with a high level of performance.

In the past, companies outside Spain were interested in IT profiles in Spain and opened offices in certain technology hubs such as Barcelona where there is a long tradition of English-speaking IT professionals working for international companies and where the technology market is very strong.

But many European companies have discovered that they can also hire talent in Spain to work remotely without having to open an office in every city they are interested in.

On the other hand, some IT professionals did not consider working from home before they experienced it. Now they’re open to it and may even prefer a remote set-up.

 

How do you address the objections some employers might have about switching to a hybrid model?

First, we need to focus on the reasons for their objections.

Most of the objections I've seen in technology companies are usually related to insecurity. Some employers are afraid of losing control and that some employees will abuse the situation. Others are afraid of losing the company culture and that people will be less engaged and motivated without seeing each other. As employers, we need to ask ourselves how we can preserve our corporate culture in this new context.

First of all, we have to assess the business sector and needs of the company: customer service for clients who come to the office is not the same as working in the IT sector developing projects.

Even in the IT sector, we really have to evaluate each position. For example, office managers cannot, in most cases, be entirely remote and, in some sectors, developers need hardware that is in the office. But globally in the technology sector, most companies could move to a hybrid model and HR needs to help them move in that direction with these objections in mind.

The simplest argument is the market: companies can't afford to lose talent and numerous studies have shown that teleworking-friendly companies have 33% lower staff turnover. Furthermore, one of the main reasons for leaving a company is the lack of flexible work options. Offering a hybrid remote work schedule allows employees to find the right combination of working from home and spending time in the office with your team. And with fully remote positions, we open ourselves up to a range of opportunities for recruiting talent in other cities.

It's not just about retaining talent. It's also about recruiting: more candidates are looking for a good work-life balance and prefer to work in hybrid companies, which can offer them enough flexibility to work from home or the office.

We also see more objections from Spanish companies than international ones for cultural reasons. Historically in Spain, jobs were office related. Working from home was something more related to international companies. At New Work Spain, teleworking was already an option before the arrival of COVID-19.

 

What systems or procedures do companies need to implement to ensure the productivity of remote workers?

Employers will need to change the types of tools they invest in, for example by giving employees laptops instead of desktops. They will also need to ensure that there are robust communication tools that provide a space for collaboration, not only within teams but also at a higher level. At New Work, we offer a weekly collaboration space to share ideas and news and we also conduct a company meeting every week, which requires solid infrastructure.

Having a weekly routine with team meetings three days a week, one-on-one interactions with the HR manager, and holding a nation-wide meeting once a week are some ways to ensure full transparency at the management level.

Another issue is how you measure success. If it is based on face-to-face interactions, then you need to change the scope.

In our case, we work more for the success of the team than for a personal goal. We ensure the development of the team through various means, such as offering the freedom to divide the work, setting clear deadlines and quality standards, and encouraging mutual support between team members. Another important factor is providing our employees with tools such as Jira, Trello, and Sharepoint to share their work with each other.

There is no perfect solution, but it seems we’re moving to a hybrid workplace rather than an office-centric one. We believe that it is essential to give teams the autonomy and responsibility to organize themselves within the company for the development and well-being of the whole.