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Has remote working gone too far or not far enough?

Mother and baby in home office with laptop

Has remote working gone too far or not far enough?
Despite some firms pulling remote workers back to the office, experts find a revolution in where, when and how people work is underway

When Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer issued an ultimatum to the company’s remote workers – return to the office or quit – it sparked a debate over whether new ways of working have gone too far. Some critics claimed organisations had allowed people to become too disconnected. Others feared remote working was killing collaboration and the ad hoc exchange of knowledge.

But new evidence suggests agile working isn’t about to disappear. In fact, two experts predict that more and more employees will decide when, where and how they do their jobs as communications technology, demographic shifts and globalisation drive a revolution in working practices over the next decade.

No turning back

cass_logoIn Future Work: Changing Organizational Culture for the New World of Work, Alison Maitland, a Senior Visiting Fellow at Cass Business School, and Peter Thomson, an Executive Visiting Fellow at Henley Business School, claim we are in the early stages of a transformation of work and there is “no turning back”.

In the book’s newly published second edition, they provide compelling evidence that progressive work practices are gaining momentum throughout the world. And far from being the preserve of a few trendy tech companies, even investment banks and insurance firms are starting to embrace them.

In the two years since the publication of the first edition of Future Work, we have seen yet more evidence that there is a revolution in working practices on the way,” says Maitland.

Given the economic downturn of the last few years, it might be thought that organisations would revert to ‘safe’ traditional practices and abandon agile working as a luxury. Yet we are seeing more companies recognising the need to adopt progressive working practices, even in traditionally conservative sectors such as law and investment banking. Companies like GAP and BDO in the US have meanwhile strongly reaffirmed their commitment to future work practices on the grounds that they are good for business and for employee wellbeing.”

The updated, expanded edition of the book includes an extra chapter on how to implement future work, including how individuals can drive change and how to avoid technology overload. Thomson explains: “The debate over Yahoo highlighted how important it is to manage new working patterns effectively. Poor management can, at one extreme, lead to people becoming disaffected and cut off from the organisation, and at the other extreme can mean people overwork and burn out. The solution to these challenges is not to give up and revert to out-dated working practices but for management and employees to work through the issues together.”

Industrial age

Maitland and Thomson argue that, while more companies are adopting radically new work styles, there are still many that cling to a rigid model of fixed working time and place that is better suited to the industrial age than the information age. Long hours are often required and rewarded without any measure of the productivity involved, and technology has simply extended working time instead of being used to enable “smarter” working.

There is overwhelming evidence that employees are more productive if they have greater autonomy over where, when and how they work. Trusting people to manage their own work lives, individually or in teams, pays off. Organisations that have switched to the new model also benefit from more motivated workers, better customer service and lower costs, say the authors.

Unilever, the global consumer goods multinational, has seen big business benefits from its Agile Working strategy over the past two years, including: €95m in cost savings from avoiding business travel; increased employee productivity; and the continuation of critical projects during disruption from major events such as the London Olympics and Hurricane Sandy.

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Graduate vacancies grow a third in a year

As UK companies return to graduate recruitment


  • Graduate vacancies soar 37% year-on-year, creating 15,732 advertised UK graduate vacancies this month

  • Total advertised vacancies rise 20% year-on-year, with 823,081 available advertised vacancies in April

  • Advertised salaries show first monthly growth in seven months, up 1.2% to £32,185 in April

  • Competition for jobs at record low, with 1.39 jobseekers for every advertised vacancy in April, down 38% year-on-year

  • Salaries soaring in the Science sector, with advertised salaries increasing 7.1% year-on-year in April to £36,249

  • More vacancies than jobseekers in eighteen UK cities, but still more than 10 jobseekers per vacancy in Salford, the Wirral, Sunderland and Rochdale

  • Competition for graduate vacancies falls significantly year-on-year, but still 30 jobseekers per entry-level vacancy in April, and over hundreds of applicants per vacancy at leading graduate recruiters

A recovering graduate jobs market has helped push the number of advertised job vacancies up by a fifth over the last year, according to the latest UK Job Market Report from Adzuna.co.uk.

Total advertised vacancies grew 19.8% year-on-year in April, supported by a flurry of opportunities for new grads and growing science and manufacturing sectors, as well as a burst of activity in the self-employment and part-time sectors. There were 823,081 advertised vacancies in April 2014, compared to 687,167 in April 2013. It was the third consecutive month in which total vacancies have topped the 800,000 mark.

Table 1:

April 2013

April 2014

Annual change from April 2013

UK Vacancies




Jobseekers per Vacancy




Andrew Hunter, co-founder of Adzuna, explains: “This month’s labour market reads like a recipe for success. There are far more job opportunities than twelve months ago, with graduates in particular benefitting as employers begin advertising for far more staff. Salaries are showing signs of improvement, which is helping improve household finances across the country. And the science sector is roaring back into life, contributing to both production and employment levels. An influx of self-employed and part-time roles has further bolstered employment numbers, leading to a healthy glow across much of the jobs market ”

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Pathmotion gets more out of Facebook for recruitment

Career Inspirationby PathMotion

On Friday I discovered the Career Inspiration app from PathMotion, which is quite unique in the fact that it allows employees of organisations to communicate directly online with prospective candidates at all stages of the recruitment process. Obviously there are a lot of people in the “social recruitment space” now, but I was keen to receive a demo as it their proposition seemed quite unique and well integrated with Facebook as well.

Although I struggle with Facebook personally, one cannot avoid the fact that you need to take it seriously in this time and age, so I agreed to let David Rivel, the co-founder to show me around their application.

Very quickly I was impressed. Although it is not aimed at recruiters as such, it will give you some thoughts on how to engage and communicate directly with your prospective candidates at different stages of the recruitment process. The product is aimed at larger recruiters and the same could be said for the larger recruitment consultancies. In my opinion, I thought the app would work particularly well for graduate recruits/school leavers.pathmotion

I think the most fascinating aspect of this Facebook app is that not just HR or the Management are reaching out to potential talent, but actual employees are used to facilitate engagement. This aspect may scare a few companies, but it has worked really well for some of its big name clients such as Deloitte, KPMG, Pinsent Masons and the NHS Academy. Basically it is using Facebook as a platform to enable prospective candidates to ask questions at any time in an informal context to their employees; like a conversation over a coffee or even a virtual careers fair. The difference is that it uses employees’ time efficiently, as they can respond from their desks, and that all conversations are stored and made accessible for all app users to read. A few of the discussions had over 500 views which I thought was a very good use to re-use valuable conversations between candidates and employees. Although the integration with Facebook is really smooth, the employees’ profiles are professional profiles set-up specifically to be an ambassador on the app, and candidates can post their questions anonymously if they wish to do so.

Another less obvious benefit of the app other than its ability to promote the company, was that by giving their staff responsibility in the recruitment process, they were empowering their staff to take responsibility in the recruitment process and making them proud to represent their company.

From a candidates’ point of view, using the app would be a good way to get noticed before an interview and I would have thought it would make sense for recruiters to encourage their candidates to participate, as I am sure it would give them an added advantage and help them be more prepared. Or the candidates can actually see if they are the right fit for the company or not, which would then allow the companies to attract more ‘relevant’ hopefuls.

All in all the system functions really well. Apart from its feature that allows candidates to interact with the company, the company can also use the viral function of Facebook to promote their vacancies, while letting candidates interact and communicate with employees, or ‘Insiders’ who can answer their questions that cannot be found in a typical careers page FAQ section.

We know that convincing the right talent to join your organization is a key challenge and involving your employees to help you to engage and attract those candidates makes a lot of sense. At the end of the day, they are the best placed to describe what the job involves and the best representation of the company’s culture.

I would encourage you to see some live examples of the platform to get a better feel of what it can achieve:

NHS Leadership Academy



Pinsent Masons



Ensuring Recruiters Comply to Tax Regulations

Accounting Series - HELP!The British recruitment industry is in the naughty corner. Allegations have surfaced that hundreds of agencies are avoiding tax to the tune of millions of pounds. In fact, £390m a year is coming out of taxpayers’ pockets, and lining the profit margins of recruitment companies.

Through non-compliant expenses schemes for temporary workers, recruitment agencies have been pulling a fast one on HM Revenue & Customs. Millions of temps have been exploited in the process. We’re wondering just who is giving these tax avoidance schemes the go-ahead. Who willingly messes with HMRC? If you play with fire…

How This Works 

We bet you’re wondering how these recruitment agencies are getting away with this. Simply, they block out some of their workers’ weekly wages and mark them as expenses, under a ‘travel and subsistence’ scheme. For these expenses, they can then claim tax relief and bank the cash saved as profit. Their low-paid employee receives nothing from this. Employees may not even be receiving the minimum wage, as a result of this tax avoidance, and HMRC will be losing out on £30 per employer, leading to an estimated £390m in losses to public funds.

In failing to pay the correct tax, recruitment companies are cheating the exchequer, and risking penalties from HMRC. They could even lose their gangmasters licence.

Calls For It To Stop

Approximately 250,000 of the 1.3m temps in the UK have been affected by this scheme. Hundreds of recruiters continue to skirt the law. They pursue this avenue to undercut law-abiding recruitment firms, and now there is growing uncertainty in the industry about what’s right and wrong. Of course, no-one wants to break the law, but it’s difficult to stay competitive when your competitors are gleaning millions of pounds in tax breaks.

The Recruitment and Employment Confederation have called on the HMRC to make the rules crystal clear, in a bid to outlaw tax avoidance. However, the HMRC already believes the rules are plain for everyone to see and that the Government will look severely on anyone who is trying to play the system. HMRC published guidelines in 2011.

But still, tax avoidance in the recruitment sector has been described as ‘rife.’ We won’t be seeing a stop to the usual tax avoidance, until someone makes recruitment agencies stop – time to get a tax fraud solicitor on-side! Lawyers have been bombarded with queries from clients, asking if they also will be able to take part in the tax avoidance schemes that their competitors have been enjoying. It’s important that there’s clear guidance here and that every recruitment agency is treated equally.

In some cases, agencies have been pocketing 88% of the tax relief they receive, when they should only be receiving 30%. One pay package showed a worker had been given 12% of the money, when they should have had 70%.

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