I used to be a work-from-home skeptic but I've realised that being in an office full-time is unproductive for staff, says recruitment boss

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I used to be a work-from-home skeptic but I've realised that being in an office full-time is unproductive for staff, says recruitment boss
James Reed, CEO and chairman of the Reed Group.The Reed Group
  • This recruitment boss keeps bees at his office and used to be skeptical of working from home.
  • However, James Reed said it's easier for recruiters to meet candidates while working remotely.
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The CEO of the Reed Group has more incentive than most to work in his company's offices: he's a beekeeper and keeps hives on the roof of its London headquarters.

But James Reed, who also acts as chairman of the group, which is one of the UK's largest recruitment firms, admits that the pandemic has changed his views on the need to be in the office full-time.

"I've gone from being a working-from-home skeptic to, in many ways, an advocate because I can see how effective it is for many of my colleagues. And for myself, I found that very efficient," Reed told Insider.

There have been other unexpected benefits of working from home for Reed's recruiters, as they grapple with the busiest labor market he has seen in his nearly 25 years at the helm.

"As recruiters, it's very good because a lot of candidates are very happy to talk to us when they're working from home because they're not sitting next to someone else," Reed said. When it comes to seeing clients one-on-one, you can arrange several in an afternoon virtually, he added.

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Reed said that while the office is still important for people to meet in person and for onboarding, it's not necessary for people to go to the same place, or the same desk five or six days a week.

"If anything, that seems antediluvian and unproductive because it takes so much time to get there and often costs them money," Reed said.

Having never hosted a meeting remotely before the pandemic, it's pretty much how he chairs all of his meetings now. And he says it's something he wouldn't have picked up quickly were it not for the pandemic, which has accelerated changes that otherwise would have taken years.

Employers need to navigate the remote-work revolution

It's that mindset change towards favoring more flexible work, alongside the increase in employees and employers' approach to online learning, that Reed sees as one of the lasting impacts of the pandemic.

The number of people looking for remote roles increased 10-fold compared with the pre-pandemic era, according to data released by fellow recruitment site Indeed, per Bloomberg. The number of job adverts offering remote work has also increased.

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The surge of the Omicron variant pushed back the debate around the return to office but it's likely to reemerge as point of tension as countries begin to open up again.

On Thursday, embattled UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson lifted government advice to work from home.

Like battles over vaccines, those who have the luxury to do so may threaten to quit if they don't feel listened to.

Recently, warned Larry Fink, BlackRock's influential CEO, warned that the old ways of working are gone, in his latest letter to investors.

While Reed and Fink are adapting to the new reality, many other employers are reluctant to consider that full-time office work may not be truly good for business.

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