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Jobseeker survey: the impact of lockdown

Timewise recently surveyed our database of jobseekers, to find out how the covid-19 lockdown has impacted views about work and future job prospects. The results raise some interesting issues for employers.

Many jobseekers have had to put their jobsearch on hold during lockdown. The jobs market has declined significantly, as employers have had to batten down the hatches and adapt to new ways of working, deal with furloughs and redundancies, and in many cases fight for survival. 

91% of jobseekers in our survey are understandably nervous about the future jobs market. And, like everyone else, many are dealing with increased pressures at home. So the survey’s first significant heads-up for employers is this: while just over half of those in work have perhaps decided it’s safer to stay put in their current jobs, a sizeable minority (45%) will look to move jobs as soon as they can.

Any employers thinking that retention will not be an issue for a few months, may need to think again. And when the need to recruit arises, they are likely to find that the ground has shifted.

People have had four months of experiencing that jobs can be done from home, and that a 9 to 5 routine isn’t necessary. And fears of the virus are still understandably strong – 71% worry they may catch it on their commute; 76% worry about catching it at their workplace.

So it’s no surprise that when people apply for jobs, they will be looking for flexible working.     

This isn’t just a case of people wanting to continue working from home. Our survey found significant levels of interest in all forms of flexible working. The proportion wanting to reduce their hours (26%) is particularly interesting – possibly suggesting that people’s values have changed as a result of covid-19, as they’ve had time and reason to reassess ‘what really matters in life’.

Our recommendation to employers is not to fear the increased demand for flexibility, but to embrace it. The last four months have proved just how productive flexible working can be, and has swept away many of the previous objections and perceived barriers. Separated physically from their colleagues, line managers will have been learning how to judge performance based on outcomes, not on the number of hours spent visibly at a desk. So now is the time to grasp the opportunity, hold on to all the positives of remote working and variable hours, and embed sustainable flexible practices into our workplaces.

Employers’ reputations are at stake here. During lockdown more than ever before, organisations have been watched by their staff. People are observing how well business leaders rise to the challenge of the pandemic and deal fairly with their people, respecting their needs for safety and for the space to take care of the non-working parts of their lives.

The good news is that most employers do seem to have been sympathetic to their staff during lockdown, and supportive of the extra stresses that the virus has brought. The vast majority of the people we surveyed said their employers were either ‘very supportive’ or ‘quite supportive’ across several different measures.

How well organisations continue to meet the needs and expectations of their staff will be vital to employer brand. A consultative, supportive approach will earn the most respect – it will be important to check in with people to ask how they are feeling, post-lockdown, and adopt inclusive working practices going forwards.

Research published July 2020

Methodology: The survey was promoted to the Timewise Jobs database in June 2020. 1,000 jobseekers took part.

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