A few years ago, few of us would have imagined working from home. This was a perk, a quirk, or oddity that existed in some far corners of the job market. Then the pandemic struck, and working from home became part of our normal lives.
It was disruptive as we all observed. Suddenly we could decide when, where and how we wanted to work. All we had to do was pick where home was. Although many of us have returned to the office since then, a lot of us also have the flexibility to work from home, at least part of the week.
There were so many unintended consequences
This changed how we work. It surprised us in so many ways. For instance, it proved to be great for diversity and inclusion. Suddenly, working mothers could look after their children more easily. Those with disabilities weren’t disadvantaged by their daily commute.
But there is another aspect rarely discussed – the environment.
During the lockdown, Venice canals ran clear, and fish appeared in the waterways. Dolphins were even spotted. There was a huge drop in pollution overall globally as the economy shut down.
There has long been a shortage of talent in Switzerland, which makes it a candidate market. This means it’s much harder to retain talent. Subsequently, good candidates do not necessarily need to stick to conventional wisdom on how long they should stay with their existing company. Although showing loyalty is important, it is also important for companies to actively notice and reward loyal employees.
Working from home was helping to save our planet. We were commuting less. Offices consumed less energy because they did not need to support a full-time workforce. Energy usage at home went up, but that was more than offset by the daily commute and the cost of buying lunches and morning coffees.
Learning to work from home is just the beginning
It would be easy to draw a line here. The pandemic has slowly faded away. Yet, there is still more change to come, which could push us to work from home a lot more. In short, Europe is facing a massive energy crisis due to the war in Ukraine and working from home could be part of the solution.
Switzerland doesn’t import gas directly from Russia. However, 12% of its energy comes from natural gas and it relies on Germany, the Netherlands, France and Italy for its supply. If Russia cuts off its gas supply to Europe, or if Europe stops purchasing Russian gas through sanctions, there will be an even bigger rise in gas prices across Europe.
An energy crisis will affect both companies and candidates
It’s important to note that we are not in an energy crisis. We are on the cusp of being in one, but we are not there yet. But if it does happen there is just one immediate solution – we need to cut energy consumption.
If we look back at history, events like this have happened before. For instance, in 1973-74 the UK government introduced a three-day working week in a desperate attempt to conserve electricity. Back then, coal was used to generate most of Britain’s power, rather than gas. A mining strike at the time, limited the supply of coal, which subsequently led to electricity shortages.
However, there is a difference between now and back then – technology! We don’t need to limit ourselves to a three-day week because we cannot get to the office. We can work from home. This opens up a whole range of new possibilities.
What does this mean for candidates and companies
There is going to be increasing pressure on companies to cut costs if we experience a full-blown energy crisis. This could put pressure on them to reduce physical desk space in their offices. If flexible working comes as standard with most new employment contracts this could solve the issue.
Candidates might also find that they now have more employment options than in the past. They can now work for companies further afield and in cities far from where they live. These are benefits that companies also receive as the talent pool they can hire from widens significantly.
Working from home is not so much about helping Ukraine, but adapting to the new working environment we might find ourselves in. There’s a good chance that this will be part of the solution if we face and energy crisis. Companies and candidates should be prepared if this does happen.