Special Reports

Job seekers steer clear of work-in-office firms


Talented individuals are looking to work remotely for many companies, including overseas, and are easily declining job opportunities in organisations that insist on work-from-office. PHOTO | AFP

Pre-pandemic, what mattered most for job seekers was more money, better health insurance, mortgage and interest-free car loan perhaps, paid time off, and career growth prospects.

However, recent months have taught valuable lessons to employees who have been working from home or having flexible schedules that allowed them fewer commutes to offices and more time at home with their family.

Besides a good salary, job seekers now have gone a step further; they want to solely work from home or two days at the office and the rest at home.

BrighterMonday Kenya CEO Emmanuel Mutuma, who manages a leading recruitment and human resource services platform in Kenya, says Covid-19 has significantly impacted the job market.

The lockdowns accelerated digitisation, resulting in the acceptance that some jobs can be done remotely, and effectively.

He says that lately, job seekers, especially millennials, are looking to work in an environment that is not controlled, even if they earn less.

Mr Mutuma says recruiters have had to add “remote” in the location requirements, to specify where the job seeker will be expected to work from.

“Job seekers are looking for organisations that are adapting to the new normal with flexibility as the main driver. For instance, we have seen a shift where people are applying for jobs in companies where work is done remotely,” he says.

Mr Mutuma adds that remote working has also led to the growth of “gig” jobs. Talented individuals are looking to work remotely for many companies, including overseas, and are easily declining job opportunities in organisations that insist on work-from-office.

Moreover, he points out that employers may be forced to formalise “side hustles” as no one will want to be committed to being physically present in one office.

“No one will want to get stuck in traffic for hours when they can meet key deliverables and expected outputs at the comfort of their home. Working remotely is more appealing as nothing constrains you, so it means you can have two or more jobs,” he says.

One thing that is boggling down HR managers is productivity in the work-from-home era.

Competitive advantage

Perminus Wainaina, the CEO of Corporate Staffing Services, a human resources firm, says that performance is no longer pegged on someone working in an office.

“Flexible schedule has now become a competitive advantage and we are seeing candidates/job seekers gravitating towards companies that have such a policy. This will impact on who the company attracts and retains,” he says.

But while the pandemic has illuminated the importance of flexible workplaces, Kenya’s high unemployment means that many job seekers face one obstacle; few vacancies.

“There are more jobseekers than opportunities. But given a chance between an employer that needs you at the office, and another that's flexible, most are now opting for the latter,” says Mr Wainaina.

Sharon Kisire, the head, HR Consulting at HR Powerhouse, says, unlike developed countries where opportunities are many, a majority of Kenyan job seekers are guided by vacancies and companies determine the working schedules.

“This (choosing only flexible jobs) may happen but not very soon. My view is that job decisions will be influenced by the flexibility they offer but given the scarcity of work, there will be not much effect on decisions to take up roles for lower-level jobs,” she says.

However, for managerial jobs and others that have role options, flexibility is a factor.

“For high-calibre roles, job seekers may be flexible in terms of their choices between in-office and out-of-office,” she says.

But even post-pandemic, the job market may not be the same again. People are already scouting for opportunities in resilient companies, as others rethink their careers.

Mr Mutuma notes that there has been a 30 percent growth in the number of job applications since Covid-19 struck which could mean people are either moving from sectors that are hard-hit by the pandemic to those experiencing growth, are applying for more flexible and appealing jobs or have lost their jobs.

“It is either a demand issue or people have lost jobs. We have seen an increase in job applications where between 100,000 and 120,000 job applications are being done every month,” he says.