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There have been countless articles, podcasts and television panels discussing the impact of COVID-19 on people’s health and the impact on local, national and global economies.

Last week a survey from the UK reported that 53 per cent of recruitment professionals had self-assessed their mental health as having declined in the past year. Financial difficulties were identified as the most prevalent factor quoted by the respondents. The study also reveals that just under half of recruitment employees feel their work-life balance is worse than a year ago, with a further two-thirds stating working from home as the main reason for this.

I suspect that a survey of Australian recruiters would produce similar results.

Commentary, and data, on COVID19’s financial impact on the recruitment sector has also been flowing freely (in fact, Greg Savage is hosting free webinars next week to discuss the most up-to-date vacancy data from various regions around the globe).

The way in which agencies, and organisations, are adapting to remote recruitment and remote work is a common topic.

New data released this week from the ABS Household Impacts Survey indicates that 31 per cent of Australians with a job are currently working from home on most days, compared to around 12 per cent prior to COVID.

Given the significantly different level of restrictions applying to Victoria, compared to the rest of Australia it’s somewhat of a surprise to find that the differences around the country are not huge with 52 per cent of Victorians working from home (at least one day) in the past four weeks, compared to 50 per cent in New South Wales, and 39 per cent across the remainder of the country.

Returning to the office, in the immediate term, has also seen plenty of coverage, especially with respect to the OH&S requirements of keeping employees safe at work with social distancing.

As we adjust to a world in which the threat of a pandemic has been permanently imbedded in our consciousness there are significant ramifications for recruiters, regions and countries due to the changing long-term priorities of workers and organisations, with respect to their physical places of work.

Dr Richard Florida is one of the most prominent academics in the field of urban studies and his most recent contribution (18 September 2020) to the Harvard Business Review summarises this corporate office location dilemma succinctly:

In today’s increasingly fraught economic, political, and social environment, decisions about where to locate are becoming more, not less, important. 

Figuring out who will work from home and who will require actual office space, which offices to prune and which to keep, how they will be configured and shared, and precisely where they should be sited — in talent-laden superstar cities, in more cost-effective second- or third-tier metros, in downtown urban centers, suburbs or rural regions — requires more strategic thought, analysis, and planning than ever. 

Location today is a central component of corporate strategy. It is not just a cost that can be cut, but a key factor in attracting and retaining talent. What I call “locational strategy” is essential to the ability of corporations to gain competitive advantage. 

It’s clear that it’s not just companies that have to consider these factors with respect to their ability to attract and retain talent; it’s also the talent who are giving much greater weight to location as they consider their career options.

This week CNBS ran a lengthy article under the heading Some U.S. doctors flee to New Zealand where the coronavirus outbreak is under control and science is respected in which it highlighted several US doctors who had relocated to New Zealand during the pandemic because they felt it was both safer for themselves and their family and they were worn down by the inequities of the US health care system, which does not offer universal care; unlike New Zealand which does.

Needless to say, these doctors were able to quickly secure offers of employment in New Zealand. Their comments should make politicians everywhere stand up and take notice how a region or country’s policies on science and public health impact the career decisions of much sought-after professionals.

(Relocated US doctor)… Radecki isn’t certain how long he’ll stay in the country, adding that depends on the outcome of the U.S. election. He’s become increasingly concerned over misinformation about the virus that he’s seeing in the United States. 

“You see so many people downplaying it back home, perpetuating the spread of the virus in crowded bars, while physicians are suffering,” he said.

Dr. Kris Sargent, (said)…. what he’s looking forward to most is a break from the “anti-science philosophy” he has experienced in the U.S., particularly since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The CNBC articles notes that the remuneration for doctors in New Zealand is not comparable to the US, potentially leading to these doctors returning to the US in the future in order to make more of a dent in their significant college debt.

To what extent, and for how long, professionals will accept a drop in remuneration as an acceptable trade-off for a location promising a better lifestyle, however a person defines it, will be one of the most intriguing aspects of the new pandemic-affected recruitment landscape.

Richard Florida says:

Forward-looking corporations take location more seriously than ever, making site selection and community engagement a centrepiece of their overall corporate strategy. Location, after all, is everything.

I say:

Forward-looking professionals take location more seriously than ever, making their family’s safety and lifestyle options a centrepiece of their overall career choices. Location, after all, is (almost) everything.

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