When the average worker commutes 62 minutes a day, few of us would have imagined that come 2020, travelling to our workspace meant walking downstairs to the kitchen or study and logging on from there.
But, when lockdown was announced on March 23 and everyone was asked to work from home if they could, to help stop the spread of COVID-19, millions of people started doing exactly that.
Although thousands of businesses have been significantly damaged by the impact of coronavirus, Redwood Bank has managed to thrive under these conditions.
Instead of furloughing staff, the Challenger Bank quickly identified they needed to recruit but doing that during a pandemic came with its own challenges.
Here Tracey Lester, Head of HR, explains how they did it.
"There’s no doubt about it, 2020 will be the year that everyone remembers,"
"I think all HR departments, regardless of sector, have seen unprecedented challenges because of COVID-19. Rapid changes in the way we work have had to be quickly introduced, such as adapting to virtual meetings with clients and team members, finding the best place at home to work and attempting to juggle children or home schooling at the same time.
"In addition, all the talk of recession and uncertainty has added to people’s stress and the surge in mental health cases worldwide."
As a cloud-based bank, Redwood has adapted well to the working from home measures because its infrastructure was designed from the very beginning to allow employees to work securely from anywhere in the world.
"Our working from home measures worked seamlessly and there was minimal disruption to our customers," Tracey explains.
"We didn’t furlough any of our staff and we have continued to recruit during this period. This has been a success story for the Bank and a positive message to give to candidates that we’re still very much open for business and hiring.
"Inducting new employees while having to work from home felt like a pretty big challenge to me and my team. Essentially, we had to rip up the recruitment rule book and start over, learning as we went along.
"My initial concern was trying to find a way to ensure that our relaxed but professional style and culture came across virtually. But the transition was flawless. We carried out all interviews and inductions via Microsoft Teams with minimal IT issues, which is testament to our infrastructure.
"Prior to their first day, we arranged for each new staff member to receive essential IT hardware to be sent to their homes so they could be set up remotely, and it worked like a dream."
Ian Symons was recruited as a Senior Asset Liability Managementv (ALM) Analyst back in April. He admitted it was a "strange" experience starting a new job from his sofa at home in Bristol, but the entire process was "seamless".
"I was set up completely over the cloud and everything worked fine. Everyone at the Bank was very welcoming and my first few days involved lots of team calls, including one with the entire Bank. The sense of community within the team has been very strong from the beginning."
For Ian, one of the most worrying things was deciding what to wear on the first day of his new job, sitting in his lounge.
"Everyone knows that first impressions count and when you start a new job you want to get off on the right foot. So, I began my first day in a full suit and tie, but by the time I was on my first video conference call with the team, I had got changed into casual clothes," he laughs.
Tracey has found that navigating the HR challenges that COVID-19 threw up an "excellent learning curve" and has added virtual recruitment and induction to her ever-increasing bank of skills.
"Due to the current situation there are hundreds of talented potential new candidates out there who are ripe for the Redwood picking. I’ve learnt that people who want to get on at work, appreciate the virtual interview approach and the quick turnaround that comes with it. But it’s imperative that you ensure that any new employee is brought into the culture of the business as though they were attending the office – which may be difficult at times.
"COVID-19 has allowed the Bank, from a HR perspective, to see, think, feel, plan and act differently, especially in respect of flexibility, trust, line management engagement, communication and adaptability. It will be very interesting to help determine the "new norm" working environment, post-pandemic."