Coronavirus (COVID-19), Recruiting

How to Bring Back the Freelancing Workforce Post-COVID

Given that COVID-19 has caused drastic changes to commonplace business practices, recruiters and business owners alike are now left wondering how to bring back the workforce after thousands of employees were either fired, furloughed, or laid off.

Source: Drazen Zigic / Shutterstock

As a result, many employees have since turned to consulting and/or freelancing work in order to stay afloat during these uncertain times. The challenge employers will face in the coming months will be how to entice employees to return to business as usual, as they have now grown accustomed to creating their own schedules and having more freedom.

Due to this lifestyle shift, there may be some reluctance from former employees to return to the regular 9–5 schedule that they were once accustomed to, and this potential pushback might occur for reasons like wanting more independence and flexibility in project completion and work hours, in addition to preferring to create their own schedules.

As leaders, business owners, and recruiters, it is vital to overcome these hardships and instead put forth efficient new policies and practices in order to incentivize employees to return to the workplace.

By administering the following plans of action when attempting to bring back the workforce, the rehiring and hiring process will be much easier and more effective, resulting in attracting, as well as retaining, top talent in our post-COVID world.

Implement More Flexible Work Policies

Since the onset of the pandemic, employers and business leaders instituted remote work in order to prioritize the safety of their workforce. While many were unsure of the effectiveness of working from home, this shift has demonstrated that many jobs can be performed just as, if not more, successfully from home.

Employers have seen an uptick in productivity, as well as increased communication between team members, causing many to reconsider allowing their employees to continue working at home in the future. As business owners, it may thus be wise to offer more remote positions, as well as offer any former employees their previous positions back with the option of going remote.

In order to prioritize the new needs of employees as we phase into a post-COVID era, businesses that offer full-time remote work may be more attractive to potential talent. Many candidates, as well as current employees, may be apprehensive about returning to work right away, so allowing them to choose if and when they want to come back will demonstrate to them that their health and safety are the company’s priority.

In addition, not only can companies find talent from anywhere in the country by opening up remote positions, but there is also a cost benefit for candidates who wish to remain in more affordable locations rather than moving to an expensive city, resulting in a diversified and expanded talent pool.

Create Concrete and Timely Deliverables

Because many employees have consequently shifted to consulting and freelancing, they are accustomed to working on and completing projects on their own time. As an employer, you have the power to shift assignment submission into a more deliverable structure that prioritizes the needs of employees first and foremost.

Implementing a deliverable structure entails assigning employees a project with specific parameters, which employees can complete on their own time. Much like with consulting or freelancing, employees will work on projects that employers assign accordingly within certain time parameters and requirements. As a result, employees will maintain that sense of independence and project-completion enjoyment while productively and efficiently working for the business.

Not only will this allow employees to hold themselves accountable as they produce projects, but it also will allow them to put forth high-quality work that is executed successfully. A deliverable structure can entice former employees back to the workforce, as they can work within that project-execution familiarity, albeit with a stable paycheck.

Ditch the 9–5 Mentality

The dominant protocol for the last millennium has been that work usually takes place Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.–5 p.m. However, using concrete deliverables employees can complete within a particular time frame will provide them with the necessary flexibility to be productive when it is most convenient for them. Again, most consultant and freelance work usually consists of time-constrained projects, and if employees can complete them whenever they want, they will be more willing to return to full-time work.

Many employees are navigating this uncertain time at home surrounded by various distractions, personal issues, and time restraints. By ditching the standard 9–5 workweek standard and allowing more flexibility with regard to work hours, employees can work on projects on the weekends, late at night, early in the morning before their kids wake up, or whenever they can find ample time to dedicate to those projects. As business owners, we should let employees keep their freedom when making their own schedules while still ensuring they are being productive and efficient.

The freedom to create a work schedule that suits an individual’s needs is an important perk to emphasize to previous and new talent during the recruiting and hiring process, as well as on social media. Through setting up a deliverable structure that aligns with employees’ daily schedules, employers can attract top talent and thwart the difficult shift back to conducting business as usual.

Focus on Employer Branding and Building an Online Presence

With regard to navigating this new space as business owners, as well as trying to reattract previous and new talent, it is important to focus on your online presence. In this day and age, it is no secret that all companies need to be digitally focused in order to make big waves in our competitive business landscape. Now that we are planning for a post-pandemic world, it is vital to show talent what your business brings to the table and where they will fit in.

Employer branding will play a significant role in how attractive your business is to talent, with poor branding practices resulting in a loss of both potential and current employees. Furthermore, be intentional with the brand, and allow for necessary growth to take place.

Because many old business practices will need to be cast aside to make room for new ways of operation, it is important to demonstrate to talent that you are changing with the times and are actively making the appropriate adjustments as we phase out of this era. 

Overall, remember to be patient, and strive to consistently check in and communicate with both employees and potential talent as we begin to move forward into the future.

Monroe Gang is the CEO of Atlantic Partners Corp, a full-range recruitment and staffing consulting agency for midsize to Fortune 500 companies.

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