Why the post-Covid era could usher in an 'age of flexibility' for beauty employees


With Arthur Edward Recruitment's recent Salary Survey revealing that 'flexible working' is at the top of people's benefits list, Heidi Bannister discusses the changes she expects to see in the beauty industry in coming months

<i>Heidi Bannister</i>

Heidi Bannister

The past few months have proven that staff do not necessarily have to be in the office to be working effectively.

Here Heidi Bannister, founder and Managing Director of Arthur Edward Recruitment, tells Cosmetics Business why she believes the death of ‘presenteeism’ will benefit both employers and employees in the cosmetics industry.

Over the coming weeks, we are gradually going to discover what the ‘new normal’ looks like. From recent conversations with people in all sectors and at all levels of the industry, I know there are very mixed feelings about what comes next.

Personally, I see this as an exciting time where the world of work will potentially change forever. I realise there will be challenges for us all and the adjustment will impact some harder than others, but I'm optimistic that in the long run, the workplace will be changed for the better. Flexibility and adaptability are the qualities we need to nurture as we face this turbulent time.

Only two or three generations ago a ‘job for life’ was commonplace, where you worked for the same company for your entire career. As an employee you had job security but little control over where, when and how you worked. The company called the shots.

I've worked in the beauty industry for 35 years, with the last 20 in recruitment, supporting companies as they evolve and grow, and candidates as they progress through their career. Advances in technology over this time have blurred the lines between our work and personal lives, in a way that some find intrusive. Perhaps this is part of the reason for the increasing recognition of the importance of wellbeing and mental health in all aspects of our lives.

In our last beauty industry Salary Survey, we found that 'flexible working’ topped the list of desired benefits, followed closely by ‘flexi-time’. It is certainly always easier to fill roles when the employer offers some flexibility. It shows they value the contribution and wellbeing of their staff.

My team started the new year with flexibility in mind. At the start of January, the Arthur Edward team got together to discuss our business and personal values and objectives, and to brainstorm how we wanted to work in the year ahead. We set a goal to increase our productivity so we could work a 4-day week, giving us each more free time to do things outside work. We had our strategy in place and were working towards this goal when the Covid-19 crisis took hold. The last few months has convinced us of the benefits of this plan.

Over recent years I’ve been happy to see a rise in part time roles and job share opportunities. As an employer myself, I value the health and happiness of my team as much as their work.

Some people who were adamant that their staff had to be in the office have now seen that it is perfectly possible to work remotely for at least some of the time. Let’s hope ‘presenteeism’, where you had to be seen to be at your desk to be considered working, is gone for good.

Employers win too

Flexible working benefits employers too. The cost of office space is a drain on company profits, and a fixed location limits the potential talent pool to people who are happy to live within easy reach. Creativity and productivity have been proven to increase within a less stressful environment. And reducing traffic on our roads and rail, especially at rush hour, is a good thing for congestion and ease of movement, not to mention the environment, pollution and associated mental and physical conditions.

With so many in our industry on furlough or working from home, many people have rediscovered a love of nature and the health benefits of spending more time outdoors. They have also taken up talents, hobbies, and skills that they couldn’t fit into their busy working routine. On our team we have a seamstress, an artist and someone with a surprisingly extensive dressing up box!

A global recession is looming, but unlike any that went before. The beauty industry is driven by innovation and creativity and is always quick to respond to new challenges. Brands and retailers will have to find new ways to demonstrate and sell products without testers. Global sourcing of ingredients and packaging materials will need to be more flexible, to allow for unexpected change.

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The new focus is on the work people do, rather than the hours they work. And with more flexibility on where and when we work, a happier work-life balance could be the end benefit for us all.

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