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Office Careers: 2020 year in review and forecasting 2021

The events of 2020 have taken us all by surprise and many of us will be happy to see an end to this unprecedented year with a hopeful perspective on what 2021 will bring. Aside from the COVID-19 pandemic itself, working from home and hybrid working practices have been the hottest topic for anyone working in an office-base environment this year. 

With the vast majority of office workers suddenly finding themselves creating home working environments, getting to grips with working around family life and remaining productive, engaged and inspired, it’s forced us all to reassess not only how we work but how we manage our time and work-life balance and how we interact with each other; colleagues and customers alike. 

Having announced the decision to allow their 4,500 UK based employees to continue to work from home until July 2021, tech giant Google is planning for a world in which many of its employees do not return to the office full-time, according to its Chief Executive Sundar Pichai. 

“I see the future as being more flexible. We firmly believe that being in-person, being together, having a sense of community is super important when you have to solve hard problems and create something new, so we don’t see that changing. But we do think we need to create more flexibility and more hybrid models.”3

The office job market in 2020

The flexibility to convert almost overnight to remote working, enabled the office industry to weather the storm where other industries ground to a halt. We started the year emerging from a steady 2019 and based on employment trends, it was expected that the overall number of office-based job opportunities would remain consistent at around 1.8 million.  

What does this mean? 

Despite an overall decrease in job vacancies of 33%, we have seen and continue to see pockets of demand continue. We have many office job vacancies currently on our website with brands such as Capita and Lloyds Banking Group recruiting Call Handlers, Sales Advisor and Administration roles. 

Capita is in fact an example of how these pockets of demand can emerge in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the pandemic response Capita required 2,156 temporary workers to fill remote working Call Handler roles in May and June this year, 1,500 of these workers were recruited straight from Blue Arrow’s candidate community in just 15 days to support a range of government public service needs in the help to fight COVID-19. You can read the full story here.

What we noticed during the recruitment campaign was just how much the home working environment and capability will now form a critical factor in finding the most suitable people for remotely based roles. It brought to our attention the need to work closely with our client employers to prevent disadvantaged groups of jobseekers from being further disadvantaged by not having great internet or the latest specification laptop, headset or earphones. While we continue to influence wherever we can, here is an article we prepared earlier this year to help you prepare as best as possible for a home working set-up, click here.

What office roles have the most opportunities? 

The office roles with the highest number of permanent and temporary job vacancies throughout the UK during this year have been as follows: 

  • Account Managers & Coordinators – over 121,000 posted job vacancies, down 22% on last year.
  • Customer Service Advisors - over 48,700 posted job vacancies, down 34% on last year.
  • Receptionists - over 48,000 posted job vacancies, down 41% on last year.
  • Office Administrators - over 35,700 posted job vacancies, down 32% on last year.
  • Sales Administrators – over 29,700 posted job vacancies, down 37% on last year.
  • Call and Contact Centre Agents – over 7,300 posted job vacancies, down 23% on last year.

How have office salaries been affected? 

Salaries for the following roles are mostly unchanged since last year with average salaries coming in at the following rates:

  • Sales Administrators – £20,064.
  • Call and Contact Centre Agents - £19,424.
  • Customer Service Advisors - £18,880.
  • Office Administrators - £18,784.
  • Receptionists - £18,784.

Which regions have the most opportunities?

The top 10 regions for job vacancy posting throughout 2020 were the same as those in 2019, so perhaps can be predicted as the main areas of opportunity going in to 2021:

  1. London ->129,000 job vacancy postings.
  2. Manchester ->18,000 job vacancy postings.
  3. Birmingham ->13,000 job vacancy postings.
  4. Bristol ->10,000 job vacancy postings.
  5. Leeds - >10,000 job vacancy postings.
  6. Edinburgh ->5000 job vacancy postings.
  7. Glasgow ->5000 job vacancy postings.
  8. Cambridge ->5000 job vacancy postings.
  9. Nottingham ->5000 job vacancy postings.
  10. Reading ->5000 job vacancy postings.

Looking ahead and what can we expect from 2021?

We can expect it to take a while for things to start to recover, we’ll see the usual post-Christmas pockets of need for temporary call centre staff supporting many of the largest UK retail brands as they go in their New Year sales season. So anyone looking for work as a Call Handler, Call Centre Operative or a Customer Service Representative may want to check our website regularly during the first week of January. 

In the short-term, we have Banking Administrator and Business Banking Advisor vacancies with Lloyds Banking Group here

Where will the work be in 2021?

Public services such as NHS 111, Track and Trace and advisory helplines will continue to be a source for work opportunities in the call centre space. For office we expect to see employment for companies specialising in solutions that draw on emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. Pharma companies and healthcare providers will continue to see stable demand for admin-based roles but with the digitisation of manual including administrative tasks – it’s also worth considering future proofing your career.

You may want to develop into a specialist area of back-office work such as finance, human resources, legal, marketing, I.T. or apply your ability to multi-task to a career in operational service delivery including account management. It is worth also considering entirely new occupations outside of the office-space which can be the victim of ‘work snobbery’, tough one to face but we have to be honest with ourselves on this one. Since when does sitting in an office for our work make us feel better accomplished. The truth is with the leveller that has been the pandemic, we’ve seen just how critical drivers are to the everyday lives of everyone in the UK which is why they are positioned firmly among our essential key worker community – and experience a jobs market resilience seen by few other occupations.

Retail roles and office roles can often require similar skills, if you have experience in dealing with customers in any office role you could find that most customer-facing retail roles such as Customer Service Advisor, Team Leader, Shelf Replenisher and Car Park Marshall are all a suitable fit. If you are out of work right now don’t wait until after Christmas, we have over 100 retail job vacancies on our website including nationwide demand for these roles with a large supermarket chain.

Transitioning into another industry can be daunting and with thousands of jobs posted every day on job boards and social media, it can be challenging to really focus on what skills you have that you feel confident enough are transferrable to new occupations. Our blog ‘how to turn your office job into an office career’ gives some excellent ideas for other roles that draw on similar skills. Additionally, our career guides can help you choose the perfect job and provide a clear path to achieving the career you want.  

Vacancies within the Education sector are still at 80% of what they were in 20191 and bursaries and scholarships for Teacher training in certain subjects are on offer, so considering a move into teaching or office administration within a school could be an excellent choice. To get an idea of opportunities with education, view opportunities and job descriptions on sister brands Career Teachers and Celsian Education job boards. 

If you would prefer to remain working in the office industry in 2021 but are concerned about a potential lack of opportunities, there are other income options. We explored remote working and the alternative income streams it could provide in June this year. Among the best remote working jobs identified for office workers were Administrator, Data Entry Clerk and Transcriber, Translator and Virtual Assistant. You can read the full blog here

Important skills for work in 2021

As we head into a new year now is a good time to research your options, build your skill set and prepare your application toolkit for new opportunities. Click over to our recent post where you will find out how you can make the most of your lockdown time with online learning and skill development resources, career ideas and job hunting advice.

Thank you and Happy Christmas! 

I would like to close out this final Office blog for 2020 with a resounding thank you for your astonishing support throughout this challenging year. 

To each and every member of our office community, you have all represented Blue Arrow with solidarity and many of your will have already adapted to the new job roles that came up throughout the year. Thank you and we wish you all a prosperous and safer 2021!

All the Blue Arrow team.

Other helpful resources

There are many other resources on our Blue Arrow website that can help too:

Where next? 

You can keep up-to-date with the latest blogs, industry news, information, tips, tricks, jobs and advice by subscribing to one of our newsletters.   

References

1 BBC News | Eleanor Lewis | December 2020 | Accessed December 2020 | https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/explainers-53685650

3 The Guardian | Alec Hern and Julia Kollewe | September 2020 | Accessed December 2020 

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