Totum's HR recruiter Laura McNair looks back on her year of virtual recruitment and how professional services firms rode the rollercoaster of Covid from a home office chair.

HR recruiter diaries | Totum Partners | London

March 2020 - looking forward to the quarterly Heads of HR in
Law networking group that I run. Due to take place on 11 March and
one of the group has kindly offered to host at her firm’s office in the City with drinks afterwards. 

6th March – message sent confirming event.

10th March - message sent out postponing the event as, ‘A number of people have had to drop out given the situation with Coronavirus and I suspect more will drop out before 4pm tomorrow.’ 

23rd March - following Boris’s official lockdown announcement, suggestion to the group that we move to a virtual meeting via Zoom – everyone agrees that there is much to discuss and having input from
other firms would be hugely beneficial – new date set for 26 March.

No idea how this is going to pan out, but if they follow the pattern of the face-to-face meetings, they should work out OK.

MARCH 2020

HR recruitment in lockdown | Totum Partners

18th – UK schools to close from Friday until further notice.

23rd - Boris declares national lockdown.

26th – Networking Group

  • Furloughing – a new word to me originating in the 17th Century meaning a leave of absence from military duty. Everyone’s
    talking about it – looks like it could be word of the year at this rate.

(Lots of talk on wellbeing… Looks like Zoom quizzes all round.)

APRIL 2020

HR recruiter in lockdown | Totum Partners

3rd – My birthday! Yet MORE virtual drinks.

6th – Boris moved to intensive care.

8th – Networking Group

  • Virtual on-boarding – how do we induct and onboard new starters when the office isn’t even open? One of the guys in the HR recruiter group has been sending IT kits to people’s houses by Uber. Not ideal but people seem to be working things out.

(Oh - and wellbeing… Virtual coffee roulette with a colleague seems to be catching on.)

12th – Boris released from hospital.

MAY 2020

6th – Networking Group

  • Annual leave – employees aren’t using their holiday allowance because there’s nothing to do and nowhere to go. Do we roll-over to next year and how many can we roll? Bit of a minefield.

(Oh – and wellbeing… PLEASE, NO MORE QUIZZES!)

10th – ‘stay at home’ changes to ‘stay alert’.

25th – George Floyd killed during arrest in Minneapolis.

JUNE 2020

3rd – Networking Group

HR recruiter in lockdown | Totum Partners | London

  • Mental Health – this has come up in every session and firms are taking it seriously. The stress and anxiety of remote working, constant screen time, caring for children/elderly/friends, etc. There’s a real fear that people are heading for burn-out. Lots of initiatives to help with better work/life balance but no silver bullet.

(Oh – and wellbeing… Deliveroo for morale-boosting team
virtual lunches)

15th – non-essential shops re-opened.

26th – Government announces that the worst of the pandemic is behind us.

JULY 2020

1st – Networking Group

  • Salary reviews – to defer or not to defer?  And what about bonuses?  And what about trainee and NQ bandings?

(Oh – and wellbeing… Virtual Through the Keyhole (and an excuse to have a nose at Partners’ houses)

4th - ‘Super Saturday’ – restaurants, pubs and hairdressers given green-light to reopen – get in!

27th – Google announces employees can work from home until July 2021.


3rd – Rishi introduces EAT OUT TO HELP OUT scheme.

5th – Networking Group

  • Returning to the office – one-way systems, gallons of hand sanitiser, Perspex screens and absolutely NO touching. In-lieu of handshakes or hugs, continue to do the awkward (and cringy) elbow bump.

(Oh – and wellbeing… Come back to the office and see your colleagues in person! But don’t touch!)


10th – Networking Group

  • Office space – there’s too much of it!  Firms reporting 25%-30% occupancy.
    Some desperate to be back, others fear too risky. And do we even need all this
    space going forwards?

(Oh – and wellbeing… Hampers delivered to employees at home!)

22nd – Virus roars back, hospital admissions double.


2nd – Trump tests positive.

15th – Networking Group

  • Furlough payback – turns out some firms have done better than anticipated and there is talk of paying it back to the Government.

(Oh – and wellbeing… Socially distanced walks outdoors with up to six colleagues.)


9th – Lockdown 2

19th – Networking Group

  • Regional salary variations – given most people are working from home (some from second homes), has London weighting had its day?  And will it affect charge-out rates?

(Oh – and wellbeing… Make your own Christmas wreath!)

23rd – here come the vaccines!


16th – Boris says ‘it’s inhuman to cancel Christmas’.

17th – Networking Group

  • Office Christmas party – enforced fun veto! There’s talk of several Zoom-enabled events; cocktail making; murder mystery; wine and cheese tasting; dressing up……KILL ME NOW!!  At least Boris has given everyone time to see loved ones over Christmas.

19th – Boris cancels Christmas. Sob!

(Oh – and wellbeing……Christmas Eve extra day holiday.)


4th – Lockdown 3

14th – Networking Group

  • Lockdown 3 – pretty fed up, so many people couldn’t see their families and now have freezers crammed with Christmas food, and COVID stats are dismal.  BUT a surprisingly buoyant start to the year!

(Oh – and wellbeing… Do you wanna build a SNOWMAN?!)


If you would like talk to Laura about any aspect of HR recruitment in professional services firms, you can contact her at [email protected] 

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