What a strange two years we have had – so much has happened globally with Covid-19 that it is easy to lose track of all that we have been navigating. Lock downs, vaccinations, vaccine pass, PCR tests and RATs, mask wearing, closed borders, essential workers, contact tracing – this became the new norm for all of us. The impact on the way we work has been exceptional with many abruptly working from home, needing to speedily become technically literate and communicate over the likes of zoom, whilst others’ employment ended. There were many who had to juggle work – whether at home or essential workers – whilst supervising their children and monitoring remote schooling. And then there were the extremes of several people working from home, to being the sole member isolated from work mates and others. This pressure cooker of stress has had a profound impact on mental wellbeing.
My work as a Career Specialist, significantly increased throughout this time, as there was an understandable need and clients quickly became more used to meeting remotely. Although we are at different levels now, I still see the majority of my clients this way. The pandemic has forced a different way of working on many of us.
The increase in the need for career support has resulted from several reasons. Sadly, some individuals have lost their job through no fault of their own, with many organisations unable to function. But there have also been positive outcomes – those who gained the time and space, some for the first time in their working lives, to reflect on their life and consider their future. And in those reflective moments, some individuals concluded that they didn’t like what they were currently doing, or they wanted more of a balance in their life – something that the pandemic had resulted in them experiencing. These individuals were now wanting change to create a life that worked better for them.
As well as individuals actively wanting change, the pandemic resulted in many businesses quickly adapting and setting up the systems, processes and support for their staff to work remotely. Although this has not been achieved without issues, the observation seems to favour how successful working remotely has been – for some. Where it was unlikely to have been considered as a viable option in the past, it may now have been fully adopted by many workplaces.
Although covid is still with us, we are moving closer to regaining the norms of pre-covid times. For some individuals, working at home has been incredibly successful – gaining a balance to their lives, freeing up the commute time and putting boundaries around time for work, for fitness and for their relationships. Yet others struggled significantly– some because of the lack of privacy with the need to share their ‘home-office’ with others, having to supervise children whilst still trying to work, or because they found the isolation from their teammates untenable.
So what now? There is a hunger for some – both employer and employee, to maintain a work remotely ethos. For others, the pull back into the office environment is strong. What does this mean for working practices moving forward, when there may be conflicting desires and expectations? How does the organisation build a team and culture when they have remote workers?
The answer is not simple. Nor is there only one answer. The necessity of remote working has been successful where previously it may not have been considered. Maybe that is the solution – what might not be considered as possible, to actually be considered, maybe offering a menu of possibilities that can be tailored to the business and each employee, with creative and flexible work practices bringing workers together in a team whilst also allowing a tailored approach that works for both the individual and the organisation. The challenging and disruptive last two years has potentially had a very positive outcome – a consideration of a hybrid model of working for the future, to cater to the needs of all parties involved. I’m looking forward to seeing how this next stage unfolds…..