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Over the last couple of months, the world of work has been turned on its head, creating a massive, unintentional experiment to see what happens when no one can go to their workplace.
While it may not have been a situation anyone would have chosen, it has made people take a step back and evaluate where they actually need to be to do their job, how they communicate with colleagues/clients and what they really want in terms of work/life balance.
So, could this all spell some big changes ahead for the future of working life? In this blog we take a look at some possible new ways of working that could be here to stay well after lockdown is gone…
This is without doubt the biggest overall change. Companies have invested time and money in quickly setting up systems and support to allow their staff to work from home. Everyone has had to adjust swiftly to this change and it has removed the option for business leaders to be apprehensive or resistant to the idea.
This in turn, seems to be causing a culture shift where bosses are gradually improving their ability to manage employees remotely and assess productivity by outcomes and objectives rather than presence in the office.
In addition, with unresolved issues around the most basic needs of commuting safely to your place of work and how to share communal space when you arrive, it looks likely that working from home could become much more common for many employees for some time to come.
There are several issues which have arisen from this situation concerning mental health.
On the one hand, people are having to deal with negative emotions such as feelings of isolation and anxiety caused by remote working and the constant sense of needing to prove themselves in place of actually being present in the workplace. Those who have been put on Furlough may be suffering anxiety about the future and experience feelings of low self-esteem as they perhaps ponder why they have been furloughed or let go while other employees have not.
On the flip side, many people are noticing a positive change to the way they are now working as they are able to spend more time with their loved ones and less time commuting or rushing from one meeting to the next. This slower pace of life may also allow for increased opportunity for exercise and home-based hobbies such as painting or DIY, all of which can help to reduce stress levels.
Employers are again having to adapt quickly, taking all of this information on board to ensure they are providing suitable support for their staff meaning that mental health and well being has suddenly taken centre stage in company policies and procedures. The realisation that wellbeing is a priority is a change that is looking likely to be a permanent one too. Employers are becoming more empathetic and as well as seeing the benefit of looking after their staff to improve morale, motivation and productivity and companies are starting to recognise that they must offer the support and flexibility that people need at work.
Intertwined with the two points above, employees are also proving that they are capable of managing their own time and still getting the job done so managers may well be more open to flexible working hours and days working from home where the role allows. It is also likely that, having now spent some time juggling their own job and family life, company bosses will also be more appreciative of time you may need to look after your dependants or other home related issues.
This whole situation has also made many people address the crisis they face of having a totally unsatisfactory work/life balance, something which has often built up gradually over time, almost unnoticed. Now that we are all being forced to stop and think, it gives us time to re-evaluate our careers. People are beginning to question how a better balance can be achieved and how they can feel more satisfied in their work. Many are revisiting their whole 'purpose' or realise that their career has not been aligned with the work they do or the way they live.
Where companies are able to offer greater flexibility many of these issues can now be addressed. Some people will also realise that their work is not actually aligned with their authentic self and use this as an opportunity to change career path to something which better suits their lifestyle and passions.
The majority of companies quickly set up the necessary technology needed to work remotely as the crisis started but many people have found that far from a hinderance or a sub-standard, temporary solution, it has become apparent that this is actually a better way to work for many, saving time and money with little down side. Platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have certainly done well out of the crisis and it looks like people have now embraced video conferencing enjoying its convenience and document sharing capabilities, meaning it is likely to be here to stay.
As the use of technology for communication increases, the need for face to face meetings is diminishing. Companies are starting to realise that they can save money by not sending staff on expensive business trips and at the same time reduce their carbon footprint. Another advantage is that it also saves massive amounts of time, meaning that employees who would usually spend hours or days travelling to meetings can be more productive by being at their desks.
Many people are concerned about going back to their place of work and the latest reports from Small and medium sized companies across the UK show that some employees are apprehensive to return to work for the following reasons:
• Workers being too scared to come back to work and are being signed off due to anxiety
• Staff not wanting to come back to work, who would rather be furloughed for a bit longer
• Employees deciding to have a change of career
For those who do return to the workplace, it is likely that many health and safety measures will be in place for the foreseeable future including; social distancing, possible temperature checks on arrival and hand-washing stations set up round the site. There are likely to be restrictions on shared facilities for food and drink preparation and less open plan spaces.
It is unsurprising then that many companies are actually reporting that staff don’t even want to return to work and that they are happy with the work/life balance they can achieve by working from home coupled with safety concerns about returning to their workplace:
“It’s crazy to think that after all this uncertainty and worry – that happy time arrives when you can invite staff back to work and that they don’t want to actually comeback!” Jonathan Ratcliffe, Offices.co.uk
So perhaps we can see a positive change to the future of work as the proverbial silver lining to the dark cloud that has been the Coronavirus. The evidence suggests that the future of work is likely to become more flexible, companies will be more in touch with employees’ wellbeing and business leaders will be more interested in productivity rather than presence in the office.
If you are among those who have taken this time to evaluate what you want from your career or you feel that you are not keen to go back to your place of work it could be time for a career change. Talk to Careers in Depth today and one of our expert career consultants can offer some career coaching to help you navigate your next career move.
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