The last 18 months have seen a significant shift in our working lives as the majority of us have had to embrace a new way of working. Being sent home due to the pandemic seemed like an exciting break from the norm at first (not so with hindsight, obviously) but we soon realised that we were in for the long haul. What we thought would be a temporary working situation quickly became a way of life as it became clear that we wouldn’t be going back to the office anytime soon.
Whilst companies and businesses quickly pivoted to rolling out online working solutions for their office workers, we embraced rolling out of bed and booting up our laptops in spare rooms, lounges and on kitchen worktops. As we adapted to working from home for the foreseeable future, trying out online video meetings for the first time and working out how we were going to move our projects forward, many of us were secretly pleased that we didn’t have to drive into work every day and wondered what the future would bring.
The ugly truth is that many of us have struggled to adapt to working from home because even though our surroundings may have changed, our working practices have yet to move forward. In fact, there has been a greater demand on our time than ever. We’ve sat glued to our laptops trying to cope with increased meetings and workloads, sacrificed our lunch breaks to eat in front of our emails and forgotten the divide between work and home as we continue to beaver away way past our working hours, extending our workdays into the evening. We’ve brought our work home with us and now we can’t leave it alone.
However, there are also those who have thrived at working from home. Whilst it’s true that most of us have fully appreciated the lack of commute, some of us have also found that working from home has been extremely beneficial for our work/life balance. We’ve been able to spend much more time with our children and spouse and have thrived as a result Some of us have even found ways to work the household chores into our day, leaving our evenings free to relax and unwind.
Most importantly, a lot of us have found that working from home has helped us to get so much more work done as we are free from the office distractions. Whilst some of our colleagues have found it difficult to collaborate online, a lot of us have taken to it like ducks to water. Could it be a generational gap? We suspect so, but who can say? It’s true to say though that those of us who actively embraced technological advances pre-pandemic have definitely faired better than others.
So with lockdown due to lift in the UK within the next month or so, where does this leave our working practices? Many of us are expected to return to our offices but having proved that we can successfully work from home is that a realistic working model moving forward? With the UK government currently discussing a change to working law to make flexible working mandatory for all businesses, it seems as though we will have to embrace a hybrid working model for the remainder of our working lives.
If you don’t know where this leaves you then don’t worry, you’re not alone. We have also been pondering what the future holds and have put together some top tips to help you re-evaluate and reboot your career as lockdown comes to an end and we venture out into our new working lives.
Work Smarter, Not Harder
Those who have been successful at maintaining a work/life balance during the pandemic have inevitably been those who are very well organised. As we have all now had extensive experience of how our days unfold, it’s time for you to assess how effectively you work throughout the day. Take a look at your average work week and really evaluate how best you can make it work for you.
Do you find that you get more work done in the mornings? Block out your calendar to ensure that you get the peace and quiet you need to get it done and leave your afternoons free for meetings. Struggling to cope with your daily tasks? Get organised and make a list of everything that you need to get done for the week and allocate time to get it all done within your diary. Prioritise time for at least 3 essential tasks per day. List-making and prioritising will ensure that you end the day feeling like you have accomplished something and help you to plan ahead accordingly.
Discover Your Options
The question that most of us want answered is ‘where do we go from here’? Whether you have found working from home a strain or a blessing, you need to know what your company plans to do next. Our advice is that you contact your HR department and discuss the working model they plan to roll out for you and your colleagues. You need to know what to expect so that you can plan ahead.
If you’ve been able to work from home and nip out to pick the kids up from school, is that going to be possible once your back in the office? If you have found working from home to be lonely, will it be possible for you to work from the office for the majority of the week? Find out what your options are and make your preferences known to your HR department. They should be canvassing your opinions but if they’re not, then make sure you start the conversation. Odds are that the majority of your colleagues will be looking for varying degrees of flexibility moving forward so don’t be afraid to have a discussion.
During the pandemic, many of us have pondered what job satisfaction really looks like for us. A lot of us may have had to undertake additional tasks or have supported our colleagues with projects we would not normally be involved in. If you’ve enjoyed doing the work, is that something you can continue moving forward? You need to have a frank discussion with your boss, outline the additional tasks you’ve enjoyed and enquire about expanding your role or gaining more experience.
Conversely, if your workload has increased exponentially and you feel as though you can’t cope then you need to have a very different conversation with your boss. Ask them about getting additional support. Inquire about how they see your role evolving moving forward. Get the lay of the land and act accordingly. If you’re not happy in your job or with your company’s response to the ‘new normal’ then it may be time to look elsewhere and find a new job that’s right for you and your circumstances.
Stay in the Loop
Moving to a hybrid working model where we’re split between work and home every week will take some managing, not least because everyone’s hours will be different. Make sure that you’re available to attend all of the important meetings that directly involve you and your projects. If the majority of your team are all going into the office on the same days each week then make sure that you’re with them. It’s amazing how much business can get discussed at the tea station or over lunch.
It’s important to ensure that you are not missing out on the key information available for you and your role. There will be some members of your department who make all of their decisions in conversation rather than via email. Make sure that you make communicating with them a priority so that you can successfully stay in the loop.
Expand Your Horizons
Chances are that you’ve spent a lot of your lockdown time re-evaluating your career options and life goals. If the pandemic has caused you to re-evaluate your career choice and your future then make sure that you are doing something about it. Don’t get sucked back into the corporate grind just because things are feeling more normal again.
Investigate your options. Take courses. Follow your dreams. Pursue the career that you’ve spent months or years dreaming about. If we’ve learned anything from lockdown it’s that life is precious. In the words of Ferris Bueller, ‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’
We hope that these tips have helped you to think about what you want from your job and your career post-lockdown. The world is changing at an accelerated pace and it’s up to you to make the most of your options and really think about what working model works for you.
In her new book, ‘The Reset’, Elizabeth Uviebinene, suggests that the future needs to be ‘less about what is best for big business and more about what is in the best interests of the worker‘. That’s an idea that we can definitely get behind.