The landscape on flexible working, and in particular where we work, has changed enormously since 2019. During the pandemic, city centres emptied out and workers across the country and beyond navigated how to work from home. Nearly four years on, where have we landed after this enforced experiment in remote working and how can you set yourself up well for the new way of working?
How organisations have evolved
Organisations have had to balance a new dynamic of differing employee expectations and demands in order to retain staff and attract new talent. Many employers which previously expected employees to be on site 5 days a work, such as professional services firms, have realised that it is possible to accommodate more flexibility. Although some organisations are now championing an ‘everyone back in’ policy, many are choosing to operate a policy of ‘hybrid working’, where staff come into the office or onsite 2 or 3 days per week and work from home for the remaining days.
Technology has been a key enabler in this changing landscape, equipping staff with the tools they need to work productively and effectively from home. Platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom have enabled people to continue to collaborate whether working from home or in the office.
An opportunity for returners
Looking at it through a returner lens, we have heard many anecdotes on how the ability to work remotely for some of the week has helped smooth the transition back to work. There are many barriers to getting back to work after a long career break, and navigating a long daily commute while continuing to manage caring responsibilities at home can be a significant one. Partially removing this barrier is helping many returners to focus primarily on the learning curve that comes with returning to work, while only having to manage the associated logistics a few days a week. In a recent article with Fortune magazine, returner Melissa Schofield shared her story of returning to work at Gallagher Re after an 18 year career break. Living 2.5 hours away from her London based employer, the option of being able to work from home 3 days a week was a game changing enabler for her return, “I think if I hadn’t got that flexible working, I wouldn’t have come back”.
However, remote working isn’t for everyone, so think if it will work for you. You may be keen to get out of the house. Maybe you don’t have a dedicated space to work well from home or you prefer to have a clear work-home boundary. You may have missed the social dynamic of being in an office and want to maximise the opportunities to network, learn and collaborate in person.
Making hybrid working work for you
How can you set yourself up well for hybrid working on your return?
Before you join:
- Understand from your Line Manager what the hybrid working norms are for the team
- Find out whether there are core days when you are required to be in the office or onsite. If not, explore which are the best days for you to be around for regular team meetings and collaboration opportunities
- Plan any childcare/eldercare around your agreed days. However, build in flexibility -do have backup support (and backup for your backup!) in case you need to come in on another day for an important meeting or networking opportunity.
Working from home:
- Create clear boundaries between work and home. Dedicate a specific working space if possible, free of clutter, where you feel happy to take professional calls.
- Make best use of quiet time working from home by planning focussed tasks such as research, reading documents and drafting
- Ensure you set up video calls with your team on days working from home to stay connected and lessen any isolation from working solo
- Remember to take breaks – get some fresh air during your lunch break and remember to eat lunch!
- If possible, close the door on your working space at the end of the working day, or close your laptop and pack things away, to enable you to signal to yourself that you are switching off
Working in the office:
- Make the best use of being in person, by planning meetings with team members and networking conversations when you’re on site
- Don’t miss the opportunity for informal conversations – these may need scheduling more than previously, if your team doesn’t have core days when you’re all in
- Process the day and find a way to help yourself to switch off on your commute home, maybe by reading or listening to music or a podcast.
It looks like hybrid working is here to stay. We welcome this development, as it is helping to open up opportunities for more returners to kickstart the next chapter of their career! See previous post: Flexible Working – The Where, When and How