The start of a new year is always a time for reflection and planning and now this is surely the case more than ever. 2020 threw everything at us that we neither expected nor wanted and, in doing so, it taught us a lot about the world of work that we perhaps hadn’t realised or, certainly, that we needed to be reminded of. Every bad career situation is validated by understanding what we can learn from it. So how can we use the experiences of 2020 to improve and excel? What are some of the key messages that 2020 has reinforced?
1.) A great many jobs can be done remotely…
2020 made working from home a necessity and, in doing so, proved that – given the right circumstances and levels of support (and I appreciate it isn’t the case in every job) – it absolutely can work successfully and efficiently. For too many years employers have been using the need to be in the workplace as an excuse for inflexibility and it has been frustrating for me to see clients literally having to give up jobs and careers because employers won’t make even the most minor of adjustments in this regard. Hopefully, a substantial move towards a world in which more employers embrace flexible working will be a very real legacy of Covid-19.
2.) …But that working from home is far from easy
The last 10 years has taught me that home working has significant challenges. And yet it seems it is the ideal to everyone who has never done it! Easy commute – tick. Isolation, lack of support, motivation issues – doubt tick. Of course this doesn’t have to be the case but if we want to work from home well then we need to appreciate the impact it can have on our mental health (which, in itself has obvious implications for efficiency and outputs) and make sure we are building the necessary mechanisms into our day, like regular breaks and exercise. For efficiency purposes, we need to be stringent with regards to expected outputs and make sure we are planning our days properly.
3.) We must always seek to have an adaptable skillset
Lockdown threw up some wonderful examples of companies changing their products and services to stay afloat amidst the pandemic. These, of course, are the extreme examples but most of us have had to implement minor changes to the way we work or, indeed, to our working priorities. The longer term lesson to take from this is that we all need to expect the unexpected and be prepared to adapt our skill sets where necessary. This means embracing formalised training opportunities as well as self-directed learning, and networking broadly to ensure that our skills can be useful within the wider business or industry, or even outside it, if necessary.
4.) If you’re sick, don’t go into work
The dominance of presenteeism is the workplace has had much to answer for over the years. The message that coronavirus has hammered home here is simple – that we all have a part to play in limiting infection. So, if you are sick, stay in bed. If you are groggy, work from home if you can. Managers – if you are worried that your staff will take advantage of this then you are employing the wrong people!
So here’s to a happier and healthier 2021 everyone. 2020 held more than its fair share of challenges but, hopefully, it will also help to establish some positive workplace norms of the future.
Momentum Careers Advice is based in Welwyn, Hertfordshire, local to St Albans, Harpenden, Hatfield, Stevenage and Welwyn Garden City, but can provide careers advice, guidance and support via Skype, across the UK and beyond