7 June 2020

Returning to Work After Lockdown





Getting back to work after having a stint away will always be anxiety-inducing regardless of whether you've been absent for personal circumstances or because of an unanticipated pandemic. 


Whether you've been on furlough for the past couple of months or find yourself recently unemployed, the stress is very real and the thought of normality resuming looms over all of our heads. 


In this post I'm discussing working life post-COVID-19, offering a little advice and a lot of opinion on the future of our workforce.


What is normality any more? 


What we considered 'normal' in the past ceases to exist.


Will the 9-5 hustle largely return, or, will a fairer work-life balance take its place? 


It's been truly insightful speaking to past colleagues and close friends regarding how their employer's attitudes have shaped their failure or success in recent months, and I firmly believe that COVID-19 has changed the future of our workforce entirely.


Some businesses have thrived under the worst circumstances, some have truly failed their employees and some have a lot of learning to do. 


Businesses who disliked the idea of change in any shape or form had it forced upon them during March and should expect to face the consequences. It's my opinion that the closed-minded companies who took so much pride denying their staff flexibility, whilst offering unkind management styles, rigid routines, and unfair pay, just won't last any more. Their policies are outdated and adjustments will need to be made moving forward to retain staff.


Yet, it's not just up to managers and business owners to 'upgrade' their thinking and make the necessary changes. 


Going back to work, I hope that staff in every sector will begin to ask the important questions, demand more, and raise concerns. Now is the time to speak up and voice any valid thoughts that you may have been too afraid to mention previously.


Loyal team members who were told they weren't vital or important have become the backbone of many firms, and deserve fairer salaries, working standards, and better treatment. Parents who were previously denied flexible working should now be able to choose their hours when possible, and those struggling with their mental health should be able to communicate openly with their managers, to create routines that work for them without fear of judgment.  


For those working outside the 9-5 and for those who have been working throughout this pandemic (whether they're a healthcare worker or a supermarket assistant), they might be reevaluating their worth and deciding now whether their job is truly appreciated, and if it is then why doesn't it pay more? For those who feel happy with their rate of pay, they might be instead questioning whether the endless stress of their job is personally worth sacrificing time with loved ones, and their overall well-being. 


I have my own experiences feeling overwhelmed and underappreciated, and in fact, I fondly remember sitting in my office with an old boss of mine who told me that "we spend enough of our lives spent at work, we should at least enjoy what we do." Shortly after that discussion I quit. I always knew that I couldn't do a job well if I wasn't enjoying it, but learning that my boss also agreed changed my outlook entirely. I remember the fear and adrenaline I felt racing through me as I knocked on my bosses door and refused to go back to my desk. I cried a lot, but that difficult conversation was no doubt worthwhile. 


I tell you this because I want to encourage those who feel uneasy returning to their current jobs to vocalise their worries and take action when circumstances remain unresolved. However, I'm not implying that you all need to quit your jobs, because of course, I understand that it's not a decision to take lightly. Just, please don't be afraid to approach your manager to discuss better ways of working if you're struggling. 


Essentially we need to sit down and have very frank conversations with ourselves and our employers when we're unhappy. Specifically, we need to ask the following:-


What can we do to make my job work better for me?

What can we do to increase my productivity and happiness at work? 

Why am I being paid so little for a job that's deemed so important?

Why can't my job be done at home? If yes, how do we make this adjustment? If no, then why?


For those of you who might already be unemployed or facing the possibility of redundancy, I want you to consider asking yourself these questions:-


What do I want from my next job? 

Am I looking for progression or is this just a stopgap?

What aspects of my last job did I hate?

What aspects of my last job did I enjoy?

Am I happy to sacrifice pay for flexibility? 

Is stability or routine important to me?


And, when you're attending future job interviews we need to ask these questions:-


How did you treat your staff during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Will my hours be negotiable if my circumstances change?

What will your company do to look after me? 


These are all such incredibly important conversations to have and require so much honesty from all parties to establish a job role where you can thrive, knowing that the company you're working for truly respects and values what's important to you. Through this appreciation, we can assume that staff turnover would significantly decrease within any business, as staff and their employers gain increased levels of loyalty and trust. What's not to love about that?!


I have a lot of thoughts and feelings regarding the future of our working climate and think we can learn so much from recent events to create a progressive society and a prosperous workforce.


Outside of employment fears, one plus point of this mess that I'm pleased to report on, is the level of change we're all going through on a much more personal level as well. I understand that times have been dark, and this situation is in no shape or form a good one, but it's fascinating to rediscover ourselves. 


Most importantly I think we've all been able to reflect and re-evaluate our priorities to adapt to change, and as a result, we might have realised that we're stronger than we thought. 


I'm able to understand from everyone that I've spoken to during recent weeks that despite current circumstances, we're mostly feeling positive about our shift in mindset and are beginning to consider the things we value in life more prominently. We're discovering that we might be interested in different hobbies or careers, and concluding that happiness (whatever that individually means to you) is the most important thing. 


Personally, through contemplating my lifestyle in recent weeks, I've realised that although working flexibly works for me, I'm also willing and happy to work more, especially on the things I'm passionate about e.g. this blog venture of mine. For a long time, I've felt stagnant and haven't tried to challenge myself through education, but I feel more motivated than ever to keep learning recently and have begun a couple of online courses. These words I thought I'd never utter.


Despite the hardships we're going through globally, I think we're all learning a lot and striving to better ourselves in every way. For some that might be through education, for some that might be through  learning to enjoy our own company and for some that might simply mean keeping their heads high and finding strength through continuing to go into work every day. 


I argue this,  however - I think regardless of whether you're happy at work, you'll still be demanding change in one aspect of your life or another and that will have a domino effect. 


I'm positive that for some, old routines might work and nothing will change from an employment stand point, which means they'll probably disagree with my opinions on this subject wholeheartedly. That's okay though, because I assume that means you enjoy your job and that's something we all hope for. 


But, many don't and this needs acknowledging.  


The need for flexible working does exist and continues to grow in demand. People are enjoying a slower pace of life and are appreciating the smaller things. People want to work from home and want to reduce their commutes, and people might miss their jobs, but they miss their families more and seek to spend more quality time with loved ones.


Change is on the way. 

7 comments

  1. I work from home anyway so this isn't something I have to deal with or worry about but I'm definitely worried about when my Mum and boyfriend have to go back to their respective jobs. I really hope it's done the right way, not too soon and their employers take appropriate precautions. Especially as my boyfriend has asthma so I'm pretty worried about him catching covid! x

    Jenny
    http://www.jennyinneverland.com

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  2. I hope so much that change is on the way. As a chronically unwell person, I've found it really hard to find a job with a stable income that my body can handle consistently. Having a decent job I can mostly do from home would be an absolutely dream and I think a lot of companies have realised that this is do-able and for many people, an even better and more productive way to work.
    I also hope people start demanding what they deserve in their jobs. So many are taken for granted in all sorts of ways and deserve to be appreciated and taken seriously in asking for better. Lets hope things will improve all round!
    Alice Xx
    www.blacktulipbeauty.co.uk

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    1. I hope so much too for you and so many others chronically ill, disabled or with mental illness. You shouldn't be penalised for being unwell when you're so clearly capable at many things.

      There's no reason a lot of staff couldn't work from home especially now, because they're already doing it, but a lot of companies have truly outdated ways of thinking, and would for whatever silly reason prefer to fill every desk space with a human.

      I struggle with my anxiety and sometimes it feels very real at work. I'm so grateful to currently work in a job where my mental health is taken seriously and I'm already working flexibly, even if it wasn't a role I want to do forever. I really can't stress enough the improvement to my well-being after leaving a gloomy office job and finding shift work instead.

      I truly think it's time for companies to shift their way of thinking if they haven't done so already. We can't simply go back to the way we were before because it doesn't work for so many of us.

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  3. I love this! So uplifting and I also agree with you, the work life we're used to seeing is going to change. And it's bloody well time! We employees have been brainwashed to put our jobs ahead of our own lives and families and there's nothing as sick as that. It's time we returned to the basics: take control of our own lives. Because any work isn't worth losing a life over.
    In my case I'm very happy that since the pandemic we haven't been called back to the office. We can go to the office if we wish, but we can also work from home is that's more comfortable. And I'm so happy! I get so much more done, both at work as well as at home, when I'm working from home. And I'm in a lot better mood as well! I hope this will never change to the way things used to be.

    Teresa Maria | Outlandish Blog

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    1. I'm so pleased you can relate and that your employer is allowing staff to work from home.

      I understand that working from home might not work for everyone, but I think there's a lot of pressure and sometimes distraction caused when working in an office. At home when I'm working, I feel 100% more productive and calm, and I hope the majority of other people who also agree that. Although I can appreciate the current stress if you have children and a partner who are also all staying home at the moment.

      I think allowing staff moving forward to have a choice on the way they want to work will significantly improve mental health and well-being, especially if they feel trusted to be at home. With technology there's no reason staff who work primarily desk jobs couldn't continue working from home after this pandemic. I firmly believe that employers just don't want them to because a lot of them are scared of change (after all this is a unprecedented circumstance we find ourselves in) there's no real valid / good enough reason to deny staff any more though.

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  4. I'm very lucky to have been a homeworker for the better part of 11 years. I work part-time for a property portal and we are all remote workers, and I have my freelance work and blog too. So flexible working is something I'm very well used to. Yes, it does have it's downsides (lack of social contact for one) but it's definitely the way forward, I agree. I just hope that rural broadband will catch up soon too! Great post, very much food for thought :) Lisa x

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  5. Great post! I hope everything works out ok for you once you return to work! I feel like it will be hard to return back to normal but it will happen eventually!

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