Like many Canadians, you have probably been working from home (hereby dubbed “WFH”) for the last 16 months or so. You have set up your home office, bought a comfortable chair, installed high-speed internet, downloaded Zoom or Microsoft Teams, and figured out a way of ensuring “focus” time. You have reduced your stress levels by reallocating the average 84 minutes per day that Torontonians typically spend commuting to more enjoyable tasks such as doing puzzles or baking banana bread. You have saved thousands of dollars in vehicle expenses, parking and transit fees, clothing and not buying lunches and lattes. Despite some challenges and drawbacks, your WFH experience has generally been positive.
However, you miss the daily interaction with your colleagues and others. According to the U.S. Conference Board, 55 per cent of millennials, 45 per cent of Gen Xers, and 36 per cent of Boomers have reservations about returning to the office. Millennials are the group most concerned about the impact that WFH has had on their health and psychological well-being.
On the other hand, you may hate WFH. It is very challenging: your living space is not conducive to it; you feel trapped; you miss your colleagues and opportunities to get out and about. Networking, establishing meaningful connections and getting mentorship and guidance from your peers and those with extensive experience can be challenging when done remotely.
As restrictions continue to lift and most Canadians return to some semblance of “normal,” the Delta variant of COVID-19 remains a concern. Most organizations are figuring out how to balance the needs of their employees who are scratching at their home-office walls with those whose WFH life is much more appealing. Many seem to be heading toward a hybrid model that combines WFH and in-office time, because it is difficult to put the toothpaste back in the tube. If you are not a fan of WFH, this is good news. You may even be able to come to your office every day. If you would like to continue to largely or exclusively WFH, you have some thinking to do and decisions to make.
Psychologists tell us that inflection points are opportune times to make changes – and this could be one of those. You have stuck with your role and/or organization through the pandemic largely because making a career change would involve considerable risk and uncertainty. But there are now good career opportunities emerging, and you should be using this time to think about your needs, strengths and weaknesses.
- Take stock of yourself. Write 250 words on what is important to you in your life and work, and times you were “in the zone” at work – what you were doing, who were you doing it with, etc. You might find online tools useful, such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) and the CliftonStrengths assessment. Get input from your family, friends and colleagues. A helpful Career Satisfaction report derived from the MBTI outlines the ten attributes you should seek in a role/organization based on your Type.
- Assign a “weight” (1–10) to each attribute and score them (1–10) based on your current role/organization. Look at the weightings/scores and rank them. You might be able to influence or change the attributes related to your role – it will be challenging to do so with those related to your organization. If the issue is your role, talk to your boss. Tell them what you would like changed in your position and assess the response. Organizational issues are much more difficult to change.
If you’re looking to pursue WFH indefinitely, now’s the time to pro-actively make your case. Do some research and gather facts and opinions. Show how you have maintained or improved your productivity. Develop a strategy for continuing to WFH – either exclusively or in some hybrid fashion.
If there does not appear to be a resolution within your current organization, consider your options. Identify other workplaces of interest to you that offer more flexible options, where your strengths would be valued, and whose culture appears to be a good fit. Network your way into these organizations, as 80 per cent of jobs are filled through referrals. Prepare for both the informational interview and the formal job interview.
Everyone has the responsibility to manage their careers. You don’t want to suddenly realize that you haven’t found your calling (doing what is meaningful to you) and don’t understand how your career evolved. If you have not yet been making pro-active and informed decisions in your career path to date, the emergence from the pandemic could be the ideal time.
Peter Caven is the managing director of Launched Careers, a Toronto-based career advisory organization for young professionals. He is the Leadership Lab columnist for August, 2021.
This column is part of Globe Careers’ Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about the world of work. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab and guidelines for how to contribute to the column here.
Stay ahead in your career. We have a weekly Careers newsletter to give you guidance and tips on career management, leadership, business education and more. Sign up today or follow us at @Globe_Careers.