Navigating the (Eventual) Office Reopening
As companies once again reassess when, or if, there will be a return to the office, employees need to stay agile.
Lily spent the summer anticipating a return to the office around Labor Day, and made plans accordingly. But with the rise of the delta variant, her employer pushed the return date to January, forcing her to change her plans again.
According to a recent Korn Ferry survey, 54% of professionals say their employer has changed its return-to-workplace plans because of the more recent surge of COVID-19 infections, and over 20% said they didn’t expect to return to the office until 2022. But those expectations may still change again … and again.
“Life will continue to be very uncertain until COVID runs its course,” says Val Olson, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. Here are some things you can do to prepare for your current, or eventual, return to work.
Advocate for yourself.
Some people will be required to go back to the office but don’t want to, some will be required to work remotely but would prefer to work onsite, and every other scenario imaginable.
Career experts say that in some cases you may be able to negotiate with your organization. Many companies are offering hybrid options with some remote work and some onsite work. But even as you advocate for yourself, understand that employers still have the final say in terms of where and how they want employees to do their jobs.
During the pandemic, about four in 10 adults in the United States reported symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder, up from one in 10 adults who reported these symptoms from January to June 2019.
Prepare yourself emotionally for the upcoming change by taking time to relax, practicing present-moment awareness, and choosing a positive perspective. “If your confidence has slumped, you can get it back,” Olson says. “Be gentle, not harsh, with yourself. Get support if you’re struggling, and don’t expect perfection.”
Find some things you can feel in control of.
If you’re struggling with feeling out of control, develop a personal and professional growth plan. “Having a plan that you can start implementing right now can help make present uncertainty more bearable,” Olson says.
Also, don’t hesitate to ask your manager about anything that worries you, such as whether a return to the office is required, what the company’s plan is to keep you and other employees safe, and whether you’ll get paid time off if you or a family member gets sick.
Expect a new wave of change.
Policies are being reviewed and adapted to meet current requirements. Career experts say that employees can expect emergency expansions for paid sick time, family and medical leave, increased accommodations for high-risk individuals, non-sharing of equipment, daily disinfecting of office spaces, and similar measures.
To best manage your career, it’s important to stay abreast of changes in your industry and the trends that are shaping and changing the workplace on a broader level. It will be up to you to adapt with the times.