As we move towards a return of some normality and potentially the end of social distancing, more of us are focusing on a return to the workplace. We all need to think about what we want from that return and recognise where careers could fall apart.
While most of us are celebrating being able to return to the office, see colleagues and attend networking events, few of us see ourselves back in the office full time. As employer policies on agile working start to be published, the vast majority are trying to strike a balance between home working and office working.
But that may not suit everyone, especially those at the start of building their careers.
The old ways of learning and gaining experiences from a team based in an office have, in effect, been demolished by Covid-19. The chance of working in a single team or alongside one person who would take responsibility to lead and mentor is much diminished. These people simply will not be around as much to learn from.
That is not necessarily all bad, as it could involve being exposed to a wider range of styles to learn from, but it will make it much more difficult to manage. For those starting out, they must try to grab more control, and responsibility for their own careers from the outset. We are all just starting to work through the new reality, and no one can claim to have all the answers.
So, what are some of the questions we should be thinking about?
Do you have the ability to manage upwardly? We all need to have a way of making our voices heard and not get left behind. Those in management roles need to be listening and action plans need to be developed as a consequence.
Are the reporting lines clear? If you end up in a situation where you work with whoever happens to be in the office that day, do you have a way to manage your time and capture feedback? No one person will see you in the way that would have been the case in the past.
How is work assigned to you and how do you maintain your visibility? Being in the office is one thing – people knowing that you are there is another. However, even when a manager is in the office, they will try to maximise the productivity of their time as they see it. That could mean spending time with papers they may not otherwise have access to or, more likely, trying to have meetings with those who are around. So, facetime could ironically be even more difficult to achieve.
There is a clear danger of an inequality emerging in the workplace between those who feel that they have to spend more time in the office and those more established members who see no real reason to be in the office that often.
I’ve often considered the virtual Covid world to be the easier part of the adaptation in the workplace. More difficult is the more hybrid approach of some in the office and some out. If we are all virtual that is one thing but how do workplaces cope with a ‘some in, some out’ position? Again, these pressures will be worse for newer team members.
If employers are not being clear about any of this then it is all our roles to hold them to account. Ask employers what they are proposing. They should be thinking about your interests and talking to you about their plans.
The writer is Head of Public Affairs at BDB Pitmans