So here we go again, right? There’s been a moving target set for a return back in the office…and here we are a year later. You may have adopted a “we’ll see how that goes” mentality, as the one consistent thing with COVID is unpredictability. More importantly, you may be asking yourself, what does this mean for my future with my current employer? In this highly competitive job market, the answer truly is that the ball is in your court. When considering how to address this with your current employer, let’s consider a few factors and tips.
First off, the health and safety of you and your family is priority number one. One way to determine next steps is to understand what your current employer’s safety protocols will be upon returning to the office. I would highly suggest reaching out to your direct supervisor and setting up time to discuss what measures will be taken to mitigate COVID exposure and risks in the office (be prepared that this may still be under development!). Some companies have navigated this by mandating masks in common areas, setting up sanitization stands throughout the building, creating different schedules for employees to stage time in the office, and even investing in electronic social distancing lanyards to trigger a notification when employees are no longer 6 feet apart. All in all, the more frequent and open the communication is by leadership, the more comfort it can give their employees.
Pros and Cons of Returning to the Office:
While some professionals truly value being in the office, it’s apparent that many have enjoyed the flexibility of working from home. The pros of returning to the office can include having more of a break between work and home, being more social & collaborative with your team, smoother onboarding for new employees, and the ability to be seen and heard by leadership to make an impression for future promotions. On the other hand, the cons can include the cost and “lost time” associated with commuting, less flexibility when things arise on the home front, and more pressure to socialize in an office setting. On a positive note, it does seem that more and more employers here in Tampa are either implementing or seriously considering a hybrid work schedule. This could be a win/win, as the majority of candidates we talk to mention the value of having that blended work structure.
So you’ve had the right conversations and you’ve weighed the pros and cons of returning to the office, but have found that you either value hybrid or fully remote work and yet you’ve heard that the company may be moving towards a full-time return to office. What do you do next?
–Try to Negotiate: At least explore whether there is any flexibility. Some companies are announcing re-opening days but are letting departments decide individually how to apply policy. Others may consider exceptions to policy for select employees. Talk with your direct supervisor about your desire for flexibility, but come in prepared with specifics of what you’re asking for, and be prepared to offer concrete examples of how you have increased productivity, been responsive in a timely manner, and see a flex schedule as being positive for the team and the company. Basically, make it very difficult for them to say no.
– Consider your Options: If your attempts to negotiate fall flat, it may be time to start the search for more flexible employment. This is an employee driven market now, so use this time and job demand to your advantage. Connect with a quality recruiter to discuss your current situation and what you would be looking for in a new opportunity so they can share local market intel and be on the lookout for something that will match your ideals. Also, a QUALITY recruiter will also provide you tips to be successful in your own search if what you are looking for is unique to the local market.
Bottom line…..KNOW YOUR WORTH! I’ll end it on a positive note from a recent article from The Business Journals discussing the importance of remote work flexibility.
Ty West, Editor-in-Chief, The Business Journals:
With hiring still at a steady pace, turnover remains a top threat for employers. Experts say companies that try to force one-size-fits-all solutions on their workforces or job candidates are asking for a challenge. “Companies need to avoid putting up arbitrary barriers,” said Amina Moreau, CEO and co-founder of Radious.pro, an online marketplace for rentable home-office and meeting spaces. After the past 17 months have proven remote work can be productive, Moreau said companies forcing everybody back seems unnecessary, given the circumstances. “Some employees even find it insulting,” Moreau said. “If there’s one thing not to do, it’s to be inflexible.”