Monkey Puzzle Blog

Returning to work after the Pandemic

Career evaluation in a post-COVID-19 world

Many of us take stock of our careers at some point in our working lives, and not surprisingly, the impact of COVID-19 is proving to be a catalyst for change. Concerns for personal safety and worries about what may happen to job security are causing large numbers of people to re-think their careers.

Perhaps this is why a recent study by PeopleCert found that 39% of respondents are currently considering changing careers, with one in ten attempting to retrain for a completely different job during the coronavirus crisis.

Ideally, a change of career is a considered process with the time to reflect and explore the options. However, many are feeling anxious about their current employment and uncertain of the steps they need to explore them. That in itself is only adding to the pressure.

At Monkey Puzzle we help people resolve career challenges and find clarity. In this article we’ve chosen some career related issues that have arisen as a result of the virus - and offer our thoughts, starting with the question on most people’s minds…


Will it be safe to go to work - and how can I address this?

Although the Government wants all people who can work from home to remain to do so, a new poll for the CIPD found that 44% of 1000 respondents felt anxious about the prospect of going back to work because of the health risks posed by COVID-19. What’s more, 52% reported anxiety about commuting into London for work.

While the Government says organisations should take "socially responsible decisions and listen to the concerns of their staff", the reality of working life means that not every employer, or manager, will comply. Some may make unreasonable demands to return which, in the short term at least, employees may need to address.

So, how do you have what may feel like a difficult conversation with your employer?

Saying no to an employer can seem daunting - so it’s important to be able to say it effectively and not feel manipulated. This calls for firmness and politeness. You need to be clear in what you’re saying whilst highlighting your point of view. In this case ACAS and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have both published guidance on safer working during COVID-19 - you can access that here. Understanding what is required by your employer should boost your confidence to make your points.

You could also put your case based on what you’ve achieved working from home. This crisis has demonstrated to many employers that working from home hasn’t led to a loss of productivity. The old argument that the technology wasn’t there has also proven to be false. So much so that some organisations are already giving notice on their buildings to become permanently remote based.


Is my job still going to be there?

Although the job retention scheme is currently supporting around 7.5 million people, many are fearful that furloughing is merely delaying future redundancies, due to the recession that’s expected to hit in the autumn.

Many are facing a growing concern that the longer they are furloughed, their employer may be able to manage without them. Re-structuring a changing business may well bring redundancies. Either way, long-term job security is far from certain. For many, this is a time to reflect and assess and it’s better to do this now, rather than wait until later.

You may feel equipped to do this and could already be benefitting from pro-active networking on LinkedIn. However, the prospect of losing a role or career that defines you may still feel crushing and talking it through with a trusted friend may help. For a qualified approach, a professional coach will be able to help re-evaluate your purpose and direction from an independent perspective.


If not, what are the options?

It may well be time to take a broader view on what your options might be. Is now the time to look at something new? Perhaps to look at roles in different sectors where you believe your skills would be transferable, possibly setting up as a contractor for the increasingly growing gig economy.

If you decide to go freelance, how do you do that? You might ease yourself in by setting up a side project as an alternative source of income in case your job goes. Do you retrain, perhaps into an essential service for greater future stability? Or, what if you feel it’s too late to change now - how do you keep going, what new skills will you need to strengthen your existing capabilities?


How do my skill sets stack up?

In some respects, the overnight changes to working life due to COVID-19 have been a crash course in our ability to adapt, update and refresh skills. We are already being more flexible in a world that will increasingly demand it. Just a few weeks back, how many of us felt we had the tech skills to function in the virtual world of Zoom and Skype? You may not feel ready for this, but you might be better prepared than you think.

Help is certainly out there. LinkedIn Learning offers many courses on the kind of tech you’ll need to thrive in these new ways of working. A search through Eventbrite will find online webinars on all sorts of career change options and sources of new learning. If you wanted to asses your own aptitude, strengths and weaknesses - there are many psychometric tests available which should ideally be taken with the guidance and feedback of a qualified coach.


Coping with information overload

There is however a downside to all of these options. There’s just so much COVID-19 related career and workstyle information and content being produced that it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed. Research has shown that the average knowledge worker sees the equivalent of 174 newspapers of information a day. It may feel like there are too many options for change, too much choice - how can you make sense of it all? How do you find the time to process it all?

One of the best ways to cope with information overload is to actually slow down. You may feel under pressure to make quick decisions about your career but they can have unintended consequences that can take you by surprise, wasting time and energy later. Even an hour or two gives your mind the opportunity to mull it over and avoids those things that spring to mind ‘when it’s too late’.

Another tip is to visualise your action or career goal clearly in your mind. Does it look right? By gaining clarity on where you may want to go next in your career, it’ll help you screen out the unnecessary information and focus on what you need to know more of to get there. Sometimes, working with a coach can provide the external and unbiased thinking that will help you find the clarity to do this.


Further help

If you are affected by these issues and need some help exploring your career options, we can help. We have a network of inspirational associate coaches, highly qualified in a range of coaching interventions.

If you are thinking of working with a coach, our free Selecting a Coach guide may help find the one that’s right for you. We look at the key considerations when selecting a coach and how to ensure you have a great coaching experience.


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