By Tim Smith
What are your options if you enjoy your job, but you also enjoyed not having to go into the physical office everyday? Could flexible working arrangements become the new normal?
Spending more time with our loved ones has arguably been the sweetest silver lining to the cloud of Covid-19. The question, as we gradually return to the workplace, is do we really have to give up all those home comforts again?
The answer, according to experts in Bermuda, is that maybe you can shape your own working life and retain some of that newfound flexibility.
Steph Brown, a recruitment partner at the Bermudian company O My Word, said “I am hearing that Bermuda employers are being much more flexible with their staff in terms of returning to work. In the main, employers are giving employees the option of some days working in the office and the rest working remotely.
“I think they have found that staff are more productive when given the flexibility to work around home life more.”
Ms Brown said not all employers would be able to offer this flexibility, due to the nature of their operation, but she added: “when we return to the ‘new norm’ I feel they will need to adopt other ways to keep staff attrition levels down, or they could face a recruitment struggle.”
Ms Brown said everyone’s eyes were now opened to different ways of communicating.
“I know some candidates that love working from home and others who can’t wait to get back to the office,” she said. “Any company who really cares about their staff, and understands that people have different ways of working to perform at their best, will be flexible to individual needs and adopt a flexible working location policy. This will also help them to create an excellent employer brand within the community.”
But it’s up to the individual to fight their own corner.
“Talk to your employer, communicate your preference, prepare a review of your performance while working from home,” she said. “Chances are, your colleagues are feeling the same and some may have already asked. Give them cold hard facts that the business can’t ignore, and if your employer isn’t able to give you the flexibility, then find one who will.
“If you aren’t happy at work, it has a negative impact on every other aspect of your life. Find a place to work where you feel valued and trusted and you will excel in your performance. It’s a win-win!”
She said good employers would listen and respond to the needs of their employees but, she added, “it’s all about how you ask for something, and that you can show it will also be a benefit to your employer too.
“Some businesses do have set opening times and don’t have too much flexibility, so target industry sectors that will give you more chance of working hours that you prefer.”
Lisa Latham, a counsellor and life coach at Bermuda College, said the pandemic had taught us to appreciate our families and the natural world around us. Maintaining these values would help keep us happy even as we return to the workplace.
Ms Latham said she was making cupcakes with her young son, when he turned to her and said, “you know what, Mummy, I hope people get it. I hope people realise that this has given us a chance to really get to spend time with the people we love.”
The life coach explained: “Because of the pandemic, we have got the time to really speak with the people who matter most to us. I feel that nature is one of our best teachers. The pandemic has really helped us to get more in touch with that.
“No matter what stress is happening, the sun rises every day. We have the ebbs and flows of the tide – you are going to have your highs and lows. Flowers are beautiful and then they die – the rhythm of nature. We, as humans, are part of that cycle.
“Even in grave times, we have smiled and come together. I hope we continue to rise as a country and have that compassion.”
Ms Latham said she noticed large numbers of families out walking during the pandemic.
“I had never before seen so many of our guest workers, pot washers and landscapers, out walking,” she said. “I came to understand during lockdown that these are many of our neighbours, but because they are working so many hours, they become invisible.”
But what will happen now that they return to their jobs? “They have to weigh up the need to earn money to pay bills and have a roof over their head,” Ms Latham said. She urged people to “cultivate a love affair with themselves”.
“It doesn’t matter where you start, just start,” she said. “Maybe that means you get up half an hour earlier so you can go for a ten-minute walk, or get up ten minutes earlier to go sit in a chair and get some sunlight. Or instead of sitting in the lounge or staff room on break, go for a walk outside.”
Making a list of pros and cons helps focus your mind.
“What did you like about your job previously, and what do you like at home?” asked Ms Latham. “Some individuals wish to retrain. They want to work differently. Right now, they are looking to retool.”
Ms Brown agreed it is vital to keep in mind what makes you happy. “Find the balance between what makes your heart happy and the financial obligations you have. Be inventive,” she said.
She suggested asking yourself the following questions: are there ways to make money while you are sleeping? Do you have knowledge that others see a value in? Can you afford to reduce your working hours slightly so you can find more time for your friends and family? Can you work somewhere that pays your salary but is also related to helping others? Can you get true fulfilment through your job as well as at home?
“Maybe before, you didn’t think it was possible, but when you want something bad enough, there’s always a way,” she said.
“Seek and you shall find!”