Returning To The Office = Uncertainty?

After months to a year of remote work, many have felt uncertain about returning to their office due to not wanting to pay for commuting expenses, waking up a few hours early to look for parking space, etc. We all know that WFH is cost effective, it reduces overhead and creates a happier work environment. But there are also some who feel excited and recharged to go back into the office, as there are those who are far more productive in a stimulating work environment rather than at home where there are always reasons to procrastinate/be distracted.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “Some 43% of 1,046 remote workers surveyed by insurer Prudential in March said they’d be nervous about their job security if they stayed home while others returned to in-person. Yet the data indicates many of us really don’t want to go back, at least not every day. Nearly nine out of 10 workers in the same survey said they want to work from home at least once a week after the pandemic subsides; one in three said they wouldn’t work for a company that forced them to be on-site full-time.

How serious is your company about remote work?

Will staying home hurt your chances for promotion? Will leaders reverse course in a year, ordering you back? Tips on reading the risk, from professor Ashley Whillans:

Office downsizing: If your company is shedding real estate, that could be a sign that it’s committed to a flexible model of working.

Hiring from afar: Are new employees from around the country onboarding into fully remote roles? Or has the company been focusing on recruiting local talent in the past several months? If it’s the latter, executives might be switching gears.

Signals from the boss: Pay attention to what leaders are doing, not saying. “Do you see your bosses Zooming in from their offices?” Dr. Whillans asks.

Subtle perks: Is your company offering things like free lunch to those who come back? That’s a sign they want you there.

Should You Go Back to the Office? — Wall Street Journal Article

This can be a big thing to consider for employees who have relocated to another area to be closer to their family.
Image via Entrepreneur

Here’s what others are saying:

  • “Any company that doesn’t offer a WFH option for positions that were able to be effectively executed in WFH mode during COVID lockdowns will lose significant amounts of talent. It makes no sense to impose draconian “be in the office” rules if productivity was not affected. Anecdotally many businesses found productivity went up! And if you factor in potential savings in office space, utilities, parking space, and so on, there’s even room for a 5-10% reduction in productivity and still being better off with a WFH model.”
  • “COVID fast-forwarded how we work by decades. It proved that working from home wasn’t just possible, it proved that it worked well. For myself, and many that I know, going back to an office is a deal-breaker.
    The biggest pro, for me, is it gives me back up to 2 hours per day that I would have otherwise wasted sitting in traffic. I can use that time to get a jump on the day, be more productive, or just get some extra rest when I need it. This alone has dramatically improved my quality of life.”
  • “If you desire to switch careers, now is the time.
    If you desire to go into business for yourself, now is the time.
    If you want to work for a company that has what you need, now is the time.
    If you want to go back into office to your old professional life, now is the time.
    Whatever you decide, now is the time to do it. Just approach it as a respected business partner on your way in… or on your way out.”
  • “It’s already happening in many ‘essential’ places.
    The fulfillment centers is where one can probably see that ‘Great Resignation’ taking place right now, as many workers are leaving these jobs for other opportunities, preferably ones with more favorable working conditions.
    Through the worst of this pandemic, many ‘essential employers out there only paid ‘lip service’ to combating COVID-19 at their workplace and I know one ‘essential’ employer out there in the Reno area where they initially undertook a response to alert all employees when they discovered new cases in their workforce blasting out voicemail to all employees, only to abandon it because people called in sick the next day.
    A lot of ‘essential’ employers out there treated their workforce as nothing more than ‘pawns’ in a chess game to the point that many workers got fed up and left when the next opportunities presented themselves… There’s only so much mandatory overtime people will put up with and so much abuse, like making people work in a Reno-area warehouse filled smile from California wildfires and doing nothing to monitor the air or even filter the inside air to clean out the smoke so it doesn’t irritate people’s eyes, throat and lungs as they work.”
  • “I haven’t worked in an office setting in almost a decade. WFH is way better. If you need to come into the office for an important meeting, that is one thing, but showing up everyday to sit in a designated place to do the same job in the same way you can from your home makes no sense. And if this pandemic has demonstrated one thing, it is that with the availability of Zoom and other digital interfaces, face to face sales is not really that crucial to the overall outcome of the sales process. The days of firm handshakes, 3 martini lunches and power ties are over. It doesn’t take any of that to close a deal. Offering a good service/product at a reasonable price and then DELIVERING are what makes a business/salesperson successful. Not showing up and knocking on doors. That is 20th century stuff and we’re living in a 21st century world.”
  • “Anyone quitting to prioritize their health should not be judged. There are great ways to earn a living these days without having to rely on this old paradigm of an in person 9-5 requirement.”
  • “There are a lot of unemployed people still. Particularly women (including older women), instead of countless articles focusing on how ’employed’ people don’t want to go back to the office (for understandable reasons in some cases) and nurturing of those workers, how about sending a little love to us unemployed folks?
    All I ever hear is how the unemployed ‘aren’t motivated to go back to work’ because of a $300 supplement, which barely helps me pay my health insurance. I’m ‘lazy’ because I don’t yet want to give up on my career as a C-Level Executive Assistant because no one wants to hire me for the job I’m qualified to do.
    And yet unemployed folks are being reasonable and justified in demanding they be able to do their work at home or else. (Again I’m not against this choice but with so many unemployed people maybe if you don’t want to go into the office, someone else will. Imagine how this all sounds to someone who is truly struggling to pay bills). How about my mental health and well-being? Trust me if you are an EA who doesn’t want to go back to the office, I’ll do that for you. And I loved working from home but if it’s not a choice, it’s not a choice.”
  • “If your job doesn’t require you to interface with the public, what’s the problem about working from home? I can take my work home, and only go in for meetings. I just need access to the cloud and the Microsoft Teams account. I can get access to email. Traveling to work is a cost.”
    • “I agree! It’s a mindset shift by many employers, though. People are used to physical oversight – in my honest opinion, if you don’t trust your employee, why hire them in the first place?”
  • “This is an interesting topic for those fortunate to work from home. It has been a rough year working from home but there are many positives, as well. Many companies didn’t do well in keeping company culture going during the pandemic. With jobs opening and potential flex environments, what could employers provide employees to get them to stay?”
  • “Companies that were mindful of company culture and the employee experience before the pandemic were more likely able to pivot when the pandemic hit. Companies that were/are less mindful of such things were already in a hole, and the pandemic deepened that hole. With that in mind, companies in the latter situation are going to need bigger overtures to keep employees.”
    • “An excellent point! Many organizations take their culture for granted.”
  • “I can’t get past the guy wearing a mask in his own home office. Beyond that, we are seeing people leaving positions for remote jobs, leaving the uncertainty of maybe staying remote versus a sure thing. It is worth it to some to bet on a new company versus betting on having to go back in the office. With that said, people need to work or will need to work once the government stops extending unemployment, so I think those companies who do better with office employees versus remote will do so, and other companies that have found equal to or greater success may opt for the remote.”
  • “I believe there is an impending great resignation on the horizon as everyone has been evaluating what is important to them over the past year. I also believe for those staying put, when you return to the office it will be like meeting your colleagues for the first time all over again. The people you knew and worked with are forever changed for their unique experience over the past year.
    Whether you decide to return to your current position’s office or decide to try something new, don’t forget every person experienced a life altering change in some way. Have some patience, and extend some grace. Even if you ‘know’ someone they have been fighting silent personal battles that shape who they are now. Conferences will be different, team meetings will be different, expect to learn together anew.”
  • “Existing employee can become a fast Exiting employee. What happens when they leave in droves? Honesty solicited should be both ways. If a company chooses to bury its head in the ground and not address the real reason why TALENT leaves, they will soon face the constant turnstile before it eternally known that the organization is toxic. That leads to wider gaps in consistency (in program and service) which throws off any possibility of higher level strategic planning and subsequent achievement right out the door. If your organization relies on human beings (particularly high performing ones) treat and value them as such.”
  • “Anytime I speak to someone who is ready to give in their notice I ask them two questions:
    1. Do you have a job lined up?
    2. If not, do you have 3-6 months of bills saved up in case the job search takes that long?
    I get it, you want to quit, you are tired and frustrated.
    Or you don’t want to commute 30+ minutes to work just to show a senior leader you are working.
    With the pandemic and people talking about ‘back to work’ because you know we have all been on vacation for the last year.
    You absolutely have the right to look for an all remote position. But don’t quit before you have a job.
    On average a job search can take few weeks to few months. Do you have that much money saved for bills? Or someone who can support you?
    Start with your job search. Still show up everyday at your job as if you don’t have any intention of leaving.”
Image via PCMag

The Remote Work World For The Younger Generations

Image via Pinterest

Now that working from home is a safety measure for the nation, this is a good time to scale tools, resources and people. It is an opportunity to have good, quality work done versus policing when and where. Of course, this cannot be done in all sectors/industries but wherever possible, it should be considered.

This is the time to figure out how everyone, not just future generations but also older generations, experienced and inexperienced can thrive in this rapidly changing labor market. The economy is becoming flatter and stagnant, so that will account for slower growth in many organizations.

It is immensely challenging for new hires and job seekers to make connections, regardless of age. And this especially applies to folks who are left with increased childcare responsibilities due to COVID-19 mandated school closures. With this new structure of a global online presence, everything has to be scheduled and pre-planned, including opportunities needed to socialize.

Now, how will this affect the Generation Z? Young individuals typically like to socialize and enjoy being around other individuals. However, the remote learning is causing a massive isolation — leaving them feeling stranded and lost with no plans or road map to guide them. We are losing teenagers to increased depression and suicidal rates as this is affecting their mental health.

Generally, it is hard to fathom a majority of individuals at age, to thrive in the “new normal”. We are humans that are wired for connecting/interacting face-to-face. Young individuals are grown into a highly connected and social interactive environment. The fully shifted remote work and learning can create a regimented, limiting experience for all. Feeling less connected may drive self-initiative and self reliance further and faster.

However in a way, Generation Z’s are able to thrive during this time with their digital literacy as they have grown up surrounded by technology which shows that they are capable of and more equipped for remote work, networking and learning.

For 2020 graduates — they might be able to handle this new normal of remote and digital based working, but many do not have jobs yet and are still struggling to find them. But why? Remote work can present so many opportunities and open up roles for those who do not need to be locate in that specific region to work there. However, it seems that many employers are still hiring based on a candidate’s competencies, abilities and talents rather than where they are physically located. This poses a disadvantage for recent grads with limited to no experience, since this limits their options.

A Gen Z student (’97) who has recently graduated from Hunter College, City University of New York on May 2020 says, “Upon my graduation, I recently enrolled into this program called COOP in which it is geared toward finding employment for people, and I have recognized that it is more difficult now to find a job than it might have been before. A lot of places have let their employees go, and/or started hiring freezes as well as promotional freezes. Other than that, you also have the consequence of having to do everything from home and I don’t personally live in the most ideal environment for working from home, as I imagine that this is the same for many others too.”

He argues that this remote work option is affecting him and individuals his age because they are hiring selectively based on experience/skills. “A lot of organizations will recognize that they don’t actually need as much office space as they currently have, so many places will be inclined to keep the WFH model or at least offer it as an alternative. This means you can apply to more jobs now than you might have been able to before since you won’t be limited geographically. However, this also creates more competition for every job seeker out there because we want to take this opportunity to be challenged and learn something new — but the job descriptions say otherwise. It seems like they do not want to welcome this opportunity to recent grads like us.”

The job search process has been increasingly overwhelming and stressful for young generations, however don’t lose motivation, or quit. Job seekers often give up easily. Remember why you started in the first place. Your purpose in life is to find your purpose. Stay patient and trust the journey that you’re taking. You will eventually get a job.

Your age doesn’t matter. It’s your energy and determination.

Cordia Harrington, Founder and CEO of The Bakery Cos

Going forward, employers need to implement new ways to reduce the risk of digital overwhelm and effective onboarding for new hires. They should provide a framework for remote work to help the younger generations adapt to the environment. This has to be taught instead of expecting them to find their own rhythm and process — and to do this, the employer needs to invest in those supportive tools, channels and a structured plan in place to enhance collaboration and communication.

Finding Purpose Outside of Work

Image via General & Medical

Work-life balance is essential for many employers in ensuring that their employees do their best work and live more optimistic lives. Every employee wants to work for an employer that shares the same values as them, but they also want to work for employers who believe in taking care of their employees first. Some employers offer benefits such as dedicated ‘decompress’ time, remote working arrangement, summer time off, family days and parental leave, shift rotations between team members, and flex time. However, not all employers offer those. So we must know how to balance our work and life.

If we forget the purpose that drives us outside the office, we can never fully leverage our strength in the office. Tapping into that energy can take you on an unexpected career track as well. We do more for our employers when we work strategically in terms of caring for the parts of ourselves that don’t always appear to be related to the work at hand.

For those who are working tirelessly, especially since many of us are working from home right now, do not forget this — you are not your job. You are not married to your job. This is where you ought to find purpose outside of the work you do. Set boundaries for yourself so that you can freely give to others. Tap into your gifts, talents and passions. Everyone have hobbies that make the world a better place. Life is like an onion that has many layers. We are all multi-dimensional and find purpose, big and small in different ways.

This COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated this to many of us — that our worth is not attached to a title, a company or a building. We must learn that our life is multifaceted and evolving at each moment. We are more than work. The goal is a purpose driven life where you have to find the right balance, and this includes family/friends, travel, education, experiences, careers, etc.

There are folks who lose themselves and get trapped by a salary, and not many get to use the gifts that they have. Not everyone has that luxury of working in a field that they are passionate about. Most individuals work in jobs that they don’t get pleasure or happiness out of.

And there are folks who begin to discover this purpose once they enjoy the work they do. If you love helping others, and let’s say your profession is in HR. If talent management, talent acquisition or recruiting allows you to do that, then it has enabled you to put this effect on the lives of those that you work with. You fall in love with those times where you feel that what you are doing is a reflection of the values you want to influence in the world. Finding true purpose is not often easy, but once found it is like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Whether you are one of the two above, this serves as a reminder that it is important for all to zone out sometimes, take breather, catch up on self-care, travel and just do things where you do not have to worry about work all the time. “Maintaining a work-life balance is very important, not just for your physical and mental health but for productivity as well, both personally and professionally”, according to General & Medical. But at the same time, always find purpose and decide for yourself what place is the most inspiring to focus in the moment that you are in.

How To Save Your Organization Costs When Hosting a Virtual Job Fair

Image via Bryant University

Many businesses and workforce providers have shifted their in-person programs, services and operations to being fully remote and virtual due to the COVID-19 work response. Due to the highest unemployment rate in American history, workforce providers rapidly found ways to continue preparing job seekers for the job market. That way, these individuals can get back on their feet as they are being guided through their job search, as well as assisting them by securing income relief. In the workforce development field, organizations swiftly shuffled their staff resources, pivoted their programs and discovered new ways to deliver their services. This brings us to today’s post about shifting in-person job fairs to virtual job fairs.

We’ve heard about some of the top virtual career fair platforms before such as Handshake, CareerEco, Brazen, etc. However, for many small workforce non-profit organizations, the biggest consideration would be the cost – which ultimately leads them to seek for low-cost platforms. But of course, many non-profits offer free services – so a free platform may be their top choice. However, be mindful that free platforms do not have the necessary tools that your organization may desire to run a successful virtual fair.

What is an alternative? I suggest looking into Zoom. You may be thinking, “How is that even going to work? Isn’t that platform normally used to hold meetings, social networking or virtual happy hour?” Yes, however you can make a job fair happen.

Before you begin to brainstorm with your team, be mindful that:

  • Planning and preparing a virtual job fair requires as much attention from staff as an in-person job fair does, since this involves the same amount of staff and preparation to execute the plan successfully and accordingly.
  • To plan for job fairs virtually, there needs to be a good amount of controls to prevent long winded speakers, visitors and guests from interrupting the flow of the event.
  • You need to make sure that your event organizers are prepared to handle any unexpected challenges — making sure that they are very knowledgeable of the platforms being used in order to utilize features and tools to mitigate chaos.
  • You also need to make sure that your employers are prepared beforehand — how do we make sure they know the game plan and the platform features? (e.g. Set up a dry run 30 minutes – 1 hour before the actual event)

Next, you want to ask to yourself:

  • Why should our team even do or consider hosting the remote job fair? What is the purpose of this? Will our organization benefit/get anything out of doing this?
  • How is our team going to plan our job fair? Is there a contingency plan? And after your team has it all planned out, think about “why did we arrange the job fair in the way that we did?”
    • Now you’re still thinking, “How can you do this on Zoom? There are no Zoom features that can be accommodating for virtual job fairs.”
    • Option 1 (No Cost): Group the employers per session and assign a designated time for employers (1-2 representatives) and invite interested participants to join any session that they desire to – because this will prevent lagging, crashing and in case there may be any network connection issues. You can give the first half hour of each session to employers and have them discuss about their available positions or future openings and give the last half hour to open up the floor for Q&A’s.
      • How would you group them? By sector/industry? Or diversify them? Whichever you choose, make sure that it can maximize participant attendance in each session to create an engaging discussion rather than just listening to employers speak/present the whole time.
    • Option 2 (Low Cost to High Cost): Create breakout rooms to have job seekers interact with employers. However, please note that depending on the size of your audience, Zoom Rooms cost $49 per room per month. For annual subscribers, it costs $499 per year or $41.58 per (break out) room per month. Additional add-ons include cloud recording (starts at $40/month).
  • How are we going to collect resumes? What platform/tool?
    • Dropbox may be a good alternative if you want to follow up with employers individually after you have your job seekers upload their resumes for the positions that they are applying for. It is a helpful tool to consider when creating shareable folders for the employers so they are receiving resumes directly from those who are applying for them, rather than just receiving a bulk of random resumes. It can also help your team keep track of the resumes that you can follow up and reach out to for future job opportunities that you may find suitable for them, if they do not get a job through your job fair.
    • If you go with the option of Dropbox, to keep it organized, you may want to request the submissions of resumes to being renamed/formatted uniformly so that it makes it easier for the employer to access them.
      • However, it may be a challenge if one of the employers are unable to access Dropbox due to their firewalls that blocks the application.
      • A solution to that if it does happen, is to send candidate names who have applied to that employer so the recruiter can locate their applications.
    • Zoom gives you the option to upload attachments in the chat box as well.
  • How do we have job seekers register? (You may want to check out top recommendations for event registrations)
    • Personally, I like to use Eventbrite because it is a popular registration tool for creating events. In addition, it is convenient, easy to collect statistics and see your metrics, as well as following up with job seekers after the event).
  • How is my team going to execute the plan?
    • Who is the audience? In this case, it would be job seekers. But what are the demographics/population that you are looking to serve?
    • Which employers are participating? Are the positions that they are applying for going to meet the language/educational/skills requirement of the job seekers that will be attending?
      • How would our team pitch the event to employers?
        • A tip for non-profits:
          • Employers that you have established long-term relationships with, will not decline unless they do not have a hiring need for that season.
          • You also want to maintain a close relationship with your organization’s fundraisers, gala honorees and board members since they can be a huge contribution because they are your biggest supporters.
    • Work on outreach and marketing
      • Create flyers and outreach materials to get the word out to your community.
  • Outcomes: How do we follow up after the event?
    • Feedback surveys from job seekers and employers are a helpful way to improve future virtual job fairs
    • Stay in contact with employers regarding next steps on reportable number of interviews and/or hires
    • Evaluations: Consider best practices, challenges, highlights and what your team would have done the same and/or different. Also some questions to debrief on after:
      • How many resumes were submitted? Which employers received the highest number of resumes? Which received the lowest number of resumes?
        • This kind of data will be helpful to determine which employers are the most popular to pursue further relationships/partnerships in the future because the number of placements/hires matter most vs. those with barely any improvement in the number of hires.
        • This kind of data is also helpful to figure out why job seekers were not interested or qualified in a particular employer.
      • How many participants showed up vs. those who registered?
      • What kind of technical difficulties while setting up the fair (prior and during)? What contingency plan should we consider moving forward?

Technical issues to take care of while practicing dry run on Zoom

  • Avoid disrupting call-ins
    • Registration is very important to keep unwanted guests from entering in. Therefore, it is good to enable a waiting room in your Zoom account settings if you are the host.
  • Allow call-ins to raise hands if they want to speak
  • Automatically mute participants upon entry to prevent distractions/echoes
  • Disable sound when participant joins or leaves
  • Limit spamming on chat box
  • Make sure employers come prepared and have them do a quick dry run before event actually begins!