by Cindy Fassler
Career Coaching And Executive Recruiting and a volunteer panelist at The Job Forum
The pandemic has been detrimental to many things, but a silver lining is now we have choices regarding the environments where we work.
A few years ago a typical working arrangement consisted of going to an office 40 hours a week. Remote work was a relatively rare perk. The pandemic forced many to do their jobs from home, swapping the office cubicle for kitchen table, and leaving in person meetings and conference rooms in favor of Zoom calls.
Now that vaccines are available, we have an easing of restrictions, and businesses have begun to make “return to work” plans.
Companies are choosing among these options:
– First there are companies allowing their employees to work remotely on a permanent basis.
– Others are opting for a hybrid model for now. Amazon is an example who requires employees to work “in-office” for at least three days a week and otherwise gives employees the flexibility to be remote up to two days per week.
– Some companies have gone back to a full “in-office” policy because it is now considered safe and more effective for them to do so. Examples of this option are Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase.
– Some companies are leaving the decision to employees and at the same time redesigning their work systems and policies to allow for all the options; remote, in-office and hybrid employees.
Read more to get some tips on how to think about and consider the best work arrangement for you
Determining what work option is best for you, depends on your individual preferences, your own work style, your target employer’s policy and the nature of your work.
It matters to your performance
Your work environment will have a critical impact on your performance so it’s important to consider whether or not your optimal working arrangement aligns with your target company’ s work environment policy. Consider the following:
Your job description
Some jobs are just impossible to do as well, or to do it all, if you work remotely. Positions in the travel industry, hospitality, healthcare, sales, are examples that may fall into this category.
There are jobs where you can do some of your tasks remotely, but your performance will really benefit from your being physically present for other of your responsibilities.
Consider which of your work is best done in what environment. Also consider if you need access to certain software or equipment that might only be available at the office. Ask yourself are there certain tasks you can do from home, but the outcome tends to be significantly better when you’re on site? Or perhaps you have found through recent experience you can deliver higher quality work when you complete certain parts of your job from home. Take all these factors about the work environment into consideration as you consider whether to try to work remotely or in a hybrid setting or in an “in-office” environment.
Personality traits and preferences
Your preferences and your personality are relevant to factor into your decision regarding a work environment.
Personal energy level
You might want to compare your energy level in the office versus your energy level at home. If you have an extroverted personality, and are one who gets energy from being around many people, that’s important. If you find that you have less energy at home, working at computer screen alone, that can matter to your job performance. Perhaps you’re more of an introvert in the sense that you find a lot of physical interaction with others somewhat draining and even tiring. Perhaps you have more energy left at the end of the day when you’re working at home than when you’re in the office, engaging in meetings and hallway conversations throughout the day.
Physical environment and deep concentrated work
You might ask yourself “What physical environment do I need in order to be able to focus on deep work and truly concentrate?”. Maybe you find that more isolation allows you to be more creative, because the stillness gives you that uninterrupted space to think deeply. Think about what is the best environment for you to absorb and retain information. Maybe you realize you learn best and focus best by working with others and observing how others handle a topic or handle their jobs.
Communication systems and policies
You need to be able to clearly and effectively communicate with others in order to thrive in a work place. Communication is another reason why it’s important to really think about your communication style and your preferences. Yet of course it’s not ONLY about your own communication style, you also need to consider the systems and the culture of communication at your organization or target company. How will you do your best work and minimize misunderstandings, delays, and other communication breakdowns? What makes sense at the company as the method for communication for an “in-office “ set up, doesn’t always translate for a fully remote company or a hybrid work environment. So make sure to explore and consider how decisions get made in your team or in the business.
Opportunities for career advancement
The type of work arrangement you have, can have an impact on your career advancement as well. Proximity to leadership and influential figures in the company often has a significant impact on the company’s decision to promote certain employees over others.
The way that organizations make decisions about employee potential is, to some degree, still about visibility (being in the right place at the right time).
So it is possible that those who work in the office full-time will start to get an advantage because they will be more visible to management. They will have more access in a variety of intangible ways to the way the company operates. Organizations have not really worked out how to overcome that barrier to employee success in new work set-ups.
Work stage and longevity
Workers at the early stages of their careers often need to build relationships within the company in order to advance in their work. Those who don’t have a robust internal network, within the company, or within their industry, may miss out on career opportunities, if they opt for a remote or hybrid working arrangement. Those with a strong set of relationships, which have been built over time, with the company’s influential figures, might not suffer the same fate when working remotely or choosing a hybrid set up.
Questions you can ask
You can ask your employer or potential employer “How much flexibility exists for remote work versus “in-office” versus a hybrid work arrangement?” If you already have your preferred work set up in place in a job you’re in currently, it is still a very good idea to check in with your supervisor as to whether the company is changing policies or is open to you changing in variety of ways for the future.
If you are looking for a job, it’s a good idea to signal to the company that their company, and the opportunity for you to contribute, are far more important to you than your work arrangement, and yet you still are interested in what the company’s policies regarding a work environment are.
Places you can search for information
Most company career sites make it clear if remote work is offered. If you are interested in remote or hybrid options, you can also look at job boards such as Indeed or Monster where, for example, you can add the word “remote” to your search (marketing jobs – remote).
At company review platforms, like Glassdoor, which focuses on giving you an insider view, and company profile pages on LinkedIn, you can check to find discussions on work policies, including remote versus hybrid versus “in-office” policies.
Ultimately there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to the ideal work set up and only you can determine what works best for you, your priorities, given what your reality and career path is.
Before making your decision on where to work, give some thought to the work environment that will work best for you and for your career advancement. If you really are unclear on your goals or on the type of environment that would best suit you, reach out to discuss this with the volunteers at The Job Forum. The Job Forum volunteers are managers at Bay Area companies and can tell you firsthand about the policies where they work and they will also gladly advise you about considerations for your own future success.