Navigating the Future of Work: Thriving in a Remote and Hybrid Environment

Donna Bliss

Girl navigating the future of work and planning

The landscape of work is evolving rapidly, and the future of the workplace is increasingly defined by remote and hybrid models. For many of us, this was an overnight capitulation, thanks, COVID! But as we move towards the end of 2023 and the post-COVID world, it’s time to take stock of where you are and if it’s working for you. Regardless of COVID, moving closer to Christmas we often see many professionals starting to reflect on their work circumstances and consider if it’s time for their next career move.

The pace of work is frenetic, and ‘reflection’ is probably not a ‘doing’ word many of us can easily do. However, it is critical to make time to reflect to ensure you are aware of what your career needs are, rather than reacting to the needs of those around you. With the pace of change we’re experiencing, the most successful professionals are those who have invested in their self-awareness and made time to reflect on their journey.

In this blog, I explore a few key work themes impacting many of the professionals I’m meeting and I believe will continue to impact their career successes in the future of work. From understanding the work environment you thrive best in, to investing in your career development with a continuous learning’ approach to professional development and networking engagements. What you need to thrive in tomorrow’s world will differ to the person next to you, but it’s great time to give these concepts some thought.

1. Identify Your Ideal Work Environment: To thrive in your career, it’s essential to understand the work environment where you perform at your best. Reflect on your preferences regarding collaboration, autonomy, and the physical workspace. Whether you excel in a bustling office or a quiet home office, recognising your ideal setting enables you to make informed decisions about your work environment. A good way to think about this is where you’ve been ’in flow’ and felt energised at the end of the day as opposed to fatigued. So often we speak with candidates who know what they haven’t got in their current work environment but sometimes take for granted what is working for them. 

2. Draw from Strengths and Preferences: Self-awareness goes beyond knowing where you work best; it also involves understanding your strengths, weaknesses, and preferred working style. Whether you’re a collaborative team player or an independent thinker, aligning your work environment with your strengths can enhance your productivity and job satisfaction.

Staying Connected in a Remote World

1. Leverage Technology for Communication: Remote work doesn’t mean isolation. Embrace collaboration tools, video conferencing, and messaging apps to stay connected with colleagues. Regular check-ins, virtual meetings, and collaborative platforms foster a sense of belonging and teamwork. The most common comment I hear from candidates is how productive they are on their WFH day, but they barely left their home office chair as they almost ‘went the other way’ in terms of human connection. Where is your sweet spot between productivity, flow and connection? This is a great reflective conversation to have with your work colleagues as a 2023 wash up – how could we look after ourselves and each other better in 2024? Which leads me to my next point.

2. Establish Virtual Watercooler Moments: Recreate the informal interactions of an office environment by scheduling virtual coffee breaks, casual chats, or team-building activities. These moments contribute to team cohesion and help maintain a sense of camaraderie, even from a distance.

Prioritising Mental Health in a Hybrid Setting

1. Set Boundaries: Establish clear boundaries between work and personal life, especially in hybrid work setups. Define specific work hours and create a dedicated workspace to maintain a healthy balance. This separation helps prevent burnout and promotes overall well-being. Where devices made accessibility for many 24/7 there are also so many technical boundary enablers’. The last one I tried was the Focus Settings on my phone (for work and personal) –a great scheduling tool.  But there are so many available – the key is to trial a few that give you the boundaries you need and that are easy to adjust.

2. Practice Mindfulness: I am not saying this is my strength. Those that know me well would be laughing right now (yes I can chase bright lights). But I would say, I ‘practice’ it. And that’s the point. Incorporate mindfulness techniques into your daily routine versus being good at mindfulness are two different things. What works for you will differ from the next person and it’s often a case of ‘baby steps. But whatever it is for you – meditation, deep breathing exercises, or short breaks (a walk in the back yard/down the street in between virtuals) to clear your mind – practicing mindfulness is proven to improve focus, reduce stress, and help you be more resilient when you’re facing life’s inevitable challenges. And for those ‘bright light chasers’ like me – just practising 5 minutes a day is a step forward!

Embracing Continuous Career Growth

1. Invest today in what the ‘you of tomorrow’ needs – Professional Development and/or Networking: The future of work demands adaptability and constant engagement. It’s important to stay relevant by investing in both your continuous learning and your networks, but so difficult to achieve for many in today’s professional world. 

It’s so easy for me to say “you should attend workshops, webinars, and online courses to acquire new skills and knowledge” but possibly hypocritical if I think back over my own career as there were many times when I just couldn’t. And that’s ok sometimes. As long as you can work through when you can invest this time in the future. So, I’m going to adjust my wording on this for those time poor professionals (most of us). You should look at your schedule and discipline yourself to work out where you can squeeze in time to invest in what you need (skills/network/other) to show up better tomorrow. It could be Professional Development, or it could be Professional Networking – which can coincide and overlay. I have thoroughly enjoyed the recent OnTalent roundtables I’ve recently attended for this very reason. The content is thought provoking and developmental – and the connection and accidental coaching moments that come out of a small group of like-minded professionals sharing their insights – absolutely fills my cup. I know I’m not alone with the stress I feel walking into an event (what I haven’t done yet) versus the energy I feel exiting those events. I know these networks create connections, learnings and enjoyment. What fills your cup – and where is it in your schedule?

 2. Cultivate a Growth Mindset:  This is obviously very well documented topic.  But is so relevant. Those perfectionists afraid to fail – I speak to you! (as a work in progress example). To really continue our career trajectory – we need to make sure we are doing hard things we’re not good at – sometimes – and then seeking the constructive feedback on where those gaps sit. If you can emphasise the process of learning over immediate outcomes – you’ll position yourself for long-term success in a rapidly changing professional landscape.

Navigating the future of work is not easy. The future of work is changing so quickly – the technical requirements are impossible to predict. But your investment in taking a ‘long game’ approach to your self-awareness (i.e. your energy); your skills (and maybe gaps?) your professional development; your trusted network and your mindset – these are some big factors that can impact your future successes – not just in your career in the future of work – but in your happiness.  That is a nice thought!

Donna Bliss leads Ontalent’s Professional and Specialist Recruitment division and has a background in recruitment spanning in excess of 25 years. Donna’s experience spans Human Resources, Executive and Finance recruitment, but has also been instrumental in driving the growth and development of various divisions including Business Support, Contact Centre, Legal, Manufacturing, Facilities Management and other Blue Collar divisions.

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