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Another “New Normal”: 5 Tips For Return to Office Work-Life Balance in Government

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The push for employees across the Federal Government to return to the office in greater numbers has many people feeling off balance. About a third of federal employees report working entirely remotely. Over sixty percent are already working a hybrid schedule, but most reported that means going into the office only once a week.  

After the total disruption of the pandemic, teams settled into this new normal of working from home, finding ways to separate home and work when they are in the same place. Now it seems that an increase in in-office time will create another new work style to adjust to. 

The good news is if done thoughtfully, a balanced return to office can increase job satisfaction. A recent study from the Society for HR Management found that seventy-one percent of workers who came back to the office say they are more satisfied with their jobs and about three-quarters say they are more effective and productive.

So how do you strike that balance of in-office and at-home work to maintain or even improve overall professional wellness? We’ve come up with a couple of tips to help ease the transition. 

Get Social

Utilize the in-office time to your advantage to make new connections with people you might not otherwise talk to. Twenty percent of at-home workers report struggling with loneliness. Make a conscious effort to build in lunches and coffees with colleagues as part of your days. Add more professional events like conferences, breakfast panel discussions, or evening networking events to your schedule on in-office days to help advance professional development and build your professional network. 

Find a Mentor

It might feel awkward to set up a Zoom call with a senior manager that you don’t often work with. However,  running into them in the office kitchen allows for a more natural introduction and opens the door for a more formal mentoring relationship. 

Mentoring is a collaborative, agreed-upon relationship between a senior professional and someone more junior. The idea of a mentor is to give a junior employee a point of contact to bounce ideas off of, seek advice on career decisions, and look to as an example of where they want to go professionally. It is a great relationship to help provide direction toward other training that may support career goals.  

After some initial discussions, a mentee should approach their mentor with the idea of a more formalized exchange of ideas and advice. Together, the two can agree on some parameters, including times to meet, career goals, specific areas for improvement and more.  

Classify Your Tasks

Look at your to-do list and determine which tasks are better completed at home, free of office distractions, and which benefit from in-person communication and coordination. Schedule your days accordingly to become more productive no matter where you work.  When a meeting topic is especially important or complex, make that interaction in person to benefit all attendees.

Communicate your in-office schedule with team members, letting them know which meetings or topics you prefer to tackle in person rather than over email or virtual meetings. Also, make sure your team knows the best way to reach you when you are in the office versus at home. A text may work better on in-office days since you are likely moving around a bit between meetings and in-person conversations while email or Slack may be more efficient for at-home days where you are more closely tied to your computer. 

Watch Your Budget 

Commuting less often can save money, but there are hidden costs in splitting your time between two places. Do the math to ensure you’re not spending more month over month on parking or transit passes by paying the daily rate rather than sticking with a monthly contract. You may also want to reexamine carpooling. Traveling with colleagues five days a week may feel onerous to some people, but if you are looking at that trip only twice a week a carpool option becomes more palatable.  

Like commuting, working from home would seem to be a great way to save on food costs by making it easier to avoid dining out. However, forty-two percent of people that work from home reported their monthly grocery bill increased by over $100. Also, watch the frequency of dining out when you are on site. It’s tempting to “treat yourself” to lunch or indulge in a fancy coffee. 

Contemplate a Career Shift

If new work styles are not working, it might be time to consider a career shift. Cybersecurity should be a consideration for anyone looking for a professional change regardless of technology experience or acumen. Traditionally, we’ve viewed cybersecurity professionals as highly trained technologists, fully embedded in the tech world. But with approximately 700,000 open cybersecurity jobs, there simply are not enough people to meet that description. It’s time to reimagine what a cybersecurity job and a cybersecurity professional look like.    

Many cyber jobs are attainable with a certificate. Government agencies are working to grow their cyber talent and these certificates and training may be readily available for employees curious enough to look for them. In fact, the Biden administration is looking at classic job training strategies to meet the modern demand for cyber professionals. An apprenticeship sprint was designed to expand Registered Apprenticeships, a proven earn-while-you-learn model that aims to build a pipeline of skilled workers. 

Want more professional resources for a more balanced career? Search for events and resources on workforce wellness, HR, and professional development at GovEvents and GovWhitePapers.

 

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