No two office working patterns seem to be the same anymore.
In some places, a gradual return has meant that senior staff are back in while juniors are at home; in others, office re-entry has been staggered.
Perhaps your ‘in-office’ day is different to the rest of your work pals, who all somehow got Tuesday while you’re stuck in on Thursday.
Or maybe you were given the choice to continue at home full-time and have made that – entirely valid – decision based on family and personal commitments.
Working from home doesn’t serve everyone, but neither does working in office – and the pandemic has clearly shown this, much to the dismay of office managers who are now incentivising staff to come back in.
The change this has imposed upon our work friendships and relationships is being felt by many, and naturally for some, it’s come with paranoia or a strange sense of FOMO – a feeling that was once reserved exclusively for our social lives.
This fear has been worsened by none other than Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has claimed those working from home ‘will be gossiped about’.
Watercooler gossip has long been a stereotype of office culture, but usually the focus is on who-got-with-who at the Christmas party, rather than about who is taking care of their kids at home.
But this is new territory for us all, so feeling some anxiety here is natural.
Career coach at Personal Career Management, Carly Bowers, tells Metro.co.uk there are some tricks to mitigating these concerns.
Keeping in touch is important, and Carly advises: ‘arranging virtual catch-up meetings or calls with colleagues outside of work meetings’.
‘This gives you the chance to also discuss more general topics and keep in the loop on things.’
‘Consider arranging to do this in person at the office where possible and perhaps in a social setting over coffee or lunch from time to time.’
If you’re at home all of the time, you can still stay connected.
‘Team text groups can help with sharing information in an informal but accessible way, so set one up if your team doesn’t have one,’ suggests Carly.
The social side to office life can be a pillar in the enjoyment of your job, so feeling excluded can also impact you professionally.
Carly says it’s vital to be visible, making sure ‘people know what you are working on and how they can contact you should they need to discuss anything’.
She suggests sharing your calendar and keeping it up to date so colleagues know when you are available, both for work and play.
Make it easy for in-office colleagues to know you’re there by ensuring your voice is heard in meetings.
We all know how hard it can be to jump in during an in-person meeting, let alone when there’s a lag virtually, but it really is important.
Carly says: ‘If joining meetings virtually or by phone make sure that you have the space to jump in with your thoughts or opinions.
‘The chair of the meeting should allow for this but if not, you should bring this to their attention.
‘Make sure you’re also having regular meetings with your manager and in those sessions ask for an overview of relevant office and company information they can share.
This may avoid you missing out on information that’s only been communicated verbally.
If the feeling of exclusion continues and is changing the way you work for the worse, it’s up to the office and team to adapt.
Carly says when it reaches this point, you should speak to your manager or HR – after all, you’re only trying to stay in the loop on your job.
‘Talk to others both inside and outside of your organisation who also are still working from home to find out what steps they are taking to feel more included with those in the office,’ she adds.
With all these steps in place, you’re unlikely to be ‘gossiped’ about. Keep calm and carry on (working from home).
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