March 2022 Newsletter: 2022 Survival Guide: Navigating the Next Phase

This is our attempt to take a step back and try to see the forest for the trees. The world of work has been in the midst of unprecedented change and upheaval.

Three factors to set the stage: First, we are experiencing a historic period of technological advancement. Technology has obviously been advancing steadily for decades, but the current acceleration of change is higher due to machine learning, artificial intelligence, the internet of things and automation. The rate of learning is accelerating and the impact of this has a great impact on the workforce. Encouraging your kids to pursue math and science might be a good idea. Jobs in technology or STEM related fields are in high demand.

Second, we are in a historic shortage of talent marked by 20 years of what has been dubbed as a “war for talent”. In other words, our economy has grown faster than the talent pool over a sustained period. Finding and keeping talent has never been more difficult.

Third, our individual and collective psychological state has been altered. This may have started on 9/11/2001 and then we were shocked again with the financial collapse of 2008-09. We were then dealt another blow with a two-year pandemic now exacerbated by anxiety over inflation, the economy, and the potential of an expanding war in Europe. Our collective “fight or flight” response is on high alert. Many have indeed taken flight and have made life changes while others likely are hanging on tight, or worse, feeling immobilized. Even the most stable and secure human beings are rattled. It is particularly hard on those who already struggle with depression and anxiety. We all need to remember to be kind, as we never know what someone is going through.

What can we do?

Embrace Change – Denial is not a strategy. Like it or not, human values and priorities are changing. If you’re an employer, you need to make your work environment attractive or appealing to changing preferences. You are competing for talent against others who are embracing change. We are beginning to experience the “have and have nots” based on a company’s ability to adapt to a workforce demanding more flexibility. People are leaving for opportunities to work on a more flexible basis.

Embrace technology. If you are struggling changing technology, make it an area of focus. Try to turn technology into an area of strength for you personally or your company. This is your opportunity to avoid being “like your parents.” Get over your attitude and double down on learning and help bring other boomers along (including me!)

Feeling Jumpy? Think Before You Jump. It is natural to try to reestablish control by changing something. Over 47 million people quit their jobs in 2021 and many of them now regret their decision. “Seven out of ten workers — about 72% — admitted that they were surprised to learn that their new roles or companies were different from what they were led to believe during the interview process, according to the survey of more than 2,500 millennial and Gen Z job seekers by The Muse,” as quoted by FOX Business online. The grass is not always greener, and people are often finding they just swapped out one set of problems for another situation that isn’t all that different. Do your due diligence with a potential new employer before accepting an offer and don’t burn your bridge when you leave.

Make a Mistake? Correct It. If you made a mistake, don’t knee jerk into a new mistake. Consider if you are able to go back to your past job. Examine why you quit in the first place. Did you like your boss and your team? If you do go back, can you negotiate a better deal? Maybe you can find ways to increase development opportunities or responsibilities. This might not be an option however and it also might be the wrong option. The good news is that it is a candidate driven market and you can A what you have learned into your new job search.

Considering Retirement? Prepare a plan for how you will spend your time. Anyone considering retirement will have an easier time if they have a plan on what they are going to do or how they are going to spend their time. Having a break might sound appealing but when the weekend never ends, it can be unsettling and can produce decreasing feelings of self-esteem. Find things you love to do and things that make you happy. Focus your time on helping others and bring structure to your retirement. Slowing down or moving to part-time can be a good solution if you have that option.

Best Work Arrangement? Evidence is mounting that working 100% remotely makes it harder, not easier to maintain balance. Having a separate place to conduct work can help you feel like you can relax more at home with products like the marathon og strain. Over the long run, being physically away from the team, senior leadership, HR, etc. may lead to less exposure and opportunity for advancement. A hybrid option may be the ideal solution if it is available.

However You Are Feeling – It’s Okay! This might be the first time you are feeling anxiety or depression – you’re not alone. It is important to take care of your mental health. The pressure we are feeling from stress, fear, trauma, and loss can cause lack of focus and forgetfulness. The research put forth by Alvin Chang’s article in The Guardian shows how stress can cause permanent changes on what motivates us. “I believe the deepest, longest-lasting legacy of Covid-19 might be on our mental health,” Snowden said. “The world was not prepared for the physical disease; we’re totally unprepared for the mental disease that will follow in its wake…Are we as a society ready to recognize that need?” Chang emphasizes this by noting that the number of households reporting a family member (or members) with depression has tripled since the beginning of the pandemic.

We are truly working in unprecedented times. Recognizing the reasons for our stress is the first step in coping.

Change has hit many of us like a tidal wave and yet most of us have weathered it. Embracing the new dynamics is all we can do and having a plan is the best chance for success. Employers need to understand and lead in a way that makes the workplace attractive and flexible. Technology can be a positive tool to make work easier and more efficient. Remember if you are considering making a change, look before you leap! Be sure you aren’t trading one set of issues for something similar and don’t burn bridges on your way out if you do leave. Most importantly, recognize the impact these past few years have had on your mental health and that of others and treat everyone the way you would like to be treated.