COVID-19 has had a huge impact on working life across Australia. But as restrictions continue to ease, will your familiar work routines start to return? And if you’re still working from home and missing that sense of connection, how can you best stay in touch with your workmates?
There are plenty of creative ways to stay connected, but let’s start with a quick market snapshot. The pandemic has caused wide-scale job losses and shaken the employment market. But the latest data from SEEK shows some promising signs, with job ads continuing to rise from the low they hit in April.
New job ads posted on SEEK during the fortnight ending 7 June were up by 60.6% compared to the April 2020 average. This is a further lift from 26.8% and 39.7% in previous two fortnights.
As far as industries go, the biggest contributors to job ad growth are Trades & Services, Healthcare & Medical, Hospitality & Tourism, Manufacturing, Transport & Logistics and Education & Training. Roles in Consumer Services are also continuing to grow, and are up by 184% compared to April.
Australians still feel uncertain
While rising job ads are a good sign, there’s a long way to go and people’s working lives are still being impacted significantly. Recent research conducted on behalf of SEEK shows fewer people now feel like their working situations are very different than they were before the pandemic (32% in May vs. 41% in April).
At the same time, only 2% feel that their work has returned to normal, and a large portion of the population are still feeling the negative impact of economic uncertainty and isolation from others. Uncertainty is the most common feeling people are reporting at the moment, with 43% experiencing it.
Although the restrictions are easing, one in three people are still working from home and this may continue for some time, especially in states like Victoria and New South Wales, where the instruction is to remain working from home where possible.
Are you missing your colleagues?
While some people enjoy working from home, others are missing their direct interactions with colleagues. Work relationships are highly valued – SEEK research from 2019 shows that two in three people say they’re happier when working on something with a close friend, and 8 in 10 say they’ve had a colleague who has become a close friend.
Just over half believe that working from home has changed interactions with colleagues as a result of COVID-19 – often in a negative way. People are missing their workplace activity and friends – those incidental chats in the hallway, stepping out for a quick coffee or having a good laugh with your team can add so much to your day.
And on a broader scale, 34% claim company culture is different as a result of COVID-19. The positive sign is that 64% who are working from home say their workplace does at least one thing to stimulate workplace culture – and they believe that it’s working.
Tips for keeping in touch
Perhaps your employer is coming up with ways to keep your workplace culture strong, but there are also steps you can take yourself to maintain the personal connection with your teammates.
- Schedule a chat – but not about work!
Try setting aside time – perhaps 15 minutes twice a week – to talk with your team or workmates about anything other than work. You can schedule the time at the start or end of your regular team meetings, or set a time on a Friday afternoon or a Monday morning to talk about your weekend.
- Recreate the coffee machine chat remotely
If you’re craving the conversations you used to have around the coffee machine, try recreating them virtually. You can use the breakout rooms in Zoom or Microsoft Teams, for example, for a 5-minute coffee catch up, or get matched with a new coffee buddy each week through technology like Donut or Coffee Roulette.
- Celebrate special occasions
Are you missing the office birthday cakes or celebratory drinks? Keep special events marked in your diary and continue the celebration remotely – schedule a morning tea via video for a colleague’s birthday, for example.
- Catch up for lunch
A work friendship can be a valuable source of support – it’s great to have a trusted, go-to person in the office. It’s that personal, platonic bond that you may be missing the most while working from home, so consider scheduling a remote lunch date together. You could even try creating the same lunch over video, or each ordering the same kind of takeaway you’d normally head out for when you’re based at the workplace.
- Don’t forget the phone
Video calls have become a hugely popular way for workplaces to communicate during COVID-19. But if you need a good chat with a work friend, try picking up the phone instead. Changing the way you communicate will make your catch up feel less formal – it may even seem more personal.
Genuine connection is what so many of us are craving right now, so look for creative ways to keep in touch.
Source: Independent research conducted by Nature on behalf of SEEK. Interviewing 4800 Australians annually.