As infection rates associated with the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated in March 2020, companies and organizations around the world abruptly sent employees home to work. More than one year later, many of these same employers are confronted with workforces that have adapted to — and learned to love — the work-from-home arrangement.
According to Keleigh Asbury ‘96 HHD, Penn State Smeal’s director of alumni career services, there was already interest in job flexibility before the pandemic. Today, clients of Smeal’s career coaches are actively looking for employers open to remote talent.
Smeal alumna Rebecca Savikas ‘99 Mktg, vice president for talent strategy and enterprise change, and HR business partner at Highmark Health, believes that remote work is here to stay.
“The pandemic has really shown what is possible and how people can work,” Savikas says. “Working remotely can be done effectively if the right expectations are set. At Highmark, we are looking for outcomes, not activities. Open communications between employees and managers and flexible employment policies that support business objectives are essential to be successful.”
The challenge, Savikas said, is for companies to determine exactly what remote work looks like in a post-pandemic world: What will physical offices look like? Will employees be reimbursed for things such as internet access or office supplies that support their remote office? How do you onboard new employees or create impromptu “hallway moments” between colleagues?
“There are many important things to consider as companies are preparing to return to work, and it’s important that they take their time to make decisions,” she says.
Asbury said that remote work options are just one change employees should expect in the year ahead.
“The pandemic accelerated opportunities in areas such as e-commerce and automation,” she says. “Smeal alumni can effectively pivot to a growing field or industry, create a new business venture through entrepreneurship, or support innovation in an existing organization with the help of a strategic career plan focused on the intentional combination of self-discovery and job market research.”
For alumni interested in exploring remote work options in their current field or new opportunities outside of a traditional career structure, Smeal’s experienced career coaches can offer an in-depth understanding of LinkedIn and other resources to support a pandemic-era job search strategy.