Points of view: Polarisation in the workplace

Everyone has their own perception of what their ideal workplace should look like. Some people thrive in a busy work environment, with a bustling office and bubbling conversation. For others, the quieter the better, for concentration and efficiency. But with work from home (WFH) now the norm for many people and offices downsizing or hybrid working, what suits someone doesn’t suit another. Everyone has a point of view, and in some instances it’s causing friction in the workplace.

Different perspectives

For many people, the hybrid working model – of working from the office for part of the week, from home the remainder – is an ideal that was unthinkable a decade ago. The many different pressures of modern life beyond work, such as childcare, school runs or caring for elderly relatives, have eaten into the time available in our daily lives. The flexibility afforded by WFH has gone some way to redressing the balance, with the opportunity to start earlier or later, pop out to pick the kids up, work on later, or make better use of the time usually devoted to the daily commute.

Others have found the extra time afforded by WFH to be valuable for exercise, or to take up new hobbies or interests. But for others, the enforced solitude of WFH is no benefit at all. Some people work better with colleagues around them and certainly, the spirit of collaboration is lessened if the same interactions are carried out onscreen over the internet, rather than in person. People interact differently when they are present with one another in a way that cannot really be replicated online. The solitary nature of home working has also taken a toll on some employees’ mental health. People who previously had no physical or mental health problems at all are now finding that issues like office lighting or the close presence of other people are causing them health or anxiety issues.

A common goal

Some businesses are starting to demand people are back in the workplace, so employees are making the decision as to whether they stay or go. Do they stick with a job they like, but doesn’t allow them the flexibility they enjoyed during lockdown? Or do they seek another role elsewhere? It’s also interesting as to who holds the power here. It’s usually acknowledged that happy staff are more productive, but polar opposite opinions will only cause tension. Bosses will not want to lose disgruntled staff, but many managers see WFH as unmanageable. Common purpose is important and the hybrid way of working is here to stay. Both employers and employees will have to adapt, to make these new methods work for everyone.

Some managers say it’s difficult to ascertain productivity and ‘office hours’ attendance when staff are working at home. But is more time wasted in the office catching up with colleagues when you see them? If it’s an event for everyone to meet in the office, a certain amount of time is lost each time with normal interactions, such as conversation, making a cuppa. But these are part of what makes working in an office fun and mentally beneficial and stimulating. The aspects of the ‘place’ in addition to the ‘work’.

If we are to see a widespread and voluntary return to the office – en masse – then there must be some flexibility on the part of managers and bosses too, when it comes to hours and days worked. In this way, everyone will feel that their point of view has been appreciated and it’s a win-win for all, as they aim for a common goal.

Preparing for your interview – top tips for getting interview ready

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Like all aspects of the working environment over the last couple of years, interviews have changed due to circumstances. Not too long ago, the interview process would be predominantly an in-person affair, if the job was within travelling distance and visiting the premises was permitted. Interview preparation would consist of rehearsing your responses and making sure your appearance and demeanour would elicit the right reaction from your prospective employer.

Changing times

But interviews for jobs further afield – in other countries or sometimes on the other side of the world – have always relied on more remote methods. Due to the pandemic, social distancing and the rise of work from home, there are many more opportunities now for interviews to take place over the phone or onscreen over the internet, via such platforms as Skype or Zoom. It has also become much more commonplace for employees not to meet their work colleagues until much further down the line now, rather than in a training or induction period.

Achievements and ambitions

Whatever the media of communication, your preparation should be largely the same. Anyone preparing for an interview should be confident about who they are. Appearance and first impressions matter, so think about what you are going to wear – and how you will appear onscreen if the interview is remote, or in person, if you are attending a formal interview. If you are having an interview over the phone, it’s very difficult to create a fully-rounded impression of who you are. Sometimes however, phone interviews are ideal for complete impartiality when it comes to hiring new employees – without appearance, age, ethnicity or even name taken into account.

Make sure you are completely up-to-date with your CV and that it’s an accurate reflection of your abilities and career. Also ensure that you can talk knowledgeably and enthusiastically about your achievements and ambitions.  Don’t over-egg the enthusiasm or ambition, but be honest and define where you’d like to see yourself in the future. Think about how you can best phrase your responses.

Be prepared and be confident

Interviewees should have conviction in their abilities and play to their strength, whilst if they have to, also acknowledging their weaknesses. One of the curveballs thrown by interviewers these days is a question like: “Can you identify your weaknesses?”, with the stock, instinctive, usually untruthful reply being: “I don’t have any”. Being able to identify where you may have room for improvement isn’t doing yourself a disservice, but rather demonstrating self-awareness.

Experience and a broad range of interests beyond your chosen field of work are often as important as qualifications and ability. Being able to connect with people on different levels, across different subjects, will demonstrate that you are a great communicator. Talking  knowledgably about a range of subjects and with passion, can show an interviewer there is more you than your CV may indicate. It’s easier said than done, but try not to be too nervous and try to answer any questions as succinctly as possible. If you are uncertain how your responses sound, record your voice and listen to what phrases work best for you.

All this preparation will go towards making sure you give your interviewer a fully-rounded snapshot of your personality and abilities – and your best shot at landing the role.


What makes us human?


AI is becoming more integral to business, but the human approach shouldn’t be forgotten or side-lined. Computers are very good at finding easy ways to do things, making processes simpler and communications quicker. They’re irreplaceable in the modern workplace, but you still need humans for empathy, support and creativity. Here in my latest blog article, I’m going to look at why the human approach is still so important in business.

Futureproof on all fronts

The way AI is taking over many aspects of our lives is happening quietly, almost without us even noticing. This is especially true in business, where we are becoming ever more reliant on technology in our everyday lives. At work, few of us could carry out our jobs without email or an internet connection, while in our personal lives, we’re increasingly reliant on streaming for entertainment and the internet for communication. We often hear about how futureproofing is an important component of any business. We need to make sure we’re not left behind in terms of new thinking, but also that our technology isn’t superseded and becomes outmoded. However, when we talk about futureproofing, it shouldn’t just be about technology.

Ensuring we retain the human touch is an essential part of futureproofing too. We can’t lose sight of what makes successful businesses tick and what makes efficient, productive, creative businesspeople. Human interaction, as we all know, is an essential part of work. It’s important both for efficiency and also has many positive mental health impacts. It’s worth considering how the ‘human touch’ continues to make such a difference to several areas of our lives.

Decision-making and negotiating

One of the biggest advantages humans have over AI is the ability to make informed decisions. By assessing the pros and cons of an argument or problem, we can reach conclusions. Sometimes this can be made by a single person, or it can be a group consensus. But it’s something that must be done by people and the ability to make decisions and to negotiate are talents that successful businesspeople must possess.

Support and empathy

Also important are emotional aspects, such as support and empathy. From ‘reading the room’, to ensuring people who may be encountering mental challenges are adequately supported, these attributes are also something that computers cannot ascertain. It’s often useful to make sure that staff connect ‘in person’, as it’s so much easier to measure someone’s wellbeing by simply looking at them. For example, an email can mask true emotions and feelings, and is often read in the ‘voice’ of the recipient, not necessarily in the tone of the author.

Thinking creatively

Perhaps the biggest and most important aspect of being human is the ability to think creatively. There’s nothing that compares to a group of colleagues in a room, knocking around ideas, compiling a strategy or reaching a conclusion. Imagination is something that cannot be created. These ‘human touches’ are natural traits that can’t be taught and in that way, are entirely crafted by the nature of the individual. We are all different, which as businesspeople makes each of us in our own way unique.

The importance of trust

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Trust is present is all aspects of our lives. From the purchases we make online, to the people we share our workspaces with, to the professionals who care for and educate our children, we put trust in people on a daily basis. As Career Consultants, we are entrusted with peoples’ career choices – and they put trust in us to deliver the best outcomes for them. For example, Career Consultants are given a trusted role when asked to support an employee with outplacement and it’s essential that we render results that will make a difference. So, in my latest blog, I’m considering what ingredients make a good outplacement consultant?

A broad skillset

As a Career Consultant, it’s important to consider what are the attributes that will make a success of the role. What aspects of my personality are strengths in my role and which are less so. When I think about my own experiences of being a Consultant, I think I have a broad skillset that stands me in good stead when it comes to interacting and assessing people. I need the balance of empathy and knowledge, experience and intuition, so that I can find out and ascertain what makes my clients tick.

When I work with people, I always have their best interests at heart. I personally place great emphasis on one-to-one support, either on Teams/Zoom or in-person where possible. To enable our clients to handle change effectively, I must be able to identify their key strengths and values, as well as their core skills and attributes. In this way, I can guide my clients through the outplacement process.

Putting myself in your shoes

I also put a lot of myself into the process, so that aspects such as empathy and knowledge are used by me as well. It’s also important, I think, to have interests outside work – such as reading, sports, travelling or walking – so you can relate to clients on other levels too. I find that being able to talk knowledgeably about a range of subjects will make them relax and aid the process of me ‘getting to know’ them – and the real them, not just the ‘work’ or ‘public’ persona.

My colleagues have different sets of skills to me, which provides an even broader range of options for clients. My colleagues and I will ensure that the type of personality required is matched to their client’s needs. We provide friendly face-to-face consultancy support and my own personality very much goes into my work persona. There’s no mask or facade when talking to clients. Although we also provide email and telephone support, the interpersonal skills important in a one-to-one situation are very much to the fore. In this way, rapport and trust are built in the relationship, and confidence is built.

As Career Consultants, we make a strong commitment to our clients. We put our trust in them too, which will reap rewards in the long run. Ultimately the only person who can find a new role is the client themselves. But it’s my job to guide them in any way I can, by using my experience and rationale, to define their ambitions and identify their career path.


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Welcome to the latest vlog from Career Evolution!

We are continuing to share weekly advice and updates from the industry on outplacement, career management, and coaching.

In our latest vlog, our director, Sue Thomas, rounds up some of our posts from January/February, after returning from the Caribbean she focusses on our blog ‘What does ‘working from anywhere’ mean to you’. You must ensure you have holiday time as well as working. You can put down the laptop, your business is in good hands. There’s so much more to this platform than job searching.

Watch the video below: