The landscape of work has been forever altered by what we've collectively experienced over the last two years, and with it, employee motivations. Many have taken the time to reconsider what is truly important, both at work and at home. Values have changed, and people are making concerted efforts to craft a different experience. Finding employment aligning with your values may feel like a daunting exercise, but the benefits to your mental health can not be overstated.
If you’re like most employees in 2022, you want to work for a company that grants you autonomy – keeping you engaged and motivated. The flexibility to support a positive life-work balance is also shown to be very important, quite often, even more so than compensation. Additionally, you would likely prefer to work for a company with a great culture: one which supports your wellbeing, helps you stave off burnout, and aligns with your values.
All these requests are perfectly reasonable, and fortunately, it is currently an employee’s job market. Employees are continuing to quit in record numbers. Employers are scrambling to fill positions, and workers are no longer settling for positions that don’t meet their personal and professional needs.
Keep reading to learn how you can secure a position that meets all your requirements.
Flexibility on the Job
Having autonomy at work means you have the freedom to decide when and how you work. This should not suggest there is no oversight from upper management. It simply means when you are told what needs to be done, it is left to you to decide how you will meet the goal.
In some companies, you may be allowed to determine when you choose to work, setting your own schedule. In others, you may be allowed to decide how your work is done based on your education and talent. There are varying degrees of autonomy that could be offered, familiarizing yourself with them will determine how much you think you may need.
Studies have shown employees experiencing more autonomy in their job results in increased job satisfaction, in addition to improved productivity. Autonomy is also responsible for increased motivation and happiness and decreased employee turnover.
With all the positive outcomes that result from autonomy within the organization, both for you and the company, one would think it would be standard practice. But finding a company operating this way can prove challenging, although more companies are considering its importance.
With how important this one aspect of work is, it would behoove you to do your research to ensure the company you’re eyeing trusts their employees to do the jobs they were hired for. Determining the level of autonomy offered by a company during the interview can feel intimidating. Keep in mind, that their response to your inquiry should give you the information you need to make the right decision for you.
You are complex, multi-faceted. You have a lot going on in your personal life; you have a family, you have passion projects, you have a life. You need a work structure that accommodates these responsibilities and any others you determine.
Prior to the pandemic, you were expected to fit your personal life into your off-hours without question, and you did. The pandemic changed everything, including what you believe is important. With a forced reevaluation of life, it should surprise no one that overworking while missing your life ranks poorly.
The pandemic has helped to normalize more flexible work arrangements. It has also brought forward conversations about work structure. During an interview, you can get an idea of flexibility by asking questions about how the organization has shifted its expectations to meet the challenges of the pandemic.
It’s important to note though, that while general conversations about structure are probably to-be-expected, it’s not a great idea to bring up your personal situation right off the bat. If you do have a specific need for flexibility, don’t give too much information about the situation, as this can bring out unintentional biases. Additionally, make sure to emphasize how you’ve previously been successful in your roles while managing your other demands.
After several false starts, companies are starting to seriously discuss a return to the office. What that looks like will depend on the company; some are happy to remain remote, while others are toying with hybrid options, and still, others institute a mandatory return to the office.
Some employees aren’t ready to give up the autonomy and freedom they have gained over the last two years of remote work. In a survey of 1,000 workers, over half indicated that they would prefer to work remotely, permanently. If you are one who is strongly opposed to a return to the office, you may be able to work with your supervisor to gain more flexibility. You can try to do this by showing them that your productivity has flourished during remote work.
Otherwise, you may wish to pursue opportunities that allow more flexibility in this regard. There is still uncertainty going forward, and some companies have yet to make decisive plans. However, if the option for remote or hybrid work is high on your priority list, you’ll want to know what a company’s return-to-work plan looks like.
Pay attention to how the company justifies its future plans, and what factors they consider in determining whether to be in-person, remote, or hybrid. If they have not indicated plans for remote or hybrid options, it can be assumed they will expect employees fully in-person. But if they have adjusted for long-term remote work (such as starting a hoteling policy, where workers can reserve desks on an as-needed basis) they will likely provide more flexibility.
More workers are asking for raises or increased starting salaries. With the increased demand for employees, employers know that they need to provide appealing wages to remain competitive. If you’re looking for a salary increase at your current job, check out our tips on how to ask for a raise. If you’re looking for a new job and want to know how to negotiate a higher starting salary, read on.
- Do your research
Before you begin negotiating your salary, it’s important that you get a preliminary idea of what is reasonable for your position. A great place to start is to use tools such as glassdoor, Payscale, and salary.com. These sites can help you explore the typical going rates for your role.
An article on salary negotiations by the Wallstreet Journal features some expert advice from workplace consultant Lindsey Pollak. She suggests asking company-specific questions on areas such as typical wages and salary negotiations. This will help you better grasp what wages you can expect, as well as help you better prepare for negotiating your salary.
- Rely on your performance to justify why you deserve a raise
Prices of everything from groceries to gas are up, and inflation is at play. It makes sense to use the higher cost of living to justify your request for a higher salary, as that seems only fair. However, compensation experts advise against it. It is suggested to be better to focus on your specific performance and achievements, rather than outside influences. Inflation impacts everyone, but your performance and contributions are unique to you.
When asking for a higher salary, it’s important that you find a way to stand out. You should emphasize your value as an employee and explain why you are worth the investment.
- Don’t be the first to suggest a number
While it might seem like being the first to suggest a number would be advantageous, negotiation experts advocate against it. The reason for this is that you risk anchoring yourself to a lower salary range. If they offer a salary that is lower than you expected, that is when you should reveal your expectations, and let them know you had anticipated a higher rate for the role.
Another element that has become a deciding factor for many employees is company culture. You spend a great deal of your time at work, and you want to work in a place that feels good and allows you to grow. A big part of this depends on upper management’s style of management, as this affects employee motivations. The management style of the person you report to will have a great effect (for good or bad) on the company culture, but most importantly on you. Having a great boss can enhance your quality of life at work and at home. Make sure to be on the lookout for these qualities when you are interviewing your prospective employers. A company with great culture will show concern for its employee’s well-being and will take active steps to curtail burnout. Ensuring your values are in alignment from the start will save you from much stress and regret in the future.
In a recent survey, 68% percent of Millennials (50% in 2019), 81% of Gen Zers (75% in 2019), and 50% of all respondents (34% in 2019) reported having left roles for mental health reasons. The survey noted here was conducted prior to the pandemic, and mental health issues have only compounded. Mental health matters and you deserve to work for a company that recognizes this. Whether or not the company you work for actively plans mental health initiatives, it is a good idea to maintain healthy boundaries, in order to maintain your own peace.
It should not be difficult to get a sense of whether a company takes mental health seriously. Many companies have implemented some mental health support such as access to counseling apps and company-wide mental health days. These are good indicators that a company is making progress toward mental health awareness. Most important, however, is to pay attention to the overall culture, and how much empathy and flexibility they make space for.
Burnout is real. And considering everything we all have been through over the last two years, many are feeling it. Check out our blog on avoiding burnout for some tips you can take on an individual level. You’ll also want to make sure that your current or future job is conducive to fighting off burnout.
One way you can do this is by looking into attrition rates. If there has recently been a high number of departures, this could be a bad sign. It indicates there are factors driving workers away, and the workers left behind are tasked with picking up the slack.
Additionally, if you get a sense that an organization is desperate to hire you, be careful. This could mean that you’ll be overloaded with work as soon as you join on and may not receive the training needed to be successful.
Values matter. Working for a company that doesn’t share your values makes it difficult for you to stay motivated to bring your best to the job. In a recent survey, 71% of workers indicated that they would be willing to leave an organization whose values didn’t align with their own. So, how can you get an idea of a company’s values?
You can start by doing some research. Look at a company’s website and the language that they use. Pay attention to whether they list specific actions they are taking to reflect these values. Also, read laterally by examining other sources and see what they might have to say about your potential company’s history and values.
Furthermore, you can really get a sense of a company’s values by making them a central topic in your interview. This article by Harvard Business Review has some great strategies for conducting a values-focused interview. Start by identifying a few of your key values. Then ask open-indicated questions that give your interviewer a chance to reveal how important these values are to the company.
There is much to think about while looking for your perfect position within the perfect (for you) company. Having a strong sense of self and solid goals will help you find what you are looking for. It is easy to let your excitement drive your decision-making but taking your time to do your research will pay off with a perfect match. Just think of how happy future you will be when you are working in the position you have been striving for, within a company aligning with your values. Flexibility and well-being should not be considered perks of a job, they should come as standard. The life-work balance you agree to for any company can be to your own detriment if you are not careful. Make sure you are able to fit your work into the life you want, and not let your work take up too much of your life. You only get one life. Never forget that you are human first and you deserve a beautiful one.