Consideration of Flexible Work Schedule in Post-Pandemic High School Career Exploration
By Paula Mooty
Career specialists have long been helping students envision and plan for their future careers. Career counselors, educators, and coaches specifically are knowledgeable and informed about employment trends, including work schedules, environment, and context. Though gaining popularity among employees and employers in recent years, the reality of telecommuting, or “working from home,” increased exponentially with the 2020 pandemic. Career specialists are well-positioned to add flex schedule information to students’ career exploration exercises and focus on the new post-pandemic work world that awaits them.
Flex Schedule is the New Reality in a Post Pandemic Workplace
According to a study in 2017 by Flex Jobs and Global Workplace Analytics, the number of U.S. employees working from home had grown by 115% since 2005 (Bibby, 2017). In the post-pandemic world, working remotely will be a real possibility for many students on the cusp of joining the job market. As these students consider their future careers, they will benefit from the guidance of career specialists to navigate their career choices that includes the possibility of a flexible work schedule.
Students might explore and find a growing number of jobs will allow flexible hours, as employers are noticing the benefits of this schedule. According to one study, production was shown to increase 13% (partially due to fewer breaks and sick days) and satisfaction of the employees who were allowed to telecommute improved. Fifty percent of the employees chose this work schedule mode with even more improved productivity when the option was offered (Bloom et al., 2015). Flexible work schedules may appeal to students who are now accumulating a positive history of being educated remotely by teachers. Virtual learning options have become more available, as have digital means of communication and sharing. This pandemic new norm's ease and success may lead students to seek a similar work schedule as part of the desired outcome in their career exploration.
What Students Need to Know about Flex Schedule Work Option
That leaves the question: How can career specialists in the school help prepare students for the possibility of an alternate work schedule or working from home?
- Investigate trending terminology. Below are a few terms outlined on FlexJobs (Bibby, 2017):
Remote: work can be done from anywhere or might be a home-office combination.
Virtual: work is done 100% from a remote location or home.
Mobile: work can be done from any geographic location or jobs that encompass some route or territory.
- Provide students with a list of advantages and disadvantages of opting for a flexible work schedule, including other important considerations. For instance, advantages of a “work-from-home” situation might include savings on childcare, travel-work combination, or a comfortable, safe, familiar, and/or quiet work environment.
- Incorporate discussions about the new reality of the post-pandemic work world into the career planning and exploration process. Embedding the discussion of potential flex schedules could very well change the career choice process dynamic and make jobs that are hitherto not attractive become more attractive career choices for students.
- Help students become adept at troubleshooting basic technology issues and using internet resources, telecommunications, and digital file-sharing. They could be encouraged to take classes that reinforce these skill sets.
- Encourage students to develop the soft skills vital to their success in the new remote workplace. Some common soft skills are still valuable but may need to be tweaked for an alternate work schedule. Communication skills must still be strong, but now more emphasis might be placed on monitoring appropriate tone in digital communications.
Online communication privacy and confidentiality issues are not new but will demand more attention.
Work ethic and self-discipline remain important, but telecommuting workers must self-regulate, set goals, and accomplish them independent of a mentor's motivating presence.
Re-imagining High School Career Exploration
As alternate work schedules become more popular, accepted, or even required, students will indeed be taking a look at these schedules as they examine their career options. Therefore, career counselors and educators should start by re-imagining high school career exploration to include these new work schedules and introduce this new reality into the career exploration process early. Career counselors may also present new terminology and specific skill sets related to this work schedule to aid students in career decision making.
Bibby, A. (2017, November 17). What is Telecommuting? A How-To Guide. https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/what-is-telecommuting/
Bloom, N., Liang, J., Roberts, J., & Ying, Z. J. (2015). Does working from home work? Evidence from a Chinese experiment, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 130(1) 165–218, https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qju032
Paula Mooty is currently a career and technical teacher in Prairie Grove, Arkansas. She has a wide variety of teaching experience from public school to adult programs. She is a veteran teacher of over 30 years, serving as a mentor to teachers and workshop presenter. Paula recently wrote the Arkansas Ready-For-Learning Career Development Playbook, which serves as a resource guide for those teachers in the state. She holds a B.S. in Business Education and M.Ed. in Educational Technology and enjoys reading, developing and facilitating teacher workshops and continuing her own professional development. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org