By Wendy Chalmers Mill

THE world of work has changed immeasurably for all of us in the past year. The mass switch from office to home working has seen the normal pattern of groups operating together in a dedicated, professional environment to individuals working alone in a domestic setting. The social has become particular, the formal, informal.

As well as the many millions of people now gearing up for a return to the office or the shop floor, there are those at many different stages of their lives, looking for jobs, perhaps in an entirely new industry, facing the prospect of retraining.

Mindful of this, the Scottish Government is funding training schemes that aim to prepare workers for the culture shock of trying to fit in to an environment for which they are not prepared.

As someone who is delivering this training for women, I can tell you that none is more or less prepared than others and the sense of trepidation and lack of confidence they feel can be the same no matter how old, qualified, or experienced they may be.

My most recent cohort of returners to work included those from across the age and social spectrum – the oldest was in her mid-sixties and the group included highly educated and skilled professionals as well as younger members with limited experience.

What they all shared was an enthusiasm and a determination to return to employment following a break, but also a lack of confidence about their ability to fit in to the post-Covid workplace.

Many were anxious about returning to the office or shop floor after more than 12 months because they weren’t sure how quickly they could re-adapt to the demands of being in a formal, professional environment for several hours at a time.

Others feared that during their time away they had missed the mass transition into the virtual sphere and that their lack of familiarity with online video platforms, file-sharing and cloud-based workstations would leave them behind.

A large part of the job of preparing people to return to work is to help them rebuild their confidence.

Those trained to do a specific job have generally already demonstrated an ability to learn and adapt and they can be trained to do another one.

The system of education and training we have in this country teaches people, above all, to be critical, resourceful and to think for themselves. Our economy demand a flexible workforce and we are all part of that.

The technological revolution has transported content that we used to record on paper with pens and typewriters into the virtual world but, for most jobs, what remains important is the content, not the medium in which it’s recorded.

The pandemic may have changed the way we work but the work and the people who do it remains essentially the same.

Wendy Chalmers Mill is managing director of Stirling-based Positive Performance, which advises companies on workplace health and wellbeing.