By Joyce Wayne
If I were teaching at Sheridan College in Oakville, I’d be concerned about returning this September. For the 25 years, I taught at the college, the first week after Labour Day always seemed like the start of the New Year. It’s when students and teachers return to school and start the fall semester refreshed and raring to go. There’s a buzz in the air, new goals are set, friendships renewed, while parents are relieved that their summer duties are over until next June.
This year it’s different. If you have children or grandchildren in school, you’re probably worrying more about vaccination mandates than the courses they’re taking. Our kids were away from school for months. In Ontario, schools were closed for 20 weeks from March 14, 2020 to May 15, 2021 and onward to the end of June. Most college and university students studied online. That’s hard both on students and teachers, and if I were considering retiring, this is the year I’d call it quits. Classrooms are exciting, lively places where the interaction between students and their teachers makes for a vibrant atmosphere. It isn’t easily replicated by online learning or when classrooms become dangerous places where COVID can be transmitted.
It is one of the significant reasons I’m relieved I retired eight years ago and built a new “unretirement” career as a writer. For others thinking about retiring, 2021 might be a perfect time to take the plunge –and not necessarily to a life without work. The New York Times is running a series called “Changing Lives,” It explores the future of remote work where more opportunities are opening for those who prefer to work at home. I’m definitely one of those people.
Impact of Remote Working
When the New York Times asks, “How big of a role will remote work play in the future?” the answer is unequivocal. It’s predicted that “For white-collar employment that can be done remotely, it’s never going to go away, “ reasons the Times. When “offices really fill up again, we will have been doing this for almost two years, and people have realized the benefits of remote work: It works just as well, people are just as productive, and there’s going to be huge resistance to going back full time.” Who can disagree? From both the employer and employee’s perspective, there are enormous benefits to be gleaned from working at home.
According to the Times, “From the management perspective, there’s been a lot of work on how to communicate with your teams when you’re not seeing them every day, and that has often meant more one-on-one meetings with employees. They’ve also had to create new ways of evaluating employees that consider the work that’s actually getting done and not how many hours of work a week someone put in. For employees, they realized how much better it was when they had some autonomy. Maybe that’s going for a run or taking a nap.”
New Reverse Retirement Career
These options mean it’s also an advantageous moment to “reverse retire.” Let’s say you retired five years ago, but you’re not satisfied living without a job to keep your mind occupied, or you might need the financial security a new income delivers.
Younger people are changing jobs faster than ever before. In the U.S., “nearly one in three workers under 40 have thought about changing their occupation or field of work since the pandemic began,” according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll, conducted this July. “About 1 in 5 workers overall have considered a professional shift, a signal that the pandemic has been a turning point for many.” I can’t see why it isn’t the same for older adults. For us, too, the pandemic could be a turning point.
At our house, my husband recently accepted a new position with an airline company. He’s able to work 100 percent of the time from home, so he’s fixed up a home office with all the technical gadgets he needs to do the job. I, too, work at home. We both have our own private areas where we aren’t disturbed and can concentrate on the tasks at hand.
All of this is predicated on having ample room to create a comfortable workspace. When I downsized to a condo ten years ago, we never could have set up today’s system where my husband works on the third floor of our townhouse, and I work on the first floor. I found condo living didn’t suit me at all –too cramped and confining– so we purchased a new home in 2014, where we live today. It offers the space we need to work as we find ourselves bringing in a more substantial income than we expected at this time of our lives.
If you’re living in your home and thinking of downsizing, think again. Not only is your home gone way up in value during the pandemic, but it might also serve as the launching pad for a new reverse retirement career.