The pandemic changed the way we work. These 9 changes are here to stay.

Last week the United States marked a grim anniversary: it’s been two years since the first known case of COVID was identified in the United States. Less than two months later, the country would undergo an apocalyptic lockdown. Soon the “post-pandemic predictions” articles began rolling in on what life and work would look like once this whole ordeal was behind us.

Little did society know, predictions were fairly useless when it came to public health and COVID in particular. As far as predictions go, the pandemic has stretched on much longer than anyone foresaw. So while we still cannot safely say what life will be like “post-pandemic,” we can surmise that these changes that occurred during the pandemic, will never go back to the way things were in the “before times.” Here are nine ways work changed during the pandemic that are sure to stick for the long haul.

The pandemic changed the way we work. These 9 changes are here to stay.

  1. Workers with families act like they’re workers with families. Before the pandemic, whether employees worked remotely or in the office, it was fairly commonplace to make sure there was little to no discussion –much less disruption–due to parenting or caring for aging parents or ill loved ones. While the challenges of balancing personal responsibilities and work responsibilities has not diminished, the guise of the home life not existing is no longer there.  
  2. Commuting to the office for no particular reason is viewed as impractical. While working side-by-side in an office will no longer be deemed “unsafe,” it will be seen as an imprudent use of time and money. People can work from home when they are doing more solitary tasks and will come together for planning meetings, brainstorming, and negotiations. Working together in person will continue to be the exception, not the rule. 
  3. People leave jobs where they do not feel safe or supported. The Great Resignation will continue to burn as people feel the benefits of full employment and a candidate’s market. The feeling of being expendable that workers experienced early in the pandemic will continue to make people feel open to scanning job postings, asking for raises, and moving on to new opportunities if they feel their current employer will not give them the flexible work arrangement and appreciation they deserve. 
  4. The 9-5 workday is dead. For better or worse, with the intermingling of work and home life, people will continue to work non-traditional hours, whether they answer emails late into the evening, or take an early afternoon break to walk the dog. Commitment to the company is no longer measured by who starts the coffee or turns off the lights at the end of the day. 
  5. Teams have to work harder to feel connected. It is not as easy to build rapport over video conferencing and phone calls as it is in the office. Managers must do their due diligence to build connection and camaraderie across the team. 
  6. Early career workers face new challenges. A generation of junior level employees never experienced the “before times” in the workplace. They are facing fewer opportunities to learn, advance, and connect with mentors. This needs to be addressed. 
  7. Mental health is no longer a taboo subject. While Americans have continued to work through trying circumstances to an absurd degree, we at least are talking about the impact of traumatic circumstances on our mental health. 
  8. Micromanagement is out. Employee trust and independence is in. It’s increasingly difficult to micromanage employees who do not report to an office. And it is increasingly exhausting for managers to keep tabs on every moment of an employee’s day. As a result, employees take more ownership of their work and performance improves. But beware of the inverse of micromanagement: undermanagement. It is a problem too.
  9. Some of the best talent want to be free agents. During the pandemic almost all workers were forced out of their routines, in one way or another. Some talent realized they could earn more by becoming contractors. Others decided to freelance. Many have quietly said “if they require us to return to the office, I’ll quit.” As a result, many people became open to the idea of contract work for the first time and they have no interest in going back to full-time employment. Get in touch with us to learn more about our contract talent solutions.

No one can say with certainty when COVID will have no impact on daily life, but the cascade of changes for professionals cannot be understated. This is the “next normal.” And now is as good a time as any to embrace it and consider how we can contribute to making work and life better across organizations and industries today and into the future.

by McKinley Marketing Partners