If you are among the millions of employees whose previous work habits, structures or routines were overturned these past two years, then I don’t need to tell you how the pandemic is shifting our business landscape—you’re living it in real-time.
While the U.S. labor market is on the rebound with national hiring rates 158 percent higher in May 2021, compared to the same time last year, how Americans return to work will be different than before. Norms that we once took for granted—or in some cases, just resigned ourselves to—will not be sustainable in this new post-COVID society.
As we have seen firsthand, there’s a preferable, more effective way to do our jobs than being stuck in a cubicle from nine-to-five, then still continuing to answer emails once we leave the office. We’re not interested in high-pressure work environments and long, stressful hours which lead to burnout anymore. The world has changed, as have our priorities. And this means our business models of the past are unlikely to move with us into the future.
Here are a few areas in which we can expect this global pandemic to alter how we work on a permanent basis. And in my own humble opinion at least, many of these transitions are much overdue for the well-being of employees across the board.
Flexible Working Hours Will Be More Normalized.
Some of us are most productive in the morning, while others perform our best in the evening. Some of us want to condense our work into just a few days, while others would rather space our projects out over the entire week. Some of us can grind for several hours at a time without interruption, while others need frequent breaks to care for children or manage responsibilities around the house. A recent survey found that 48 percent of those with the option to flex their schedules report a healthy work-life balance, as opposed to the 36 percent without flexibility. So to boost employee resilience against stress and burnout, more companies now permit workers to choose their own hours as long as all deadlines are met.
Employees Will Push to Stay Remote Long-Term.
In a poll of 1,000 U.S. employees, more than half want to continue working remotely full-time even after Americans reach herd immunity. Another 35 percent would also take a paycut if it means they can hustle from home. In the place of a morning commute and office distractions, many of us have found comfort and enjoyment in working on our couches—or just about anywhere else that’s not a cubicle. Several of the world’s largest corporations are shifting to a WFH model in at least some capacity (think: Amazon, Microsoft, Salesforce, Twitter, Facebook, Verizon, Spotify and more). But whether companies transition to remote altogether or adopt a hybrid structure, the traditional office is likely to phase out.
Diversity and Inclusion Will Be Non-Negotiables.
While the systemic injustices forced upon marginalized communities are by no means new, the events of these last couple years have brought them into sharp relief. As we have seen in both 2020 and 2021, people of color are suffering the brunt of COVID’s health and economic impact. Not to mention, over 67,000 cases of workplace discrimination were reported in 2020 alone. But consequences for racism, ableism, sexism, ageism, homophobia and other forms of prejudice must be taken seriously. Companies cannot shrug off the importance of equitable, inclusive work policies and team dynamics. It’s time to invest in structural changes that will create space for all voices and experiences at the decision-making table.
Toxic Work Cultures Will No Longer Be Tolerated.
Now that the worst is (hopefully) behind us in terms of pandemic layoffs, human resource experts have already begun to forecast an increase in post-COVID turnover rates. With burnout and fatigue on the continual rise, employees do not have much patience anymore for feeling disconnected, undervalued or micromanaged. After so much collective stress, we just don’t have the bandwidth to tolerate a toxic culture with low morale. We want our contributions to be noticed. We want our mental health to be prioritized. We want to be part of the organizational mission. We want to be treated with basic respect. We’ll no longer settle for less, so in order to retain us, companies must re-evaluate their internal cultures.
Do you agree this pandemic will forever change how we approach work as a society? Have you seen any of these shifts take place in your own work environment? What do you hope will be permanent even after the pandemic is finally over? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, and let’s continue this dialogue!