Post-Pandemic Workplace Expectations
Are you sick of hearing the word “pandemic” yet? I know I am. It feels like it will never end. However, with the new vaccines rolling out, it appears that there may be a light at the end of that dark tunnel we have all been living in.
When the world opens back up again, and eventually it will, what will it look like? Surely, things won’t completely go back to the way they were before. That includes our workplace. How will that change? I know it has already changed so much. But, what changes are temporary, and what is here to stay?
Let’s think about that. I’m not a health expert, but I would be willing to guess that doctors’ offices and hospitals may continue to require patients and visitors to wear masks while inside their facilities long after the mask mandate has been lifted. You might see people wearing masks while on public transportation much more often in the future now that it isn’t so taboo or foreign to see people wearing them. Hand sanitizing stations will probably continue to be prevalent anywhere groups of people come together. Will social distancing still be a thing a year from now? Maybe, probably…
As for the workplace, the changes that I see continuing in the future are many.
1. Working remotely. What once seemed like a luxury for a select few has now become a necessity. Employers that may have been fearful prior to the pandemic have seen that working remotely hasn’t caused their employees to be less productive, or lazy. Those same employers may be more apt to let people continue to work remotely in the future or at least give employees the option to do it on occasion. Working remotely will become commonplace in the future. Maybe the 9-5, M-F workweek where everyone heads to the office becomes a thing of the past and it becomes a split workforce with some people coming in 3 days a week and working from home 2 days, or vice versa. Or maybe, just maybe, employees only come to the office 1x a week because there are meetings that the boss wants people physically present for. One thing is for sure, working remotely is here to stay.
2. Virtual Meetings. I don’t see this going anywhere either. Let’s be honest, no one was super comfortable having virtual meetings prior to this pandemic. But now, for lack of a better phrase, “This is our new normal.” Video conferencing has become a part of our everyday lives and I don’t think it is going away. Even our kids are in a virtual classroom all day long now. Does this mean that snow days will become a thing of the past? I surely hope not!
3. Mental Health. Every single one of us has been affected by this pandemic in one way or another. Being forced into isolation has caused many people to have heightened anxiety, stress, depression, and loneliness. We have all changed in some way from this experience. Employers need to be aware of this and have a plan to help. Whether it is to encourage people to take advantage of the Employee Assistance Program (if they offer one) or, if the company doesn’t offer mental health benefits through their insurance, now would be a good time to start. Even just encouraging a colleague to go out and take a walk together can have a big impact on mental health. Humans are social beings and not having that social contact on a regular basis can cause a shift in our thinking, and not always in a good way.
4. Adaptability. This is key. We have all learned from experience that sometimes you are forced into a situation where you are required to adapt. That means both the employer and the employee need to be ready to adapt to whatever changes may be coming. We also need to listen to each other’s needs. If we do that, we will succeed.
Who knows when the world will start to feel normal again? Whatever that may look like post-pandemic, know that it will never be quite the same as it was. We have changed.