COVID-19 Has Changed Our Work Forever
Randy Wolken, President & CEO
Work as we know it has been changed, by what some are now calling, The Great Pause. It gave the entire world a new appreciation for how we can – and must – work in an era of pandemics. In rapid fashion, work shifted from workplaces to homes. We also discovered how essential businesses could reduce densities and provide proper social distances. Millions of office workers in these essential businesses are now working from home – many increasing their productivity. Our fully wired society has learned how work can continue to be done – even during a global pause. So, how much have our work lives changed? Here are a few thoughts that are becoming clearer to me.
First, frontline workers in our economy became essential and more valuable. Society needs to eat, get gas, receive products, have energy, and receive essential governmental services. These jobs usually pay minimum wage or slightly above it. And yet, during a pandemic they are the economic champions that keep us going. Amazon, Whole Foods, Walmart, and Target are just a few of the companies that recognize this now and have rapidly increased their pay and benefits. The Great Pause taught us that frontline workers are critical and valuable. In the future, we will pay them much better. The Living Wage, at what some say is about $15 an hour, is here to stay.
Temporary and part-time workers are a large and growing component of our economy. This will only be accelerated following The Great Pause. We can now hire nearly anyone from nearly anywhere on the planet. Some positions may be temporary with the potential to transition to full-time work. Some positions could remain part-time. Some may only be needed for a short time. Also, consultants and advisors can be hired and used more effectively than ever before.
Digital work can be more efficient as demonstrated during the COVID-19 crisis. No travel is required. We can be in meetings for short periods of time. We can transition quickly and be more focused. I used to have five meetings a day—each an hour in length. Today, I can attend 15 meetings that are each half an hour long. Digital work from home answers a lot of hard questions like childcare, elder care, long commutes, and unnecessary pollution. Not everyone can do it, but many more than we thought can do so permanently or periodically.
We needed more middle managers before the pandemic. Now, we probably don’t. Individuals can be more efficient when expectations are set and communications can occur through short digital updates. Managers will be both producers and have oversight focused on important outcomes. Individual performers will be paid better and given more autonomy.
These few changes that I have noticed are just the beginning of our New Normal. What are you recognizing already as a result of COVID-19? What are your team members talking about? How are you and your team preparing for what has occurred and is still to come? It’s time we all start the transition to the New Normal that is already beginning to take shape.
On a final note, what is most amazing to me is that we learned to quickly transition to this “new normal.” For instance, large universities and companies went totally digital in one week. They had been resisting it for years. We will not stay all digital – but we will not go completely back to the way things were. We will find the balance that achieves the best outcomes. Welcome to the New Normal. We are just beginning to see what it will bring. It will simultaneously offer challenges and opportunities. We all need to be prepared for both.