Updated: Feb 8
✦ It’s fair to say the work environment as we once knew it has changed for good. We are making history, and it's worth paying attention.
We have witnessed this before in history.
Significant events saw sweeping shifts in the work paradigm. They completely reshaped the landscape for decades thereafter. Go back in time to the 1800s when workers in Europe and the United States moved from fields to factories because of the Industrial Revolution.
Move ahead to World War II and we saw women becoming more prevalent in the work place.
And then there was the leap into the digital age of the 1990s where we were driven by the Internet, which changed the speed of decision making and productivity forever.
Our Present Chapter in History
Like the constant turning of the cogwheels, time never stands still, history passes and new events come up. The COVID-19 pandemic has rocked the world and in years to come will feature significantly in the history books as readers no doubt wonder what it was like to live through.
At some point in the future, some of you may be grandparents recounting to your grandchildren what it was like living in our times with the pandemic. Our experiences are an important part of our future and the future of new generations. How we change, the choices we make will all affect how history proceeds from here.
Work Life Through the Pandemic
The pandemic has seen a significant percentage of the global workforce swap the office for home. This has taken the ‘Out of Office’ tag to an altogether different level. Now the more common mantra is ‘Work from Home’ which we have been chanting for close to two years now.
The odd child bursting into the room or the family cat sauntering across the screen mid-zoom call aside, working from home has generally proved to be extremely fruitful with no major adverse effects on productivity levels, a trend that may well become the new norm as we progress.
We also have to bear in mind that what works for one may not be another's cup of tea. This is completely understandable. We are not all the same and we don't have to be.
While for many workers this has been a welcome change, for others it has not exactly been smooth sailing. What workers appreciate about working from home is the enhanced schedule flexibility and reduced commuting. Workers no longer need to wake up at ungodly hours just to brave traffic in order to get to the office on time, not to mention dropping off children at school first. Working from home also means parents can take pick up their children from school in the afternoons and they no longer need to dash through traffic a second time just to make it in the nick of time. Some have found themselves eating healthier because they are home and can prepare their own food instead of eating out every day or grabbing a bite to eat on the run. Some who are lucky to have a second home in a more peaceful location in the mountains or by the sea have found themselves being able to work in a better environment. Remote work has released them from the claws of the confines of the office space to nature and maybe even to a life they could only dream of and can now fulfil. Others have very specific situations where it was highly convenient to be at home during the day and not have to take leave from work, for example, having to look after someone who is ill, if they have renovations going on in the house and they needed to oversee things, or if the plumber or electrician had to come over to fix something. And while this may not sound important, dogs have been delighted to have their owners at home and get their proper walks. We are not so sure what the cats think... they have have been unavailable for comments on this issue.
There is a darker side to working from home.
People have complained of cabin fever, feeling like they are trapped in a Groundhog Day scenario among the same four walls day in, day out. It has made the simple act of going out stressful for some, even when restrictions have eased or lifted and this has increased the challenges of socialising with others. People have difficulty navigating social situations amidst the very sensitive issues of face masks and vaccines. Others have found it impossible to cut the umbilical cord from their work laptop. And it's not because they're so in love with their work. It is driven more by anxiety than passion. Not everyone is lucky to have a huge living space with a separate work area. Others miss feeling the human presence of their workmates - the chatter, the energy, the jokes, the support, the idle small talk at the vending machine, the friendly banter with the receptionists before taking the lift up to the office, the quiet squeeze of an understanding human hand when the day has been tough. People have shared that even something as banal as picking out clothes, getting dressed, grooming, putting on make up, wearing a favourite necklace is something that they have missed. Many are tired of wearing the new pandemic fashion of 'home clothes', which are not exactly as comfy as pyjamas but a tad too casual and homey to be seen in the office in.
The challenging thing is, nothing is ever simply black and white. There are many more layers to uncover about remote working, fully going back to the office or hybrid work. Certain jobs demand a physical presence in the office, and companies are concerned about monitoring and tax issues related to remote work. It is not something to be decided with a roll of the dice. It is a process, and legal rules and regulations aside, every country, business, company, individual will have to experience it and find what works best.
Hybrid work: pros and cons
Hybrid work seems to be the popular choice among companies so far. It makes sense to try to combine the best of both worlds.