What Work Looks like in a World Shaped by COVID

What Work Looks like

The COVID-19 pandemic affected how we work in so many ways. What changes are leaders prepared to accept and embrace long-term?

 

“Working from home can make us feel like we have more control over our days and lives.” – Skip Prichard

 

Positives of Working from Home

When John Dillinger, the famous bank robber, was once asked, “Why do you rob banks?” he famously replied, “Because that’s where the money is.”

Similarly, many of us work in large, centralized offices because “that’s where the work is.” The economics required to keep many employees in close proximity is often dictated by the realities of space, communications, technology and resources. Before personal computers, the Internet, email, faxes, and cell phones, there just wasn’t an alternative. If you needed to get a report from someone in accounting, you got up and walked two floors down.

Yet that reality drove so many other behaviors. In the case of commuting, it drove us, quite literally, for an average of 226 hours a year. That’s 28 workdays a year spent in a car. For most people that’s more time than they get for vacation. And it’s not just about time. Studies show that commuting can also negatively impact your health.

So, it comes as no surprise to me that when I ask, “Are there any positives about working from home during the pandemic?” the answer that most often comes up is, “Oh, I love not having to deal with the commute.” Throughout history, shifts brought on by seismic world events have driven some very important, positive changes.

Some other benefits from less commuting:

  • Less stress
  • Less expenses on gas, cleaners, etc.
  • Less environmental impact
  • More balance in life (more exercise, family time)
  • More control

 

“Working from home can be better for focus, but leaders need to be aware of the people on their teams and proactively check in more.” – Drew Bordas

 

Listen to the Aim Higher episode by clicking here.

 

Negatives from Working At Home

It’s been nearly two years of living and working in a world shaped by COVID-19. And I think we’re all beginning to see that some of the ways we’ve adapted to this environment will linger after the pandemic is in our rearview mirror. Many are working at home and have been struggling with:

  • Less commute time to detox before entering family life
  • Less true connection with others
  • Less team bonding
  • Strategic conversations not the same
  • Loneliness
  • Not having boundaries, never unplugging
  • Technical support may be more challenging

 

“Technology empowers our ability to work flexibly, but it also follows us more than we might want.” – Tammi Spayde

 

Use the Extra Time

For those who work at home now, what do you do with that extra 28 days saved by not commuting? What should we as leaders do about it? And what should we do about all the other changes driven by pandemic requirements?

That’s the topic my panel of experts takes up this week in “Aim Higher.” How do we thoughtfully take advantage of the positives we’ve seen while mitigating the negative aspects of work-from-home?

Major cultural, technological, and global shifts are bound to have impacts on how we work. Yet we’ve seen that those changes can often lead to long-term benefits. My guests have some thoughts on how you can manage through the negatives and lean into the positives as we plan to lead our teams into a future indelibly marked by the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

“Relationships can take a hit if you’re not really purposeful about maintaining them.” – Elyse Wampler

 

Note: Our research team at OCLC recently published a report, “New Model Library: Pandemic Effects and Library Directions,” that addresses these issues within the library profession. While the details for your industry will be different, there is much within the report to consider for anyone interested in how organizations can adapt strategic planning around the realities of COVID-19 effects.

 

Image Credit: Kevin Bhagat

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