❷ The 21st century workplace has been in deep transition and transformation for years. The pandemic has accelerated the evolution away from the office as a productivity space to something else — a learning space and a space to solve complex problems. We already saw this during the 2008 recession as coworking spaces and the gig economy took hold. Some ridiculous percentage of workers in the US are independent contractors (I can't find reliable data -- 20% to 40%?), and aren’t connected to one particular office. The pandemic will only decouple the worker from the office even further. Not to mention that the concentration of certain industries to certain cities has made the cost of living completely unamanageable (hello Silicon Valley and SF, among others!), so it was inevitable that the 21st century workplace would go under profound transformation. Companies are currently building the plane as they fly it, as the saying goes, in this regard.
❺ HOWEVER, people are realizing that they miss things about their workspace that have little to do with production. They really need the office for socialization. People need to convene in person at least once a year. PS The lack of socialization is truly isolating for some; and for others, they are profoundly struggling with anxiety and stress related to non-work issues that are emerging from this year's MANY struggles. I have worked with several clients to create "safe spaces" to talk about these things. It has proven very fruitful.
- No more irrelevant travel
- More focused time -- fewer pop-in interruptions, less random conversations.
- Shorter meetings
- More flexible time with family
- No commute!
- It took awhile, but many are finally in the groove of WFH
- Everyone has to do it;
- Thus we had to collectively figure out challenges.
- Before, remote work was compared to the office, where we’d never have kids or pets in the picture! So it seemed less professional and legitimate?
- In the past, virtual workers felt "lesser than" and left out - no longer!
❾ Managers are bearing the brunt of the shift to remote work. Occupied by supporting employees, managing dispersed teams, nurturing connections. Increased frequency of 1:1’s. Less team collaboration time needed as a result, so meetings can be shorter. Managers also should know the habits and styles of their team; figure out best focus time, best meeting times. Also important to establish expectations in terms of turnaround for email, messaging. (This could be an entirely separate post - contact me if you have questions...)
LAST BUT NOT LEAST... Our job moving forward will be to be committed long-term to keeping our work human. There will be a temptation to move even more work to digital platforms and keep tasks and project management front and center rather than keep working on trust-building and maintaining relational bonds.
All that to say, workplace stress looks really different now. Again, feel free to contact me with questions and feedback. I really have talked to so many different about their situations and would love to assist you! (Or just listen and commiserate 😅) Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.