How Has Your Work Life Changed?

The nature of work life had been changing, but the COVID pandemic accelerated that change. How we work may never be the same again.

While some companies closed temporarily or permanently, others adapted in ways that may have long-lasting impacts.

Many companies were hesitant to encourage their employees to work from home. There was some concern that productivity would plummet, if workers were at home, where there were innumerable distractions.

However, those fears appeared to have been overblown. Productivity did not take a noticeable hit when employees were forced to work from home, even if they have kids they suddenly needed to provide daycare for. And office space can be quite expensive, so downsizing corporate buildings can have measurable financial benefits.

Even beyond that, quality of life for employees working from home can improve significantly. Commute times drop to zero, and a worker can put in just as many hours at their job, and still have time to devote more time to family. A happy employee is a productive employee.

Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘How do you define success?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘Is happiness the most important purpose in life?’

Still, there are concerns that communication between co-workers may suffer. It is also difficult to build a sense of camaraderie between employees who spend little to no time in close proximity.

As government guidelines change, so companies are requiring their workers to go back to the office, while some are not. Even those that go back may find some things have changed in the year and a half since the pandemic started.

What about you? Are there differences in the way you do your work? Are there differences in the way your business or your company thinks about remote work? How has your work life changed?

Related questions: How do you want this to change you? Work or play? What is your dream job? What is the value of inefficiency?

4 thoughts on “How Has Your Work Life Changed?”

  1. My work life has changed, mostly for the better but there are certain drawbacks as noted in the context set for this question.

    First and on positive notes, instead of being in the office five days a week — unless it’s legislative session, in which case I will be at the State Capitol most days of the week — I go into the office three or four days a week. This flexibility is, no doubt, welcoming on a personal front. It breaks up some of the monotony, priming my brain for different types of activities based on where I am at. For instance, when at home from a professional development and catching up on the current state sides of things, I like that I am devoting more time to reading about the issues pertaining to my work. That is, the history and current state of tenant-landlord law, our nation and state’s racial discrimination in housing policy, and issues related to affordable housing and homelessness. So, I’m reading more memos, reports, and books related to these issues. When in the office, while not an outside expectation, I just feel like I should be doing, doing, doing. This time spent reading, makes me a much better advocate.

    As a positive from an environmental standpoint, less commuting means I and others have been reducing our carbon footprint. That’s great!

    Also, using technology more to hold meetings means that we’re involving more folks from outside the Twin Cities metro area to consider and advocate from a statewide perspective. Having the regular input from those in Greater Minnesota is a super plus side to the changed expectations of our work.

    Negatively, I miss the collegiality. While I go into the office a decent amount of time, many of my colleagues are working from home perfectly fine. Will this change a bit when the school year starts? I hope so, at least a little bit. I miss being able to have small group in-person discussions to problem solve and brainstorm.

    The pluses outweigh the negatives. I feel this will be an ongoing trend. I think remote working is going to increase more and in significantly more productive ways as time goes on and technology finds ways to address the drawbacks of less in-office work.

  2. I started working at a bookstore just before the pandemic started. It might seem like nothing much would change in a retail environment. You can’t do a retail job remotely.

    Everything shut down in March 2020, and that included the bookstore. During that time, however, an effort was made to get the entire store’s inventory online at the store’s website. Out of necessity, we developed a process by which people could browse and buy online, and the staff would fulfill the orders without the customer setting foot in the store.

    That lessened once the store opened up last summer, but we continue to maintain the online inventory, and the number of customers who mention they routinely use the website to see if we have a particular book in stock prior to coming in to the store to browse/buy is quite impressive. It has proved to be a significant improvement.

    The other change is that the employees, me included, wear masks all (business) day, every day. We also require mask wearing for our customers, primarily because a sizable percentage of our customers in the store are under 12 years old and therefore are unvaccinated. Also, the store is pretty small, so even a couple of people who are browsing the same section can be breathing each other’s air.

    Some customers have balked at having to wear a mask, even though they are vaccinated. However, the number of people complaining about it has gone down as the number of cases has risen (for which I am grateful).

    Oh yes, one last change: an increase in business. It turns out that when people are stuck at home, they do more reading. And with libraries being closed, bookstores, online or in person, are often the only option for places to get books. And, thankfully, people have been very vocal about supporting our small, local business.

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