In a world turned upside down, the coronavirus has forced us all to make unexpected, difficult and near-overnight adjustments to our careers and lifestyle. Though many people feel anxious about the uncertain future ahead, there could be positive transformations to emerge from the pandemic. If we can, thinking of these changes as a silver lining amidst a crisis is a positive way to find hope for different — and perhaps, better — new normal ahead.
We checked in with industry experts and trend forecasters to get a look at what may not return to ‘normal’ in a post-COVID-19 world, and why that might not be such a bad thing.
More Flexible Schedules For 9-5 Office Job Employees
Being able to work remotely or even take a single day away from the confines of an office used to be seen as a unique perk in a company’s benefits package. But over the past two months, millions of professionals have figured out how to be productive from their homes. While some may not like it, others love it, and Liz Tenety, a work/life expert and the co-founder of Motherly, says the definition of ‘work’ will forever be changed as a result.
Coming out of the pandemic, she predicts more people than ever will request a flexible schedule — and what’s more, businesses will be more likely to seriously consider it than ever before.
“The 9-5 ‘corporate ideal’ of work in an office is not only an incredibly expensive way to do business, but it’s also a fallacy because work is no longer just done at the office,” she says. “The past 30 years of technological advances have brought work home — allowing workers to log on to get the job done wherever they are. With COVID-19 demonstrating once and for all that work can be done at home, and accelerating the rate at which corporations adopt more flexible, remote-work policies, it’s time for a work/life revolution.”
Expect More Paid Services To Offer Video Sessions
Many people have turned to teletherapy to manage their mental health during a stressful time. Many fitness studios have pivoted to live stream workouts to keep their community engaged. This whirlwind deep-dive into the world of virtual sessions of all kinds has been a learning lesson for many industries — and it’s one that might be here to stay.
As industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and workplace expert Amy Cooper Hakim, Ph.D. explains, while certain services must always be offered in person (think haircuts), other services can be conducted effectively remotely.
While therapists will restart in-person appointments and exercise facilities will open their doors again, they may always offer a remote option when the new normal shakes out. “This is a big win for those who cannot travel to the site for the service,” she continues. “Some people may feel more comfortable and less self-conscious, for instance, having a therapy session by Zoom. Others would prefer to sit in front of the service provider physically. Overall, this is positive, since there will be more options available for those who are unable to leave home, or prefer to have a remote service offering.”
Get Ready For Online Consultations… For Everything
Need to meet an event planner for your next corporate function? How about stopping by the roofing company to inquire about new shingles? And what about that prescription refill you needed to pick up? Expect all of these types of errands to move online, permanently.
COVID-19 has taught us all that while it’s nice to connect face-to-face, many meetings can be conducted successfully virtually. “So many in our event industry have now seen the value in doing online consultations via Skype, Zoom or FaceTime where they would normally have traveled to see a client,” explains Kylie Carlson, CEO of The Wedding Academy. “When we think about how much time can be saved by holding a virtual consultation with a client, the ramifications are huge. We’ve proved over this period that it is absolutely possible to do this.”
Dr. Gary Linkov, a plastic surgeon, echoes this prediction, saying that some medical consultations simply don’t require an in-person appointment. “I already do video consultations for patients from other states and countries, and we are now offering the same for local patients. Even after COVID-19, I think this will continue. The benefits include reduced fees and more flexibility in scheduling.”
The New Normal Does Away With Handshakes
In certain parts of Asia, handshakes have long been considered rude or inconsiderate, since our hands carry so many germs. But in the United States, the classic handshake has always been considered a standard way to say ‘hello’ to clients, colleagues and friends.
Looking past COVID-19, Hakim predicts the end of this gesture and the beginning of new ways to be friendly. “Change is hard, and you may feel uncomfortable or slighted if you attempt to shake someone’s hand and she does not shake it back,” she continues. “Still, try to embrace the new normal. For instance, a nod or a big smile is a good substitute for a handshake.”
Enough With The Parental Guilt
The pandemic has forced childcare needs to the forefront of the conversation for many working professionals, says Mary Beth Ferrante, the co-founder of WRK/360. Why? Well it’s been next to impossible to hide your kiddo’s faces, cries, or demands for a snack from the Zoom lens over the last few months. Employers have been forced to be more understanding of the ways work and life blend together.
“The idea of leaving your home life at home was never true for working mothers—who often were fitting in parenting responsibilities throughout their day. But it was rarely talked about as parents did their best to fit the ideal worker model of being solely focused on work,” she says. “As we establish a new normal, whether physically in an office or working remotely, this wall between work and family will be forever cracked, and hopefully, we can end ‘secret parenting’ once and for all.”
With this shift, Ferrante predicts that during the new normal employers will offer improved childcare services and offerings for their employees. Since it’s expected that most schools and daycares won’t reopen their doors until the fall, it’s reasonable to expect companies to offer options for their staff. “Employers that start to focus on these gaps and provide options to parents will be able to increase the productivity of their working parents quickly,” she shares. (And potentially lure in new employees eager to jump from an environment that hasn’t been as flexible.) Some potential offerings may include subsidized in-home care, smaller pop-up on-site childcare centers, and more remote work offerings, Ferrante says.
In the New Normal Business Travel May No Longer Be “Essential.”
You know all those business meetings that were “make or break” two months ago, where sitting across the table from someone and shaking their hand to seal a deal was an absolute necessity? Yeah, we’ve been doing just fine without any of that, which begs the question — do we ever need to go back?
It’s not uncommon for consultants to travel four days a week, and if you’re part of a sales team, flying to a client to secure new contracts is a common practice. Nearly all industries have some sort of business travel as part of their corporate practices, but career expert for TopResume, Amanda Augustine, predicts that many companies are going to rethink this moving forward.
Even once traveling is allowed and welcomed again, many brands will be figuring out how to cut costs and will only approve necessary jet-setting. So those frequent flier miles might decrease a bit. “You can effectively deliver a presentation and connect with prospective clients or colleagues using video-conferencing software like BlueJeans, Skype, or Zoom,” she says. “By reducing the number of business trips you’re required to take, you’re saving your company money, as well as eliminating the stress and time commitment of business travel.”
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