Authors: Rick Hill, Senior Vice President, HumanTouch, LLC and Rachel Newman, BDSpecialist
While businesses and governments navigate returning to work, we recognize COVID has left its mark on people in many ways. The effects of being at home, the demands of family, time, availability, access, and bandwidth hit various age groups indifferent ways. Workforce conversations that started during the pandemic need to continue into 2022.
HumanTouch’s SeniorVice President and one of our newer BD specialists share their work experiences and realities.
RH: I’ve been in IT and Government Contracting for decades and there was a standard of how we worked – in office, 9-6, suits, meetings, commuting, travel, handshakes, and that’s how you did business. How things have changed! – permanently.
It was standard practice to demand that staff work in person and be seen, available, and accountable. Covid necessitated that we drop our reservations around working from home and virtual staffing. Suddenly, there was no choice, rather, we had to work from home. While there are many on the frontlines from health care workers to food service and our military, who have been going to work in person every day, entire industries and agencies went virtual in hours.
RN: It’s true that for older generations, the pandemic’s move to virtual office might have felt like a quantum leap – but it also unquestionably affected millennials and our experiences with work. The personal journeys of younger workers throughout the pandemic were collectively different – with some of us contending with layoffs and months of unemployment, and others fully employed and unscathed – but for all of us, it created a world of uncertainty.
While the pandemic brought on new elements of stress we had not faced before, it also eliminated a major daily stressor — commuting. This extra time at home forced us to truly focus on the indubitably vital things, such as family time and personal health.
How did life function in the midst of this uncertainty? What did we learn? And how will we navigate the hybrid work-life integration of our current, tenuous state?
RH: Asa manager of teams and people, I used to rely on things like non-verbal cues and the people’s body language to gauge their understanding, interest, connection in meetings or conversations. Having virtual meetings, thatHollywood Squares video connection helped keep clients advised and our teams working and on pointe. But that ability to drop into someone’s office or chat at the company refrigerator was gone. Leadership worked hard at engagement, creating virtual pizza parties, book clubs, and running groups. It also made a lot more work for everyone with longer hours, increased anxiety, and expectation around availability, and admittedly plenty of concern that people were not actually working. But the wariness and suspicions were unfounded because people worked more – and better in many cases.
It’s also true there were a lot more distractions. For me, my grandson, the dogs, the noises, and goings-on of the house became a part of my day and there were interruptions at times. Covid made us all profoundly aware of our vulnerability and where we were spending our time. I think it has made me more aware of human needs and as we navigate our hybrid remote-in office schedule, there are things that really are effective and beneficial about this“new normal.”
RN: Since everyone had a different experience, it is not surprising that millennials’ opinions have been largely varied when it comes to how to proceed with either a remote, hybrid, or fully in-person work schedule. However, as we are well-adjusted to change as a generation, we’re open to new systems and creative when it comes to putting them into play. Technology facilitates flexibility so we expect to be able to move and work in many environments.
Generally, I believe that millennials favor a hybrid work schedule because it provides room for flexibility, balance, and a sense of human connection. It places more of an emphasis on an individual’s needs and their health and well-being – something that our parents’ generation didn’t see as much of in their jobs as we believe they should have. Moving forward, a new tone has been set. Employers are more understanding and employees hold higher standards for their employers
RH: Humans are social creatures, and we need interaction and connection in a remote world.We enjoy being in meetings together, spread out, but able to see each other face to face. Our jobs as managers require that we support our staff and teams by finding ways to really check in on them and understand how they are bearing up. This was not more of an articulated priority before – perhaps it should have been.
Covid has brought to light many other things about work and the health of our people that will be part of future conversations around work. Our busyness is not our business but creating environments where our staff can feel heard and supported, excited about their work, and feel a sense of accomplishment are achievable goals. In response to the wave of what the media is calling The Great Resignation, it’s clear that we must be more flexible, empathetic, and engaging employers that can still run our companies and delight our clients.