We already know the pandemic has changed the American workplace.
But now it seems like it has also changed the American worker.
In the last few weeks, I've read no fewer than three different news articles about how COVID-19 has altered our attitudes and philosophies about work.
I write this as I sit here, dressed in a jersey and my favorite sweat pants. My little dog snoozes contentedly beside me on the living room couch. In between wondering what I will fix for lunch and whether today will be a "shower day," I converse with my colleagues via chats, Zooms and Google Meets. I always have the TV on — not because I pay attention to it, but because the background noise somehow helps me focus better and makes me feel more connected to the world.
If I take any lunch hour at all, it will be for a quick nap. During the morning and afternoon breaks I've come to view as coffee breaks, I will walk the dog, pick cherry tomatoes and — if it's a watering day — water my flowers.
A handyman is coming over this morning to install new doors. In the past, I would have had to work out the logistics of when I could leave work to let him in, then wait until his work was done until I could drive across town and back to work. Today, he can accomplish this while I continue working.
It is amazing how much I don't miss the office. Yes, I miss the camaraderie, the brainstorming and the ability to tap into the expertise of other reporters if I'm searching for a source or solution. I definitely miss the coffee breaks with colleagues or the days when someone brings doughnuts.
But I don't miss waking up early to get ready, grab a cup of coffee and drive across town to work. I don't miss dress codes, overly long meetings, micromanagement, office politics or conflicts. In short, I don't miss the notion that I need to be sitting at a certain desk in a certain office to get my job done.
Now I am learning that many other Americans feel the same way. A recent Minneapolis Star Tribune story reported on the "great resignation," an increased trend of workers quitting their jobs after sampling the increased flexibility and better work/life balance from working at home.
In the same article, the head of a Chicago-based outplacement and executive coaching firm said his company's recent survey of human resources professionals "suggests that remote workers' mass return to the office will be a reckoning of employers' and employees' differing expectations... companies overwhelmingly reported that they were not only having trouble filling roles but were concerned about an exodus of talent... More than 80% experienced pushback from their workers about returning to the office full time. Flexibility was the top reason behind employees' exits."
Others have left their work because of the risks linked to being a frontline worker, because they're struggling to find reliable child care or because they believe their current job doesn't offer enough long-term security. Many also reported burnout as a main reason for walking away from cubicle culture. The cumulative stress caused by COVID, coupled with the pressure to "do more with less" and be accessible to employers 24/7 via technology, are other contributing factors, according to the Strib story.
Can you relate?
I'm planning a story on ways in which our workplace philosophies and attitudes have shifted in the last year and a half. Do you have a story to tell? Whether you learned that you wanted to spend more time with family, realized you wanted to work to satisfy your heart vs. your pocketbook, or decided present circumstances made it easier to retire early, I'd like to write about it.
To participate, please email me at email@example.com. Include a short recap of your story and a daytime phone or email where I can get in touch with you.
I'll be waiting — right here on my couch. :)