In breathless anticipation of freedom after Boris’ roadmap announcement, an explosion of memes summed up the mood in many households in June 2020 – but we had to stop for a moment and ask: what will happen next? What has the pandemic done to the world of work and what can we expect as things slowly get back to normal? (And most importantly, who’d be buying the first round once Friday post-work drinks were re-instated?)
Work/life balance - better or worse?
Pre-Covid, we talked wistfully about achieving the ideal work/life balance. But in 2020, we were doing it all – the boundaries between work and life became indistinguishable, and most of us existed within the same four walls, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
For some, that change was a win – being able to work flexibly to fit in with family time and home commitments. Those who made banana bread, nurtured their sourdough starter, or took breaks to do PE with Joe found it far easier to be more present in family life than ever before.
Yet for many, it felt less like working from home than living at work. They couldn’t wait to swap the living room ironing board for a real desk back at the office and longed for a bit of ‘me time’ on the daily commute. But was a return to the office a reality?
Communication: never the same again?
When was the last time you shook hands with a client or customer? Small things like this have been missing during the Covid outbreak – and arguably may never return – and they add up to alter the landscape of work dramatically. What’s interesting is how transformative the pandemic has been for communication as a whole; how every single one of us, young or old, has become accustomed to working, learning or simply keeping in touch in a completely new way.
Perhaps you quickly realised you’d no longer be able to wear pyjamas through the afternoon, once seated Zoom meetings were a thing of the past. Or perhaps you felt the exhaustion of having to look, listen and talk to others without the distraction and companionship of simply “being” with friends and family.
Social distancing measures meant the physical connections between us were lost – from big bear hugs on bad days, to a simple shoulder squeeze of encouragement from a colleague. It left some of us feeling a bit lost; after all, physical communication is a fundamental part of how we interact as a species.
Beating those back-to-work blues
The first few months of retuning to work after the first lockdown were certainly an adjustment, shortly followed by a second UK lockdown during the winter months. The continued changes and fears for public health led many office-based businesses to transition to working remotely full time, or offering a flexible hybrid model of office and home working.
In short, the world of work has never seen anything like it. Not everyone agrees with the ‘new normal’, however. While tech companies have been keen to let their employees adopt a more flexible working approach, the head of Goldman Sachs, at the other end of the scale, referred to home-working as ‘an aberration’.
It’s still hard to say for certain what the future of work might look like, once the pandemic is truly over. But we say, any opportunity for change is a chance for better habits to be made!
So whether you’re back in the office for a few days a week or permanently, it’s time to dig out your dancing shoes, brush off your briefcase and be ready to embrace the new world of work – but make sure you pace yourself on that first night out, otherwise you might wake up to your friend sending you a video like this.