Whether it’s the Wall Street Journal’s projection of 2021 as another corporate remote work year or the Washington Post’s reporting on corporate support of work-from-home alternatives, it is clear that the Covid-19 Pandemic of 2020/21 has fundamentally changed how employers and employees, landlords and tenants, municipalities and citizens look at doing work.
We have moved well beyond the annual side-bar discussion on the creative office, the pros/cons of the open office plan, the roundtables on if flexible office is a “thing” or corporate flight and the death of the suburbs – True or False. And have moved INTO an arena where, as the barriers fall to returning to the office – corporates are no more certain about what to do. When do we open? What should we look like when we open? Will employees come? As Bisnow says it – the Covid-19 office shakeup is just getting started!
But as was true before the year-long hiatus from the HQ and will be true when this pandemic finally burns itself out – it was never about the companies. It has always been about…
People – Pandemic lessons learned
Many of us were just plain scared. End-February ’20 was “wait what” and mid-March was “the world is ending and Zombies are just around the corner!!” We were moving into a bizarre isolation for the 6 MAYBE 8 weeks that it would take to knock everything out.
However, week-by-week, month-by-month, we waited and adapted. Learning to put ALL of our cloths on, but making sure that none of them had sharp edges. Our hair started beautifully, fell, tangled, supported hats and caps of all ilks and finally “was what it was.”
Our kids and pets were banished, off-camera directed, suffered and, finally just were – likely a 5-minute topic in every meeting where frowns and wrinkles turned into smiles and shrugged shoulders.
All of us, even the most die-hard office fans, likely discovered what our yards/outdoors looked like bloom-to-snow; how to get to dinner (at home) in 5 minutes or less and that, while not perfect and sometimes exhausting, video technology DOES give you visibility beyond the voice to expressions – to the eyes because, we are all..
People – living in Community where EVERYONE is impacted
By now, we all know someone (me) who has lost work and is not sure how they are going to get back; A family (ours) that has suffered the effects of Covid-19 directly or indirectly whether it be illness or the death of loved ones.
We know of someone that is struggling – a friend (me), a neighbors (my) child, (my) spouse, a coworker (me) and over weeks and months, we have learned on screen or on the corner to ask the question – “how are you doing” and most importantly, are ready for (to give) the answer. Because it’s about…
People – that have learned that Business is Personal
We have seen this close to home in the grateful glint in a server’s eye when you finish dinner, buy a gift card and tip 35% on the entire bill. However, my favorite example is very close to home where I have personally witnessed long evenings and hard conversations as senior executives work hard to traverse this pandemic.
It goes like this. Picture the head of Finance and Human Resources in a Teams-rectangle with furrowed brows and serious voices and then inevitably it comes … the knock of a one-year old with purpose. The lilt of a little, but learning voice… “talk to Yinda!”
Suddenly, brows relax, half-smiles that turn into full-blown face-lighteners shine as the door opens up and “work tadoooo” echoes across the room and the miles. On the other side, just in time, the 11 year-old cat, warming on a hip, is scooped up because you know what’s coming next – “where’s kitty!”
And once kitty and 1-year old are reintroduced, work resumes – maybe for not that long, maybe not quite as serious, but it works.
The Pandemic will never be forgotten for the sheer tragedy, for the scope of the economic impact and the breadth of the individual suffering. However, as we make our way out of it and the healing passage of time marches on, it will also be remembered as time for leaning-in and leaning-on, a raw and forced discovery of a world which we were not completely tuned into, memories of frustration turned to laughter, guards dropped and hair up – and that 30-second pivot from boss-to-mom, consultant-to-middle school teacher and C-suite-to-pooper scooper.
Some of which – we might just find ourselves missing… and wanting to hold onto… at least sometimes. Because we’re people. Ok, all done here. Work tadooooo
Brought to you by Steven Whittington, CEO and Founder of LifeWorking Coworking