It is happening now. What are the affects and how long will it last?


Working from home during the pandemic [Source: Unsplash]

Seated in my room with the door ajar I hear a voice from the next room. I am working at my computer in a space much like I had as a freshman, bed, desk, chair, and closet. This is where I am spending the summer, in my daughter’s house in northern Michigan.

The staccato sounds come from a young woman speaking on the phone. She is an employment specialist. I hear only half of her conversation but can guess the rest. I suspect happiness when I hear “you’ve got the job” and disappointment when I hear the words, “You were so close, but I am sorry to tell you…”.

This person is engaged in what has become the “new normal,” working from home. In this case “home” is not Chicago where she lives but northern Michigan where she is connecting applicants and a potential employer, who seek the help from the “head hunting” firm that employs her. She is combining work with a small vacation. Her phone, computer, and internet access mean that “home” can be wherever she works productively for eight hours each day. She has no immediate supervision; her work output must speak for itself. This is a snippet of today’s COVID-19 world.

Response to the pandemic has caused changes in how we live. For all of us these include: the need to wear a mask indoors and outdoors when in close quarters, social distancing, and altered business practices including closures. Added to these “inconveniences” is the serious matter of work and school.

Workers in essential industries like health care, food supply, and safety must work at the risk of placing themselves in harm’s way. Other workers and many small business owners are told they cannot work because of the danger of spreading disease, and other jobs have just gone away because of reduced demand especially in the travel and hospitality industry. Those who can work at jobs still in demand can be considered the lucky ones. Recent studies prompted by the pandemic have revealed that it is plausible that as many as 40% of jobs today can be done at home.

The following are reactions from three young workers who are currently working from home:

I worked at home frequently before the pandemic and it was fine. Now with work at home mandated I find that there is no work for me to do because clients are cancelling already made travel plans and other are not making new ones. Currently I am laid off.

I can work at home as a recruiter just about as effectively at home as in the office because most of my work is done by phone, but I miss the ‘buzz’ and enthusiasm of the office setting with the rest of the team. That means a lot.

I can work at home helping clients located all over the country manage issues with the computerized record keeping system we sell. I do miss seeing my colleagues in the office, but we do get together socially after hours. In our company, which will have us working from home into the coming year, raises and promotions are on hold and I was in line for both – not good!

Coping with workplace issues raised by the pandemic is testing the resolve and ingenuity of all who are confronted with the problem and as yet there are no ready answers. Then there is the sobering question, “what will the workplace be like now that we have developed these new strategies for working at home?”

By Savvy Senior

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