“Will I ever be able to sneeze again in public without the fear of being excommunicated?”
“Will I be able to test headphones in a post COVID world?”
“What will dating look like in the post pandemic world?”
“Will pain and sadness be the new normal?”
“Is this my new normal, or am I being dramatic?”
These are real questions from real people of the post COVID world. And they reflect a reality we are all grappling with. One that doesn’t look like it is going to change anytime soon.
The ‘new normal’ is here to stay and while it is mostly unwelcome and scary, it has shown us tiny glimpses of good. This is the good that was missing from a pre-pandemic world. Or at the very least, was considered an anomaly. Not anymore.
Here’s everything we need to normalise in this new work-normal.
Kind of a given but perhaps the most significant one of the list.
Several experts even in the pre-pandemic work spoke extensively about the benefits of working remotely.
It’s actually a little sad to think about how it took a whole pandemic for the quantity-emphasising corporate world to finally make its peace with working from home.
Speaking of normalising the work from home culture, this is perhaps one of the biggest forced human experiments that we’ve had to live and experience.
Workforces have moved all of their processes and line of functioning to the digital. With virtual office spaces being set up on various technological platforms and tools, employees and companies are only beginning to get more comfortable with not having to report to an office or emphasise the need for 9-to-5 working hours in the day.
In a research conducted by Fast Company, several experts spoke about how remote working in a world not threatened by a global pandemic in the near future could actually make a happier and more sustainable employee life cycle possible.
Experts talk about how the old way of working emphasised commuting to work, travelling to different geographies for meetings, or even relocating to new locations to suit your job requirements. But with physical global travel out of the window for this year, companies are realising that a lot more can be done online.
Employees, especially those at top level managements, who were used to jet setting have all switched to video calls. The Earth is not complaining either.
Flexible Working Hours
With everyone relegated to the home space, domestic and caregiving burdens have increased for everyone.
People are performing childcare responsibilities. Picking up added household chores. And simply putting in a lot more hours of physical labour. Traditional 9-to-5 working hours just don’t hold up as the yardstick of productivity any more..
As stringent as the work culture in this country has always been, the pandemic has shown that more and more people can in fact, easily work from home, as long as women get support from family members and don’t have to do ‘double duty’.
This new normal must then normalise this sense of flexibility, and more importantly, respect for employees and other workers. With accelerated digital transformation, opportunities for temporary and part-time workers are also more viable.
Owing to all this, there is a renewed focus on outcome instead of physical time spent. Traditional workplaces place ample emphasis on the idea of physical hours spent. But it’s time we normalise working sporadically throughout the day instead of a defined 9-to-5 work day.
Because not everyone is working at the same time anymore.
Equitable Distribution Of Caregiving & Domestic Work
The boundaries between ‘work’ and ‘home’ are now blurred. And as the two worlds collide, so do the demands and responsibilities of both. Study after study reveals that this has made working from home much harder for women, who can no longer free themselves from household tasks and simply step out of their home persona and into their work persona.
Children are staying home. There’s lesser access to paid help. And the burden of increased labour, is borne mostly by women. Owing to the deeply ingrained gender roles. And they are getting exhausted and overworked.
It is time to normalise the equitable and equal distribution of domestic and caregiving labour. All family members have to pitch in, not just the women. The pandemic has made this inequality visible, and it is time to do away with it.
Men taking up their share of household chores and caregiving tasks is not something exceptional that must be celebrated, it has to be part of the ‘new normal’.
Or what should have been normal right from the beginning.
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Upskilling And Reskilling
As the future of the economy grows increasingly uncertain by the day, the way we work is also shifting.
There’s been a general upward trend in technological upskilling as everyone’s beginning to get more comfortable working virtually. The same is true for those realising that it is important to upskill in order to stay relevant in a world that’s changing by the day.
Social distancing, working from home and this new low in the economy, are going to shape our future for at least this year. If not beyond. So let’s normalise upskilling as a part of our work and career graphs.
The post COVID world will demand different skills (digital expertise, communication mastery, emotional intelligence) and also, multiple skills (being able to do the job of many people as you work remotely).
Chances are, our specialisations aren’t going to serve our sustenance in the same way any longer. There’s the need to normalise picking up new skills that allow us to do more, adapt, be agile, and do it all by ourselves if need be.
Working Independently while being loosely connected to different networks or teams
The grim reality is that for some time, many of us will not return to the traditional workforce. Either by choice, or either because of institutional downsizing. The nature of work is undergoing a paradigm shift. There are several things that we need to now begin accounting for in our career plans.
For instance, the job market is downright whimsical right now. We’re almost on the cusp of an oncoming recession. And jobs aren’t particularly providing the kind of financial security that they once used to.
In a situation where institutionalised corporate culture isn’t serving us particularly well, let’s normalise the solopreneurship career path for industries and working professionals of all kinds.
Working independently is perhaps the surest way to begin your journey on the coveted “multiple income source” path that freelancers constantly dream of. With the job market growing more fickle by the day, it makes sense to manage and work towards an income flow from multiple different sources rather than just one big (once reliable, now incredibly unreliable) source.
Let’s normalise independent working with access to opportunities sans geographical impediments. This is perhaps the time to explore opportunities globally, remotely!
This also opens up unexplored avenues in terms of transitioning back to smaller towns. Or your home towns and saving up on living costs. Since work commutes are on the verge of becoming redundant very soon perhaps. With no offices to report to, the need to live ostensibly in bigger, more expensive cities too, is becoming increasingly irrelevant by the day.
Sensitivity And Empathy
Let’s move over conventional hard skills and talk about soft skills for a second. This new work normal has shown the importance of interpersonal skills. Bringing a sense of empathy to our work day and extending kindness to the people we work with is imperative and essential.
If the pandemic has to teach us something, let it be kindness –to ourselves and to others.
We all have our own ways of dealing with crises. You may choose to immerse yourself in work while a coworker may choose to take a step back. It’s time we stop judging someone else’s pain by our model of measurement. Pain as they say, is relative. So let’s make some room for subjectivity.
Let’s normalise being compassionate, not competitive in the workspace.
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