The Covid-19 Pandemic Will Alter Career Lives But Not in the Alarming Ways Many Predict

May 3, 2020

Forbes recently published an article by senior contributor Jack Ryan in which he describes how the Covid-19 Pandemic will change career lives in alarming ways for the foreseeable future. In it, he uses a couple of thousand words of predictions explaining how the current pandemic will shape and change the lives of Americans post-Coronavirus. Although I respect Mr. Kelly’s position and opinion on many other aspects of business, now that the economy is starting to re-open, I need to put my own “two cents” on this sensitive matter because I think he is taking a doom and gloom approach to the topic.

Career Lives Freedom Taken Away or Improved?

In the article, Kelly often refers to a probable change in how much of our free time we will choose to spend at home. He claims we’ve now had our taste of freedom and won’t want to commute long hours to an office just to sit in a cubicle — and our bosses apparently won’t want us to.

Many of us have longed for the flexibility to work from home but fail to recognize how many office components we’d actually miss — until now. That organized workflow, vital dialogue both with our superiors and our coworkers and the interaction that takes place face to face is suddenly missed after spending months waking up at noon with no one to talk to and no motivation to get tasks done. I saw this first hand when I was a Chief Information Officer at Dell. Because of the growth of staff and physical office shortages, the decision was made to convert the offices to an open floor plan and only require employees to work two days in the office.

What happened? At first, the employees followed this schedule, but over time it changed. I began to see more and more employees working in the office. They appreciated the need for socializing, in-person meetings, and face to face interaction. Reading a person’s body language is essential to understanding intent and their resolve to tackle the task at hand.

The Covid-19 Pandemic Impact on Education

Education as well has become the biggest experiment throughout the COVID crisis and shutdown. Although the concept of online learning has been slowly introduced or argued by politicians attempting to cut costs for years, children from kindergarten to graduate level have adjusted ‘cold turkey’ to e-learning.

All the weaknesses of remote learning are suddenly apparent. Children are struggling, even more so the ones with learning or behavioral disabilities. Parents are also frustrated with a lack of direction, an inability to ensure children understand foundational concepts and expectations. They are beginning to truly appreciate the hard work that our teachers put in each day. We’ve forgotten one crucial thing through all of this as well — that learning isn’t merely reading a book or solving a math equation. Similar to my example with Dell, it’s the social, cultural, emotional intelligence that is solidified at every stage of learning (even the college level) that is crucial to surviving the cruel world of adulthood.

The Covid-19 Pandemic Impact on Careers

Streams of work are also predicted by Kelly to change as he expects more high school graduates will enter the trades from the new understanding of their essential place in society but also because the post-secondary school has become an extra unneeded step to securing an income. It’s interesting to read that e-learning will become the new norm in society; however, digital and ‘gig’ oriented industries will take a back seat to construction, plumbing, and other trades.

In reality, technology has proven to be an essential part of a business — those with it are the ones who continued to succeed through the pandemic shutdown. If the emerging work generation is afraid of anything after all of this, it’s being unprepared and in a place of teetering employment in the event that something like this happens again.

Our leisure time has already been drastically affected due to the Coronavirus, so much so that we have what seems like infinite time but nothing we can actually go out and do. We end up sitting in our yards, doing renovations, and watching endless Netflix shows. Kelly predicts that the eventual end of the virus will result in our unwillingness to resume the recreational things we took for granted months prior. He writes, “why should you go to a movie with dozens of strangers who may potentially carry disease and cough on you when you can watch something in the comfort and safety of your own home?”

In all honesty, when things begin to die down as we get the green light to finally be closer than 6 feet apart, more of us are prepared to get out and start checking off all the things we wished we could have done while in isolation. Although many of us are keeping socially distant right now in the middle of a pandemic, we can’t wait for things to get back to “normal.” Let’s hope our perspectives have changed, and we use this to alter our new normal in a more positive light.

Kelly writes, “Management will calculate the costs of airfare, hotel stays, car rentals and taking clients out to expensive restaurants and deem them unnecessary and extravagant. They’ll tell their employees to just have a video call instead, as it will save thousands of dollars … Employees will think about the possible health risks of catching something while flying, staying at hotels, and eating at crowded restaurants.” Although many businesses will take extra precautions for sanitation, etc., there won’t be an end for eating in restaurants or traveling around the world.

These are perks that motivate many of us to follow specific careers. Right now, we miss the extravagance we once took for granted, and we’re anxious to get that back. Without the social aspect of many business career paths, there will be fewer students willing to drive themselves into debt to partake in another dreary office job.

The airports will re-open, and there will be a surge of flying, shopping, eating, and everything else we’re unable to do — and hopefully, it will positively impact the economy and allow us to recover more quickly.

“This feeling of fear will last longer than the virus.” Will it? Will it cause us to be afraid to touch each other, or will it only lead to a more appropriate protocol for taking care of our own hygiene, washing our hands, and result in lower numbers of flu and other contagions in the seasons to come? Instead of feeling fear post-Coronavirus, perhaps we’ll be more determined to face our fears and take the risks that have been holding us back.

We’ve all been a little selfish up until now. The average American saves less than 5% of their income each month, and we’re told to always have at least three months’ worth of income in a savings account in case of emergencies — but many of us fall short. We’ve grown comfortable in the lives we’re accustomed to that this temporary yet monumental blip in the global timeline has already provided us with an opportunity to plan, take chances, and focus on a new perspective on life. And to set us up more financially prepared in the event that something happens again in our lifetime.

We can agree with Kelly, however, that things are going to continue to change, and we definitely won’t go back to the way things were in their entirety. History, such as income tax and toll booths, has proven that once rights are taken away, it’s pretty much impossible to get them back. The government has been given this massive piece of unyielding power, and those tightening leashes don’t often slack.

It does look that career lives around the world will be fast-heading into interesting times!

There’s a far higher chance that the current economic and health crisis will result in a positive effect on the globe. If there’s something you’ve been putting off or a dream you’ve been too afraid to follow, now’s the time to strategize and implement a plan to get it done after the lock-downs cease. We’ve all got our story to tell as survivors of the Coronavirus pandemic, how are you going to mold yours?

Maybe you will be a little less selfish going forward and grow closer to loved ones. Perhaps it will cause you to take that career leap you have been holding back on. Maybe you will consciously start trying to save this planet instead of caring about money over its health. Perhaps you will appreciate school teachers and our healthcare professionals on a new level.

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