The past few years of dealing with the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic have proved challenging for everyone, including and perhaps especially the workplace. From the moment it struck its first victims, and as it spread around the globe, it struck fear and anxiety in anyone needing to spend time in public.
At the time, no one needed to go out in public more than the workforce, with daily commutes via car, bus, or train. However, everything suddenly changed when lockdowns and restrictions were handed down at local, state, and federal levels, calling for employers to facilitate a remote solution wherever possible in their organizations.
While many workers had to come to grips with what was, for them, a novel concept of working from home (WFH), it was an adjustment. Fortunately, thanks to great management strategies and communication, businesses maintained the status quo while employees found that they thrived in a remote work situation, per Kathryn Vasel of CNN Business, in March 2021, a year after the pandemic began.
By the end of 2020, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout was underway, leaving everyone wondering what might happen next. Would things return to normal or shift to a “new normal”?
What did it mean for the future of work and the workplace for people whose lives turned upside down for nearly a year?
The Pandemic and the Sudden Shift to Remote Work Strategies Made the First Change to the Modern Workplace
The shift toward remote work options has been slowly building for the past few decades. Some companies threw around the idea of telecommuting and WFH options to save money and resources. However, planning and enacting remote work options hadn’t materialized on a mass scale before the pandemic for several reasons, including:
- The need for a technology startup, using hardware, software, and human resources for effective off-site work setups.
- The fostering and management of a cultivated workplace culture support employee satisfaction, enthusiasm, and a sense of work/life balance.
- The time and resources are taken away from core goals and strategies to place energy into a disparate workforce when it is simpler to have everyone close by most of the time.
But once the pandemic and all associated lockdowns and restrictions became a certainty, employers had no choice but to make these sudden, critical investments and sacrifices to keep everything afloat.
Once the vaccines became increasingly available to workers, everything started to change.
The COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout Sparked Employers’ Desire to Bring Employees Back to the Office
By December of 2020, most people were ready to get back out and go to restaurants and enjoy outings with friends and family. However, many workers weren’t overly enthusiastic about returning to the same pre-COVID work grind once they had discovered the wonders of remote work.
The Remote Awakening
Employees’ realization that they could work from home, meet and exceed productivity goals, spend time with loved ones, and take care of home projects was a pure revelation. Employers are now finding it difficult to put this particular genie back in the bottle.
While employers appreciated the opportunity to stay afloat during a global health crisis, they wanted to call employees back into the office once the vaccines were rolled out, restrictions were lifted, and everyone felt safe to return for their own reasons.
Most employers probably didn’t see the resistance that was ahead.
According to Global Workplace Analytics, “82% of U.S. employees want to work remotely at least once a week when the pandemic is over. On average, they would prefer to do so half of the time. Only 8% do not want to work from home at any frequency.” Another 35% of employees would change jobs to work for an employer that offered more remote work options.
The writing is on the wall for today’s employers. They must offer some degree of remote work or a viable hybrid work model, which allows for greater flexibility for employees.
What Does the Transformation of Workplace Culture Look Like After the Vaccine Rollout?
Now that it’s clear that employees want a new workplace paradigm that might not take place on-site nearly as much as pre-COVID-19, you might wonder what’s happening with workplace culture for those in the office.
Like most things with COVID-19 and life in general, the return to the workplace wasn’t as simple as anyone might have hoped. Considering many people’s reluctance and refusal to take the vaccination and the effects of the ongoing Great Resignation, it’s easy to imagine a drastically different workplace culture than in early 2020.
Let’s look at some top transformations of workplace culture after the vaccine rollout.
Trust Has Taken a Greater Role in Workplace Culture
As employers try to ease employees back into the workplace, toggling various issues like the growing desire for remote work, they need to look at what value employees discovered in their time working at home. One thing employees enjoy is the trust they felt during COVID-19 lockdowns. Using their discretion as far as when and how they worked, the ability to use work technology at home became a cherished outcome for workers.
Reevaluation and Resetting of Team Policies and Practices
More employers are focusing on reevaluating and resetting team policies and practices to reflect employees’ needs for more trust and creative freedom with strategies such as implementing energy checks, candor breaks, and sharing stories.
Effective communications are essential for peak productivity, whether teams are working on-site or remotely. Companies are seeking the top mobile platforms to keep in-person and remote teams safe, informed, and productive. Instead of trying to patch together the best communications strategy from a mash-up of physical and digital products that often don’t integrate well and are costly to maintain, they are searching for all-in-one platforms with easy-to-use mobile apps.
Employee Wellness Comes First
It has become abundantly clear that most people need to take better care of themselves after tangling with COVID-19 for nearly two years. Employers need to find ways to encourage employees to put their health first, embracing work/life balance. Whether they provide remote or hybrid work options or make the office environment more upbeat and healthy, employers must consider employees’ health to ensure longevity and commitment.
Further, consider your employees’ feelings, concerns, and apprehensions about the vaccine before dismissing them. Let everyone know that their feelings are valid to your organization, especially if they have provided you with years of valued service. If possible, make allowances for those vaccinated or unvaccinated to avoid risks for every population.