Time will tell if the pandemic changed how we work for better – or for worse

The business world has been forever changed by the COVID-19 pandemic in both positive and negative ways. We all had to learn to work differently in terms of working remotely and conducting meetings virtually. But currently, even though the threat of the pandemic has passed, employees continue to isolate themselves. Instead of making an effort to meet in person, we continue to attend meetings virtually, even when we are in the office and other participants are right down the hall. Virtual meetings are a time saver, but when we do not attend a meeting in person, we lose the opportunities that occur before and after a meeting that allow us to get to know our co-workers or clients in a more meaningful manner. Those relationships shape our success over the years and allow us to recognize issues faster and respond to situations in a manner that is appreciated by others. Of course, virtual meetings allow you to expand your footprint without having the expense or time of travel. So, a balance is necessary to successfully navigate and grow those relationships.

The younger co-workers/associates are the group that will either suffer the most or teach us all how to be successful in this changed world. Mentorships will not be developed through shared experiences or hallway chats. It may be that younger employees never meet their mentors in person if mentors are assigned across different corporate offices or all employees are remote. Whether this will make a difference in the future success of younger employees, will play out over the next couple of decades. The absence of these more personal interactions may also result in a continued loss of social graces and understanding of different cultures.

This same group, however, has taught the world that there is more to life than work. They have prioritized life over money, and family over work. Will this be enough to keep pace in the work world?

My other concern is that women will lose some of the leadership gains they made in the last 20 years. I have already seen more women choose new job opportunities that allow them to stay home as they get used to being there for their families, while working remotely. They have accepted lesser paying roles with no travel and flexible hours. I have not noticed as many men taking advantage of these jobs. This takes the spotlight off of those women who aren’t in the office every day and makes it easier to forget them.

It is my hope that the good that has come out of COVID-19 outweighs the bad in the long run.