How I See the Pandemic Changing the World of Work

While one cannot minimize the suffering and tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can and should acknowledge its profound impact on the professional workplace.

When I began practicing law more than 40 years ago, there were few women with young children—many women felt they had to choose between career and children. When I adopted my first child in the early 1990s, I felt that I was expected to continue my job seamlessly, despite the fact that I was now also raising a child. Undeterred, I adopted a second child four years later, and then gave birth to a third three years after that. Interestingly, my clients always thought that this was quite exciting, while I was called upon to respond to expressions of concern and “Can she still do her job?” queries by my (now former) employers.

What a breath of fresh air when I joined Burns & Levinson 20 years ago, with three young children in tow, and no one blinked an eye.

What does this have to do with the pandemic? While my current firm is very family-friendly, the pandemic has caused many more people to realize that they want to lead a holistic, rather than compartmentalized, life. Mothers have been impacted more by the pandemic, as many added remote schooling duties to their already full plates. In more traditional families, the COVID lockdown months gave many men a firsthand look at what was involved on the home front. My firm, which I consider enlightened on family issues, has been clear that there would be no pressure to return to the office until schools and daycare are fully open, and that, even then, people could adopt whatever combination of home/hybrid/in-the-office situation that worked best for them.

While I am the first one to admit that I get more work done in an office setting, the expectation that employees will be in the office five days a week, with in-person face-time, is now likely a thing of the past. Instead, people will have the latitude to attend to their personal lives, as long as work ultimately gets done, wherever one is located. In other words, no needs to sneak out of the office to catch your child’s soccer game, hoping no one will notice you left early.