I grew up in snowy Denver, and when we didn’t like the weather we’d say, “Wait 15 minutes.” It was occasionally true that something might change for the good, but more often than not we were stuck with the same bad weather. It made me grumpy.
I remembered this when I was thinking about the negative changes COVID has made to our lives, both individually and collectively. I wondered whether, if I waited a bit, a new reality would hit.
I decided that some things will stick, and others won’t. Some of what sticks will be good, and others will be a scar that I hope heals overtime — or not. Here are some of the lingering effects of the COVID aftermath that I’ve noted. You can judge for yourself if my predictions are accurate.
On the business side:
No more going to work (on-site) when we feel “under the weather”: We now know not to “tough it out” with the help of a pain reliever. It’s not about us. It’s about the people we risk exposing. The word “enlightened” comes to mind.
Hugs will be scarcer: Hugs and handshakes are no longer automatic. We understand that people vary in their degree of cautiousness. Now I say, “Are you accepting hugs?” which felt awkward initially but now is as natural as asking, “How are you?”
Five days working on-site will not be the standard: As we near our way out of COVID and the “son of,” companies are deciding whether to mandate a five-day-return-to-office (example, Goldman Sachs) or offer maximum fluidity (example, IBM). Giving employees the option may help companies retain their best people. Best people equal best company.
The kumbaya coffee station where people once congregated is practically extinct: If you’re in the office, you’re most likely facing a tight schedule with back-to-back meetings. The leisure for an informal coffee klatch belongs to another era. The coffee station is where I often received my best coaching, including the need to be more patient, more practical, or more collaborative with the stodgy hierarchy.
Increased “time stinginess”: While many have gained time by eliminating the commute, we feel more pressed than ever, making us bona fide curmudgeons. In a recent study I conducted, a significant finding was that respondents want their business partners to email new announcements. “No webinars, no calls, no anything taking time,” was the plea. Time seems more precious than ever.
Informal dress: How we choose to appear has dramatically changed. Some have opted to go gray and liberate themselves from hair dye. That won’t be me, but I have sworn off high heels and upped my casual-attire look. How many ties does a man now need in his wardrobe? Fewer than in previous years.
Focusing more on the personal and family front:
“News junkie” and “news avoider” syndrome: We don’t trust our sources, yet we can’t get enough. Forbes reports that 61 percent of Americans believe that “the media is not doing well at being objective and non-partisan.” Our appetite for news has also contributed to our anxiety. We want to know what’s around the corner, and we don’t like or trust what we hear. Thank you, COVID.
Public schools won’t completely return to their pre-COVID levels: When COVID hit, some parents placed their children in private schools, and like Mikey of cereal fame, they tried it, they liked it. Now that public schools are open, it is hard to predict the enrollment rebound, but it won’t be 100 percent. The size of the rebound will have many downstream effects, including public school funding.
Our atrophied social muscle: We miss our social circles, but we’ve lost our social stamina. Personally, after two hours of socializing, I need to retreat. I love the start, I am OK with the middle, and then I need the end to actually end. I worried it was just me, but my friends report similar feelings. That is somewhat comforting, but we may be forever changed.
And we haven’t even touched on other topics: our changing views of science, exploring the appropriate reach of government, or the role social media has played in shaping our views, just to name a few.
But if we are looking for the silver lining, our families seem to mean more to us, and a return to the basics is the flavor of the day.
That sounds like good news to me.