This year, Labor Day likely won’t be your whole family stuffed in your backyard around the grill. It’ll be a smaller gathering, if you even decide to gather at all. In many ways, COVID-19 has clearly changed the way we live our normal lives, but it has especially changed the way we work.
Today, I want to take a look at our new-found work culture and discuss how COVID-19 has changed the workforce, both for the good and the bad.
The shift to remote work
Working from home is not a new concept. In fact, before COVID, 43% of American employees worked out of their home at least part of the time.
One thing that has changed in 2020, though, is that many of those same employees are now working remotely full-time. Telecommuting was already gradually increasing, and COVID-19 just gave it a big push.
So what’s changed? As Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom pointed out, the stigma that was once associated with working from home is no longer. Businesses have gotten a forced introduction to the setup and some have realized their previous concerns were unfounded.
Among the many companies that have committed to a permanent work-from-home policy, post-COVID-19, are Facebook, Twitter, Square, and Spotify. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg cited employee happiness and economic savings as his reasons for the decision.
Zuckerberg isn’t the only executive realizing that. In fact, your employer may have looked around and wondered why the company is paying so much for office space, especially if working from home is going well. Even if your boss wasn’t staunchly against remote work before COVID-19, the potential cost savings could be a game-changer.
Back to work during COVID
Remote work may be here to stay, but COVID-19 (hopefully) isn’t. As the world waits for a vaccine, businesses are already planning their return.
In some cases, companies have already called employees back. But many companies are still requiring only essential workers to come in, allowing the rest to work from home. Wherever your employer stands, chances are they’re thinking about what the temporary future of the workplace will look like. You probably are, too.
The first place to get an idea of this is the CDC, with its guidelines on safely returning to the office. For employers, current advice includes:
- Checking temperatures every day.
- Encouraging face coverings.
- Keeping employees at least six feet apart at all times
- Improving ventilation in work areas.
When you return to the office, the CDC recommends that you avoid being in close proximity to other workers, wear a mask, and keep hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol concentration on hand.
It’s important to note, though, that these safety precautions aren’t permanent. At some point, workers will be able to put down their masks and worry less about hand sanitizer.
Let’s face it. Work isn’t the only reason to look forward to enduring the commute to the office every day.
Before this pandemic, you probably logged some time on small talk with coworkers. You may have had a lunch buddy or even escaped to the break room when you needed some people time. COVID-19 has changed all that.
During the pandemic, businesses have tried to shift everything to virtual platforms like Zoom and Slack. Unfortunately, they’re discovering it isn’t quite the same. Workers have cited workplace socialization as one of the casualties of the pandemic era, and they miss the interaction.
One problem with that is that the virtual shift tends to focus more on getting work done than having fun. Gone are the impromptu meetings around the coffee pot in the morning. Instead, employees show up at designated meeting times and log off to go back to work immediately after.
Although remote working may stick, after COVID-19, expect many employees to still have a desire to get together in person regularly. Your employer may require that you come in a day or two each week. More likely, though, you’ll find that your workweek becomes a mix of working from home and going into the office. Even if it’s just for a couple of hours in the morning once a week, it will give you that in-person connection you’re craving.
The flexible workweek has flourished
As mentioned above, flexibility will be the name of the game. But like remote work, this is nothing new. In recent years, Millennials have been cited often for stating that they want flexibility in their work environment.
But working from home isn’t the only way to satisfy the largest demographic in the workplace. Millennials have said they value flexible work hours over money. They want to decide when, how, and where they work. Working from home allows them to define where, but it also lets them skip the time they spend commuting.
In this new, reimagined world, employees may be able to drop the kids off at school or pick up groceries on a weekday morning. At the same time, you may see them working nights and weekends, never missing a message, even if it comes in after hours. Instead of living and dying by a set work schedule, they’ll work when and how they’re most productive.
The rise of the home office
Does your home have an office? If you’re working from the kitchen table, it may be time to look for a more permanent solution. It’s one thing to work from home for a few months, but if your remote work environment becomes permanent, you may want a quiet, private place to participate in conference calls and focus on your day’s tasks.
And this change won’t just affect homeowners. Real estate agents will also see more of a priority put on a good home office, and internet service providers can expect an increased demand for top-notch access in homes versus office buildings.
Remote work also means you’re no longer limited to living near an office. If you’re never required to go in, you can move farther away from the city, which means you may be able to save money on a less-expensive home or upgrade to a bigger, better place.
The importance of financial savings has become clear
Speaking of housing costs, COVID-19 has made workers all too aware of the volatility of the economy. The pandemic saw 22.2 million job losses in March and April, and only 42% have returned.
If your job was one of the many impacted, the stimulus check may have carried you through for a while. But even if you’ve returned to work, or your job was never affected at all, you probably saw the value of an emergency fund.
Experts recommend having at least six months of living expenses set aside, but you don’t have to do that overnight. Set a goal and work toward it. Make sure you are setting aside money with Chime®‘s automatic savings features, and you’ll appreciate the fact that your savings can be growing without you even actively working toward it. Chime even lets you set up direct deposit so you can get your paycheck up to 2 days earlier too3. Early access to direct deposit funds depends on payer.3 Early access to direct deposit funds depends on the timing of the submission of the payment file from the payer. We generally make these funds available on the day the payment file is received, which may be up to 2 days earlier than the scheduled payment date.
The best thing about putting money into savings is that you earn interest on it. Online banks tend to have the best deal on interest. For instance, the CIT Savings Builder is currently offering up to 1.00% APY if you deposit just $100 a month into your account.
This year, take a moment to reflect on what Labor Day is really about – all of the people that go out and work hard every day, especially the first responders, doctors, and nurses that have been working to keep us all safe.
Know that these major changes we’ve seen in the workforce won’t last forever, and maybe next year, we’ll get our backyard BBQs back.