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Digital Transformation Modern Workplace

A millennial in the workplace – Covid-19 edition

I’ve been struggling quite a lot with how to write this post to make it relevant and adding something to the discussion. I also really want it to be inspiring and not only my opinions and personal thoughts.

The whole Covid-19 has really made me think about remote work and how the “new world” will look post Covid-19. It’s a hard topic to be concreate about since we are in the middle of the change.

I’m positioning this as a part two of the “A millennial in the workplace” post from 2019.

Oh, and the picture to this article is our new Chief Sunbathing Officer who takes her new role very serious.

Work is changing

Let’s face it, the work life is changing and a lot more sudden than most were expecting it to. The Covid-19 pandemic really challenged everyone to push their digital transformation in a much higher speed than some might have intended to. But also, the perception of remote work.

Looking at this year’s Microsoft Ignite, the common dominator was remote work for the workplace area.

When suddenly everyone had to start to work remotely, it wasn’t impossible anymore and we adopted to this situation. Even a lot of areas where it was deemed “not suitable” to work remotely suddenly were left without a choice and managed the situation.

We are still not seeing the end of this, so a lot of things will still change!

So where does this put us?

One thing which tends to pop-up when this is discussed is “when we go back to normal people will be expected to come back to the office”. But what if this is the new normal? Or at least partially a new normal.

Working from home has in my experience often been viewed as something you only do with special reasons, and often with approval from management. Now when Covid-19 is putting everyone in a situation where remote work is kind of then new normal, I’m strongly hoping to see a shift in the culture and mindset around this.

One thing I tend to hear often is the argument that “the employees are not feeling well since they are isolated”, and I completely understand that. Working from home/remotely put new constraints on the social aspect of things, the natural interaction by the coffee machine does not exist in the same way. However, there are also people who feel stressed over the fact that they are expected to show up at an office at a given time every day based on “that’s how it’s always been”. So why adopt everything based on the people who like the office? That doesn’t really cut it in 2020 to be honest and the new policy Microsoft put out regarding their new remote work policy is spot on where “Offer as much flexibility as possible” is somewhat of the message of it. You can read more about it in this brilliant article or go straight to the source.

The world is changing, and we had a shift about one hundred years ago where the eight-hour workday was enforced. After World War II most of the industrialized world had 40 hour works weeks. In Sweden, the 40-hour work week we see today were introduced in the 1950’s and introduced in the labour law in the 1970’s. (Of course, there are more to this from a legal and union perspective, but let’s leave all that). That was 50 years ago.

Choosing where to work

What is the point I’m grasping at?

What I’m getting at is that there will be a before and after Covid-19. We have now proven that remote work is something that works, and we are still productive. So why do we feel the need to enforce everyone to go back to the office?

I’m not saying that we should remove all offices and have everyone working from home. However, it should be up to each one to be trusted in choosing to work where they are the most productive. That could be the office but just as well from home. Or a combination which I believe strongly in based on choosing the office as a workplace and not the expectation “to show up”. Given that we all have a job to do, we are trusted in much more sensitive and important things than where we choose to do our job.

This will put more trust in the employer and increase the sense of being trusted with that I can myself choose how I do my job. The old term “work is not a place, it something you do” fit very well into this context.

Looking to myself and how I resonate around these things, I’m currently in a situation where I motivate why I go to the office rather than why do I work remotely.

Work-life balance

In my world, this comes down to one thing and that is work life balance. Even though I’m extremely passionate about what I do for a living, living is not only working in my world. There must be time for other things to relax and disconnect. There must be room for flexibility during my day, the sense of owning your own time.

For me, work-life balance is about being able to control and own my own time. During Covid this has been a challenge to manage since working from home means that you never leave your workplace. But for me this is something I’ve learned to deal with. It also breaks up my workday into pieces giving me possibilities to do errands, go to the gym, walk the dog and such things during the day and work a little more focused during late afternoons. For me, late afternoons are where I’m the most productive while before lunch is a less productive period of the day (not to speak of 7:30 until 9:00).

Conclusion

To be honest, I don’t really know what the conclusion of this is since this is more my thoughts on the topic.

The Covid-19 pandemic has proven that remote work is possible, and we are most likely seeing the new “normal”. There will for sure be a before and after Covid-19 and the work life will have to adopt to this.

However, everyone is different. Some need to be at an office surrounded by other people or just can’t work from home. There is also the other group who are more productive remote and do not feel the need for an office in the same sense.

You often see arguments that people need the office to perform and feel well as an argument that we need to get everyone back to the offices. But what about the other group of people who has been thriving during the last couple of months, where the trip to the office was a stressful moment. Are they less important or why are we expecting them to just adopt?

I think the “Offer as much flexibility as possible” quote I mentioned in the middle of this post will play a key part even for companies which are not called Microsoft. People are now seeing that it’s possible to work remote and finding what is working for them. I think they key part as I view this, is to offer a flexibility where I as an employee is trusted with selecting where my office should be. If that is 100% at home, 100% at the office or a mix shouldn’t matter. Work is not a place, it’s something you do.

This will be a cultural shift, not a technical shift. We have proven that our tools allow it, now we just need the corporate culture to allow it. For some, this change will happen fast while for others this will take time.

However, my strong belief is this will be a key element for many companies to hire Millennials and GenZ going forward. Why should I join a company which requires me to come to an office, when the other offers me the flexibility to choose when I go to the office?

These were my thoughts around this whole thing, what do you think?

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