As much as we’d like to imagine that the start of the new year will bring with it a clean slate where the impact from the last two years of COVID-19 is reset, that’s neither logical nor realistic. Instead of holding on to hope that the world will return to pre-pandemic workings, we’d be wise to focus on the positive changes that have taken place as a result.
Specifically, there have been some significant advancements made to how we view and utilize technology that connects us, even when we physically cannot be together. Continuing to embrace and invest in the use of such technology has the potential to propel us into a successful 2022! Keep reading as we explore the silver lining of COVID’s impact on both work and lifestyle habits.
Working from home used to be seen as a select benefit for certain employees, but since the onset of COVID-19, it is seen as an essential component of an organization's infrastructure. As nearly every industry made rapid fire changes to allow for any and all responsibilities to take place remotely, many businesses realized that such changes were not only sustainable, but also equated to increased productivity and decreased overhead. Looking to 2022 and beyond, we expect to see completely virtual work environments grow in popularity. Additionally, hybrid and semi-remote work setups will help bridge the gap between tasks that can be performed virtually and those that are better suited for in-person work environments.
According to Forbes, “When it comes to where we work, there will continue to be three main models – centralized workplaces, decentralized remote organizations, and the hybrid “best of both worlds” approach. What’s likely to change in 2022 is that it’s more likely that we, as workers, will have the choice rather than being forced to align with whatever model your organization has chosen out of necessity. Computer and IT is the number 1 field for remote work opportunities.
Essentially, the global pandemic has taught us that so much more than we ever could have imagined can take place virtually - effectively and efficiently. Conversely, we also learned that there will always be those specific tasks and types of communication that work best in a traditional work setting. Both are valuable lessons to learn and ones we should carry with us forward.
Read ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Working Remotely’ to learn the key skills you need in order to effectively work from a remote work environment.
Increased Work-Life Balance
Even with the pandemic crisis causing many inconveniences, uncertainties, and stressors for professionals, working remotely allowed them to maintain a better work-life balance overall. Foremost, this sudden shift to working from home prevented employees from spending extended hours commuting, working in the office and being away from their families. Remote working helped workers spend more time with their loved ones and to be more accessible, even during work hours.
Now that the danger of the pandemic has mostly subsided and the conventional approach to work is back, employees have started focusing more on enjoying an ideal work-life balance without sacrificing either of the two aspects of their lives. Now that more and more people have gotten to experience the benefits of less time and money spent commuting, the efficiency of working from home, and the ability to flow in and out of work and family life, businesses have recognized this as a valuable company culture to sustain for their employees.
Less About Roles, More About Skill
Skills are critical in the workplace because they address core business challenges, with the competencies needed in a workforce to overcome those challenges. Roles, on the other hand, describe the way individual members of a workforce relate to an overall organizational structure or hierarchy. Forbes gives this advice to businesses, "To build the workforce you'll need post-pandemic, focus less on roles – which group unrelated skills – than on the skills needed to drive the organization's competitive advantage and the workflows that fuel this advantage."
Workplace Intelligence writer, Dan Schawbel explains, “There’s no question that the pandemic has accelerated the need for companies to upskill their current workforce, a matter made even more pressing due to the growing talent shortage. In fact, it’s estimated that 40% of workers will require up to six months of reskilling by 2025.”
By focusing on skills, businesses address the fact that solving problems and answering their core business questions is the key to driving innovation and success within information-age enterprises. From the worker’s point of view, focusing on developing their skills, rather than further developing their abilities to carry out their role, leaves them better positioned to capitalize on new career opportunities. This shift in focus from roles to skills is likely to be a key trend for both organizations and workers during 2022.
Online and Blended Learning
Even during a time when it feels like virtually everything can be done online and in a “contactless” fashion, education is still behind in terms of the quality and accessibility of online education delivery. But the focus on improving online education has rapidly increased thanks to COVID-19. As we move into 2022, we can expect to see considerable growth in online education and its aligned services thanks to the demand for online curriculums that can be completed on a flexible schedule and completely virtually. Additionally, a combination of traditional learning methods and online educational materials, referred to as blended learning, will continue to grow in popularity as it gives both students and instructors the best of both worlds.
Because of social distancing and working from home, many people are spending more time with their immediate families, enjoying regular family dinners and being more present for one another’s activities and hobbies. Although the flip side is that we have been sequestered from physical contact with extended family and friends, many people are increasing contact with their loved ones using technology and being more intentional about touching base regularly. Additionally, people have shown a deeper involvement in their communities, whether that’s more time spent outside walking the neighborhood, checking in on someone who may be sick or lonely, or simply showing an interest in one another because we have more time to be present at home. All of these benefits point to the beautiful simplicity of life that has been newly redeemed and embraced as a result of COVID-19.
Making Exercise Essential
Prior to the pandemic, working out via an app or Zoom was a foreign concept and not one that was commonly utilized. But now that people have had the experience of having to find alternatives to hitting the gym, outside workouts and virtual group classes are not only embraced, but in many instances preferred. The best change to come from this is that there are less barriers (and excuses) to not finding time or a means to exercise regularly. The mindset that exercise can only take place in a traditional gym has been shattered - in a good way!
According to health and fitness coach Ariel Belgrave, “I actually think that the future of fitness will be a blend of in-person and virtual workouts.” She cites the fact that many people will still be working remotely and like the convenience of exercising from home, but previous gym-goers miss the social engagement and human interaction of in-person fitness classes. “Many brick-and-mortar gyms are already finding that members have a preference for a hybrid experience of being able to attend classes in person and virtually,” she said.
Plus Other Healthy Lifestyle Changes
A recent poll from Morning Brew and Harris found 67 percent of respondents claim their lifestyle has become healthier since they started working from home. Another global poll from RunRepeat found that those who were active before the pandemic were even more active after it began. At its onset, the pandemic forced many of us to fix our own meals at home. Now, many restaurants are largely back in the swing of things, but new data suggests many customers are not about to drop home-cooked meals to come back.
Several factors are contributing to the continued prevalence of home cooking. Many people feel unsafe going to restaurants, but the decline in dine-in traffic isn’t the only reason people are turning on their stoves and ovens more often. Consumers who are working from home no longer stop for breakfast or coffee on their commute, nor do they frequent the lunch spots around their offices. For many, financial concerns are also a catalyst for more home-cooked meals, which come at a lower cost and often create leftovers that can be stretched much further than restaurant meals.
On Demand Entertainment
Another major shift to come from COVID is that you can now easily access cinema-quality, new movies without entering a cinema. With movie theaters closed during the pandemic and the skyrocketing use of on-demand entertainment, like Netflix, the industry has shifted to cater to people who want to receive their entertainment when and where they want it. Many of the major titles to be released since the onset of COVID have bypassed theaters and went straight to direct rentals via Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, and the like.
What’s on the Horizon for 2022?
As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20, and now we have the benefit of 2021 under our belts as well. If there’s anything to be learned by the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that change will always bring a blend of positive and negative outcomes. Our response, and how we capitalize on these outcomes, is among the limited factors we can control when things change, especially as rapidly and drastically as they have over the past two years. Considering that COVID has impacted everything from work to personal life and physical health to hobbies and entertainment, we should choose to enter into 2022 with an eye on the opportunity to take advantage of these changes and harness their power into positive outcomes!