Two years ago everything changed. For me, it was overwhelmingly for the better.
That is not to minimize the horrors of the pandemic, or the pain that it caused for so many families. We were fortunate. Covid did not devastate us. It could have. We were just lucky.
So for me, the last two years will be remembered as a time of sacrifice, worry, and wanting. But more predominantly, I’ll remember it as a time where my life became better because it became possible for me to focus more on the things I love – including my work and my business – without dealing with the time-wasting activities of commutes, meetings, and general waiting.
Working in the same room where your dog lounges is simply calming. She just brings down the anxiety level. Having the leisure time to read more, exercise, and eat properly brings forth benefits too great to count. Being able to serve more clients more efficiently by easily hopping on and off video calls brings the sense of accomplishment that is often immeasurable.
And now, after two years of learning how life at work can be so much better for everyone, many folks are facing the potential of returning back to the way things were. I don’t see how it can happen.
Studies have shown that workers have become more productive, even as they spend less time “at work.” Still, some managers and executives cannot buy the proposition that the changing workplace has improved the lives of workers to such a degree that performance necessarily has improved. Those managers just want their people back in the office.
But that does not make sense for a number of reasons. My focus of course is on how work relationships deteriorate to the point where lawsuits follow. My experience is that lawsuits appear typically where human interactions and relationships become strained or fail.
Researchers have been examining how workers from protected classes have viewed a switch to remote work over the last two years. One of the factors that continues to show up is that workers in those protected classes – women, racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ workers – are judged more frequently upon their merit than on their relationships with co-workers.
In reality, merit and value are the only economically rational measures of employee performance. Small-talk, golf games, and happy-hour performance really should not matter. And yet, those measurements still will upon a return to work at the office.
During the pandemic, I read a book by Susan Cain called “Quiet.” The premise is that lots of people are introverts, but almost everyone is expected to live their lives according to an extrovert standard, and the fit just is not there. That is true in the workplace. As a result, highly-competent introverts are often excluded from workplace success not because of performance, but rather because of the ways that they relate to others.
Ms. Cain’s argument is that there is nothing wrong with being an introvert. The characteristics that distinguish introverts often make them effective leaders and performers, provided those distinguishing characteristics are recognized by management.
Introverts are just one group of workers who have benefited from the switch to remote work. The point is that the switch to remote work has made working bearable and even enjoyable for many folks who once dreaded going into the office. The fallout from that change necessarily will mean fewer lawsuits and better employee relations. That reason alone is good enough to never go back.
Eric Brown is an attorney with offices in Connecticut. He can be reached at 888-579-4222 or online at www.thelaborlawyer.com.