As a global community, we’ll be trying to tabulate the negative impacts of COVID-19 for years to come. Catastrophic loss of life, physical and mental health issues, and a profound change in our ability to socialize and interact with other people; very few aspects of our lives have escaped the wrath of the coronavirus. From an economic standpoint, travel, tourism, and many other industries have been decimated by COVID-19. Locally we’ve seen organizations like the Vancouver Aquarium close, which has impacted hundreds of employees, and thousands of visitors. According to Tourism Vancouver, visitors to BC generate nearly 15 billion dollars in revenue; local spend cannot make up for those lost dollars and many organizations may never recover. My wife’s family student and group travel company is one of them. Her father started the business 40 years ago and grew it into one of Canada’s largest student and group travel companies, but until international student group travel is deemed safe by parents and school boards, the company and will remain in a state of hibernation. Writing an article on plus side of the pandemic?. Even writing the title was difficult…
Yet there have been positive changes.
Organizations Levelling up their Webinar Skills: Access to Information and courses
For many organizations, the pandemic has forced a pivot in service delivery; in-person, F2F contact either isn’t possible, or isn’t being requested by clients. This has resulted in services being moved on-line, a universal acceptance of virtual meeting platforms and organizations levelling-up their webinar skills. Clicking on a link, instead of hopping on transit, waiting in traffic, finding and paying for parking makes attending an event much more convenient and opens access to people who may not have been able to attend F2F events. At a recent organization’s ‘meet the board candidates’ event, attendees from countries as far away as New Zealand were able to attend an event traditionally only accessible to those in the lower mainland. Many of us have experienced this with friends and family outside of our bubbles; not being able to see people in person has prompted many to teach their parents to master the use of the mute button and set up regular family get togethers.
It hasn’t just been companies and families that have created virtual spaces for meaningful interactions. Institutes of higher learning have also been forced to pivot, and learners eager to engage have benefitted. A great example of this the Indigenous Canada course, which is a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) from the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta. The course explores Indigenous histories and contemporary issues in Canada and is currently been offered to students wanting to audit the course at no cost.
Many institutes of higher learning and companies have increased their on-line offerings. Class Central keeps an updated list of free on-line learning, which currently lists free online courses about the pandemic by Harvard, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and the World Health Organization. Microsoft is even offering a $100 certification at no cost. Clearly, one of the plus sides of the pandemic has been greatly improving that ease at which information, events, and social gatherings are accessed.
Workplace Productivity and The Virtual Open Door Policy
COVID has forced us to do things many things differently, including how we work. The virus has forced a global workplace experiment on us, challenging us to answer the question, ‘can employees be productive at home’? In a recent study of 12,000 Indian, German and American working from home employees across a number of sectors, the results suggest that, “a surprisingly large number of employees have been able to maintain or even improve their productivity.” The majority of us now have our home offices set up and our being encouraged to work from home; employers are much more open to this than they were pre-COVID. Amazon recently announced that employees with work that can be done from home can continue to do that work well into 2021. To provide opportunities for employees to connect F2F with their coworkers, many employers are creating office flex schedules to adhere to social distancing and limit bodies in the office, but provide the human interactions that employees crave. A recent LinkedIn pulse survey suggested that the ideal balance of working from home and working in the office was 60% home, and 40% office. COVID has been the driving force behind the work from home, work from anywhere social experiment, and is another positive outcome.
Writing these articles gives me a chance to connect with local HR leaders and tap into their expertise. One such leader in a large local organization shared her thoughts on a plus, which was that she felt she had more control over her virtual open door, and more time in between meetings to take a breath and recharge. Pet a pooch, walk around the block, do a load of laundry, then hop on the next Zoom call instead of dealing with the line-up of people outside your office, or the buzz of the open concept office. Having control of your virtual open door and being able to close it occasionally is a welcomed change for her.
Being Forced to Change Industries: Job Seekers Being Open to New Opportunities
LoganHR recently hosted a live webinar panel to hear the perspective of three recruiters on how COVID was impacting the local job market. Leading up to the event, we surveyed registrants to learn more about how COVID was affecting their search. When asked, “Will you need to expand your search or pivot into a new industry?”, only 4 of 29 participants definitively stated “no”, the other 25 survey participants shared that they were interested in exploring opportunities, or already actively pivoting to other industries.
Experts in the field of contemporary career development theory point out that chance, luck and unplanned events like a global pandemic play a critical role in how our careers unfold. COVID may result in many being forced to shift gears, pushing change adverse individuals into a sector that they might not have considered. For those who felt trapped in their jobs, longed for a career change, or needed a push to launch a consulting business, COVID may be the catalyst leading to positive change. As one of our outplacement clients recently said, my COVID job transition “didn’t happen to me, it happened for me.”
Every day I hear stories from my clients about how COVID has negatively impacted their lives, job prospects, travel plans, and/or health. It can be hard to see the positives while we all suffer through a long winter of COVID protocols. However, we can’t overlook that COVID has provided an unprecedented opportunity to change the way we learn, how we work, and how we manage our careers.