Post-Pandemic changes are not only being seen in consumer behavior but increasingly in the workplace as well, both from the employer and employee perspectives. If you are an HR practitioner, you probably have had employees resign when a return to office mandate was put in place, simply because they had been working from home over the last two years and physically going back to the office — coupled with commutes and other factors — simply couldn’t cut it this time around.
If you are the employee, your priorities and goals likely changed, mostly due to the pandemic and its impact. News about deaths and other severe cases, especially during the pre-vaccine era, have made workers rethink, reassess, and reevaluate what really are their goals in life, and which ones to prioritize. Simply put, post-pandemic changes transformed the way we work and how we want to work.
When I was still employed, Mondays to Fridays meant working from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (this meant having to wake up around 5 a.m. to beat the traffic, especially on Monday mornings), absolutely hustling my way to success by closing deals left and right, and making sure my internal team members remained intact and motivated so my resources were always ready in case clients had any questions. I needed to spend time with them — lots and lots — so much so that my sleeping hours were nothing compared to the waking ones and along the way, I also developed acid reflux and heartburn, among other things. Unlike now, at that point in time I had one job and focused on it without any boundaries.
Over a decade later, the hustling is not necessarily the same. While we have ongoing trends such as the Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting, we also have the gig economy that has enabled working professionals to juggle a certain amount of work that may not necessarily come from one employer. This inevitably created good income sources, and various social media groups on adulting, income generation and the like attest to this life hack. It opened opportunities, especially for the young and digital-savvy, to maintain employment and at the same time do side gigs to augment their earnings. And yes, these are all online opportunities with no other benefits — you get paid by the hour based on the work you turn in.
This has become a challenge to HR practitioners. With boundaries set on the way people work (such is the quiet quitting phenomenon), how can employee work output be optimized and maximized without compromising such boundaries? Will this transform further to smart work?
It requires companies to take a step back and assess who gets more of what and how mutually beneficial it can be in the long term. All of us now value health over anything else and our career/work choices are proof of that. If the main job still pushes for more output than is necessary and thereby sacrifices or takes a toll on health, we then have to place boundaries and evaluate what other options are available based on our priorities.
HR practitioners should recognize such boundaries and see how retention programs can align with them. Many companies are looking at wellness, community and other engagement programs to ensure that they remain aligned with the priorities and life goals of employees. Some factors affecting workplace trends include age, lifestyle and ease of doing work (i.e. hybrid, work from home, face to face).
Similarly, employees are empowered to set boundaries for themselves, especially when key factors do not align with newly found priorities. In a sense, what we are seeing is not only the growth of the company but also that of the employee, and both should coexist. At the end of the day, work is work and more people are realizing that work does not 100-percent fully define who they are.
Kay Calpo Lugtu is the chief operating officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. Her advocacies include food innovation, nation-building and sustainability. The author may be reached at email@example.com.