The Plus Side of the Pandemic

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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 B.C. 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’s 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 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, face-to-face (F2F) contact either isn’t possible or isn’t being requested by clients. This has resulted in services being moved online, 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 and 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.

And 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 benefited.

A great example of this is 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 offered to students wanting to audit the course at no cost (current as of Oct. 20, 2020).

Many institutes of higher learning and companies have increased their online offerings. Class Central keeps an updated list of free online 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 is greatly improved access to information, events and social gatherings.

Workplace Productivity and the Virtual Open-Door Policy

COVID-19 has forced us to do 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 employees working from home 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 are 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 per cent home, and 40 per cent office.

COVID-19 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 she has noticed.

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 the office door or the buzz of the open concept office.

Having control of the 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-19 was impacting the local job market.

Leading up to the event, we surveyed registrants to learn more about how COVID-19 was affecting their search. When we asked, “Will you need to expand your search or pivot into a new industry?” only four of 29 participants definitively stated “no” while 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-19 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-19 may have been the catalyst leading to positive change.

As one of our outplacement clients recently said, the COVID job transition “didn’t happen to me, it happened for me.”

Closing

Every day I hear stories from my clients about how COVID-19 has negatively impacted their lives, job prospects, travel plans and/or health.

It can be hard to see the positives when we are all facing a long winter staring COVID-19 second wave protocols in the face. However, we can’t overlook that COVID-19 has provided an unprecedented opportunity to change the way we learn, how we work and how we manage our careers.

 


 

Howie Outerbridge is the managing director of LoganHR, a full-service career transition, compensation and talent management firm and member of VF Career Management.

For the latest HR and business articles, check out our main page. 

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