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If You Thought Shutdown was Hard - Wait Until You Reopen!

After months of slowdown and in some cases total shutdown the world is beginning to reopen for business. Business leaders are chomping at the bit because they need to recoup lost earnings and find a way to pay for overhead expenses. Governments are ready too - they have had to dramatically increase healthcare and welfare spending at a time when tax revenues are cut because businesses are shut down. Workers too are ready because many cannot work from home and nice sounding words like furlough do not pay the rent or buy the groceries. We need to reopen but what will reopening look like?

The experience has been different for all of us. I have found it easy because my job has always involved the potential for a lot of work from home and while there have been panicked moments as the technology failed I have transitioned to distance teaching. I know extroverts who have missed the daily interaction with colleagues and I know people who have found working from home to be intrusive and difficult to manage. Others have enjoyed the flexibility of working from home and few have missed the daily commute to and from work.

Shutdown for most of us was so sudden that we barely had time to react. Restaurants suddenly had to transition to delivery or curside pickup - if they were lucky because many had to close. Millions and millions of workers suddenly found that their dining table became their desk and meetings were conducted remotely. In the weeks that have followed however we have adjusted. During the week we can now order from supermarkets and stores that have started to offer delivery and on weekends we've become accustomed to church online, Looking at social media I note that my extrovert colleague has not mentioned missing her work colleagues and has been posting pictures of her grand baby. Other colleagues and friends have been posting pictures of their gardens and their cooking as they now find time to explore and enjoy their domestic side.

As we reopen managers need to be aware that their workforce is, to use the language of today, 'woke'. They understand that their physical presence in the office is not absolutely necessary for them to be productive. They understand that they've been missing out on aspects of their domestic life such as time with spouses, significant others and children. In the new workplace we have realized that work that was previously at the bottom of the totem pole is critical. We need sanitation workers - desperately. Drivers and couriers who make deliveries and people who pack and ship have become a lifeline. Customers are 'woke' too. They understand that firms can be responsive when they have to be. Business that used to require a face to face visit can now be conducted online or with a phone call. Many managers are 'woke' too. They have grown accustomed to holding meetings online and they know that direct reports can be held as accountable by Zoom as they can be when they are all in the same room.

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Article by: Anne Crick, Senior Lecturer, MSBM

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