Maybe by writing this article, we are not showing that we have learned our lesson. Back in October of 2020, we published an article about the work-based practices that “COVID has gotten rid of, at least temporarily, and we are crossing our fingers that they never come back”. Our naivete had us thinking that COVID would be long gone by this time, but we are still in a state of limbo. We are not exactly living in a post-COVID world, yet many countries have opened back up almost entirely. As we predicted, life is not like it was before. And if we were crossing our fingers last year, we are definitely knocking on wood that we have seen COVID’s worst. The following were the practices that we were happy to see go, and our predictions surrounding them.
I. Required physical presence in the office
In general, companies will try to convert what jobs they can to home office setups. Moreover, many jobs that still require a lot of in-person interaction may be less stringent about all aspects of the job having to be performed in the office. Companies that do not allow the flexibility to work from home will go from being categorised as “stiff” or “overly traditional” to “remiss” or “outdated”.
Just about every company owner I have met with over the last few months has been trying to figure out just how much they will require a physical presence in the office. That’s because the world has now seen behind the curtain: there is no reason for a lot of workers to spend all day, every day, in the office. Workers have spoken, and the trends are clear: being able to work from home is now a dealbreaker; without that “perk”, the top companies will not be able to recruit the best talent. In fact, preliminary data shows that the more someone earns, the more likely they will demand WFH flexibility.
II. Face-to-face visits for paperwork that can easily be done online
Just like businesses, many governments will find that they can be far more efficient, and therefore save costs, by moving many processes online that once mandated face-to-face interaction. If done correctly, and that means keeping stringent cyber-security controls in place, citizens around the world will be better off for it.
It pains me to say it, but this wish has just not come true. Governments were forced to modernise during the pandemic, but most have not gone so far as to fully automate processes that really should be automated. The initial pushes at the beginning of the pandemic necessitated changes, but the push to turn the wheels of government did not elicit the widespread impact we had hoped for.
III. Shaking Hands
While we recognise science is on the side of the anti-shakers, we remain unconvinced that handshakes are a thing of the past. They remain too entrenched in the business cultures of so many nations.
It is still not fully common practice to shake hands again, even in places where the pandemic seems to be under control. The first time someone outside of my direct work circle reached to shake my hand, I offered a very limp grip, something I had been trained against since childhood! I was just so out of practice. Since then, I have rediscovered my tried and true, firm handshake. But I can see that significantly fewer people are extending their arms out to shake hands, and many are still opting for fist-bumps.
IV. Taking time off to head to the doctor’s office (Telemedicine)
The cat is out of the bag. Telehealth is here to stay, especially in the United States.
In the United States, twenty-two states updated their telemedicine laws during the pandemic. While that looks like significant progress, most of those changes were implemented via administrative actions under emergency powers, so they are by no means permanent. Legislation will take more time to implement, but based on what we are seeing, there is a real need for robust telemedicine throughout the world.
V. The In-Person Early-Round Interview
In the end, the lion’s share of HR professionals and interviewees appreciate the more efficient process of moving early-round interviews entirely online. For both sides, it would be hard to go back, so we expect that there will be significantly more “virtual screening”.
According to one HR professional we spoke with, “Since the start of the pandemic, I have conducted hundreds of interviews, and not a single first-round interview has been an in-person interview. The problem is that I have been shocked a couple of times by people who were very good at presenting themselves on camera, but were very disappointing in person. I usually introduce a potential candidate to the client during the second round, but the last time I did that, it was a total disaster, so I have had to institute a rule against that. In any case, the increased efficiency from screening the first-rounders using video is totally worth it. “
The world we are living in is certainly different, and many of these changes are net positives. But they were definitely not worth the cost.