Since March 2020 the world of work has changed considerably for me, I wager that the world of work has changed for many other people also. No longer do I navigate public transport in the morning, no longer do I communicate with colleagues or students face to face. I work now mostly in a virtual world where meetings and classes are held online. Many of us have had to battle with laptop cameras, audio settings and latest versions of Google Chrome in order for our computers to become effective communication devices.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to see how “normal” work will ever be the same again. At the start of this global crisis, it was all amusing, the idea of being at home while being at work. During breaks we could fill the washing machine, check the post, even make a meal. As time went on, the utopia of being at home while being at work faded. The lack of interaction with colleagues and not physically being in our workplaces left some of us a bit empty.
Working from home also seems to blur the lines of boundaries between work and home, and raise some potential new problems for work conflicts. Miscommunication, polarisation and difficulty with measuring productivity may be more prevalent in this new online world. There may be also other implications for workplace conflict. Conflict that occurred in the traditional sense may have changed. In the UK it is surprising to read that there was an increase of 18% in tribunals between April and June of 2020 compared with 2019. An interesting article on this from Oliver Mundy can be accessed on this following link. https://www.thehrdirector.com/what-does-the-wfh-revolution-mean-for-workplace-conflict/. This suggests that working from home is not the panacea for workplace conflict like one might have assumed.
Most of us have adapted well with working at home, we have now mastered how to be productive by understanding the virtual tools we must use, taking appropriate breaks and having a routine that includes some exercise. There are things beyond our control however. Interruptions to our work have taken on a new dimension, children bursting through our office doors with what they think is very important news, family pets jumping on to our laps or the postman calling to the front door with a parcel, all while we are on a very important conference call with our manager.
I sometimes get the feeling that technology uses us as much as we use it. That technology is infused into our everyday lives in more ways than we might imagine. I do miss interacting with colleagues face to face and for me, nothing beats the physical presence of working with a colleague in a meeting, classroom or office. For now, though many of us will have to use emojis to express our emotions and reactions online.
When we think of the future when this declared pandemic is over, many of us wonder will the world of work ever be the same again. If you are like me, you probably have many questions. Will we all have to trudge into an office to have a simple meeting? Will all of our work be in a physical building again? It may be fair to say that there is a lot of uncertainty around the world of work going forward. But to borrow a quote from Heraclitus, “Change is the only constant in life”, so it is probably best to embrace what ever comes in the future and try and learn from it.