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Working in the Forever Now

Veronica Cashman

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The workplace is no stranger to new methods and fast-paced changes that require the ability to adapt. But this has been even more of a tenet in this time of quarantine and uncertainty. A small hope remains that things will return to normal within the year, or even by the beginning of 2021. Yet, as the number of COVID cases continues to rise in the United States, many workers and business leaders are realizing that working from home is likely to be the new standard for the foreseeable future.

Industry leaders gathered together at the WITI Orange County Webinar "The New Normal for Working in the Age of Covid" to share their insight and experience on how to handle the unexpected changes that life has been throwing this year.

The unanimous advice among the four panelists is "Be able to adapt." Of course, this is advice that is widely known and shared along the pipeline of work wisdom. However, this advice is even more relevant now than it has been in the past. There is no guarantee about what the workplace will look like next month, let alone next year. The expectations and ideas will change forever, and job seekers must stay ready. Arjen Mackaaij, SVP of People at FabFitFun, noted that the paradigm has shifted, and employers and employees alike should be prepared for this working from home model to be the new norm. It is entirely possible that the temporary model in place now will become permanent, and this possibility offers opportunities to current and potential employees that were previously unavailable.

Vivian Maerker, Global Talent Director, PID at Danaher, remarked on the fact that while the job market has dropped severely in certain areas, there are opportunities in others. Cruises and restaurants may not be hiring right now, but there are openings in different fields. The skills you possess apply to a wide range of careers and industries, and now is the time to build on them. The benefit of the quarantine forcing remote work is that working from home is much more accessible to people who previously were unable to work at the office. Moms who left and stayed out of the workforce for various reasons now have the possibility to enter again since the demands of the job are currently not centered around working a 9-to-5 office job.

Miranda Richardson, Senior Global Technical Manager at Microsoft, also reminded the audience that it is essential to create spaces for work and spaces for yourself. It is easy to not step away entirely from work. You step away to eat lunch, but still check your emails, or your mind is still on all the tasks you need to complete. Creating a space and time within your workday not only prevents burnout from continually being at work, but also prevents fears and anxiety from becoming overwhelming. No one has the answers for what is the right method for handling this quarantine, but Richardson reminds the audience that "it's okay to not understand the moments, as long as you're making a pathway or effort to figure out what best works for yourself."

The panelists and moderator also agreed that this time of social distancing and quarantine does not necessarily prevent you from growing your skills and furthering your career. Stepping up and advocating for yourself to team members and bosses is a crucial skill to possess and continually build upon. This is not based on physical contact or closeness, but rather keeping communication open with managers, as Danielle Madison, Chief of Staff at Blizzard Entertainment, noted. Bosses aren't looking around the office or Zoom meeting for the next person to promote. Stay in contact and speak up for new projects you want to handle and look to the coworkers who possess the knowledge you seek.

The standards of business will continue to change and evolve during this quarantine and for years after. But as moderator Liem Le, Founder and CEO of Little Lion, noted, investing in people and the human element will ultimately allow for growth and opportunities across the board.

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