So, the pandemic brought a fair number of changes to the working world. Pre-pandemic, we would be working mainly on site, travelling to work on a daily basis, working 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with the expected subset of careers which allow for shifts and variable hours.
With the pandemic we were forced to pivot and adapt to a virtual scenario, or at least a hybrid approach where we alternated between off-site/remote/virtual to on-site/face-to-face. And those were industries where there were such options. A fair number of persons either lost their jobs, were furloughed, or resigned.
The pandemic caused persons to take a pause and reassess their career pathways. There was an increased number of persons quitting their jobs, especially those in the service provider and hospitality sectors, which are typically low-paid and demand-heavy. We had the highest number of applications for new businesses, persons were being more creative, finding career opportunities in cubbyholes where previously there were none.
Suddenly new terms were being exposed. Even furloughed. I had probably heard that term once before the pandemic. When we heard about persons being furloughed in the UK initially, I remember having to check online to remind myself of the meaning of the term. Then we had quiet firing. This was previously always around, but became more so during the pandemic when employers would passive-aggressively not fire the person but freeze them out, marginalise them, even set them up to fail and make the workplace uninhabitable for them, forcing them to resign. Although a douche move, this method is cheaper, has less conflict and less potential litigation.
Then there is quiet quitting. Again, this phenomenon is not new, but it became a thing during the pandemic. It was possibly exacerbated by the spike in employee disengagement in addition to the non-supportive employers and work environments now exposed by the pandemic strain. Quiet quitting went viral on TikTok in July 2022 and persons were encouraged to not outright quit their jobs, but withdraw from overworking and quit the idea of going above and beyond as people had often done pre-pandemic. With the pandemic, persons were more aware of burnout and mental health, and with quiet quitting, persons would do their job duties but have firmer boundaries and make time instead for non-work aspects of their lives.
Another trend with the pandemic is the social media career influencer. Instead of taking advice from older experts or certified coaches, the younger generations, Gen Z and Gen Y, are instead listening to similar-aged TikTok and Instagram influencers who produce short videos and give career advice. These generations relate to them better and find they speak their language, in short, practical clips. The information is nothing new, but it is like talking to your friend or close relative and the social media influencers think the juxtaposition is that people are also looking for that human connection in the midst of the virtuality.
Another trend is the video CV. With the increase in virtual interviews, persons are adding to the application process by having a video CV in addition to sending your written CV via hard or soft copy (the latter which can get lost in the crowd of CVs). It becomes almost like the cover letter, where you give a brief description of yourself and maybe show an example of you doing the work task for which you are applying. This has become more popular with LinkedIn and TikTok, and, on this trajectory, may become mandatory as we continue to expand our virtual world interconnections.
We have all heard about the C suite, typically comprising of the CEO, COO, CFO. Now there is an additional category called the CRO (chief remote officer). This person manages the remote workers, the hybrid interface and oversees the hybrid transition, working with post-pandemic operating models. Again interestingly, one of the main goals of the CRO is to maintain structure and human connection in the midst of the virtuality, within the hybrid workforce.
There is one other trend that I find most exciting. Reverse mentorship. This is where the younger generations are mentoring the older bosses. Typically, senior executives teach and mentor younger employees, but now the younger generations are teaching the older managers about social issues, social media, changing styles, culture, language, consumer preferences, wokeness. This can increase innovation, make managers seem cool and retain the younger generations since the older managers will now be able to speak Gen Z. With the increasing retirement age, the generation spread in the workplace is expanding and now we have Generation Z, Generation Y, Generation X and Baby Boomers, all with different concepts, culture, boundaries, workplace rules and even language. It is really important for managers to learn each generation and to be able to traverse all, and reverse mentorship is one way of doing that.
Man, it seems this pandemic has not just caused change but also escalated it. So many new concepts in the changing workplace. Today I was walking along the corridor in the hospital and this Rastafarian hospital worker who was chatting with me said, “Change is like the tide, man. It is inevitable. Don’t fight it, embrace it, roll with it.” It is sometimes our only constant.
—Dr Joanne F Paul is an emergency medicine lecturer with The UWI and a member of TEL institute