Preparing for Post-Covid Work Life

Corporate culture is guaranteed not to let any opportunity slip by and the Covid-19 pandemic is certainly no exception. In fact, I am tempted to say that the pandemic itself is not a blot, not even a dot, on corporate ingenuity.

While I agree that dealing with the impact of the pandemic on the economy, work place and life in general is a very serious affair, one cannot help but notice the feverish pitch with which different sections of companies – not just the company where (you think)  you work – trip over the feet of one another in getting you ready!

We went over the communications circus practiced with great vigor during the lockdown but the effort aimed at getting-back-to-near-normal-work seems to be even better, or worse, depending on which side you are in. There are elaborate emails, illustrative diagrams and, of course, the inescapable zoom calls to describe in great detail every square inch of the repurposed office space, which is beginning to look like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces from different puzzles mixed up.

Then there are the excruciating instructions on how to enter and exit the building and various sections of the office through mind boggling one-way lanes wherein one wrong turn might mean having to exit the building and start over. And, in some strange combinations of one-way traffic lanes inside the office, you may find yourself incapable of accessing the toilet in a hurry.

It looks like, at any point in time, no one will be more than 6 feet away from one of the sanitizer stations, which may quickly be replacing flower pots and fire extinguishers stuck to the wall. Comprehensive scheduling systems are being put in place to reserve your toilet breaks; and meal breaks are strongly discouraged. The most optimal scheduling algorithms ensure that no two people working in the same department or a project are in the office on the same day, thus effectively rendering the office to be another remote location.

Paperless offices may at last be really coming into vogue. Post-it stickers and other forms of stationery will be removed from circulation. Incoming mail, if at all permitted by your office rules, will be quarantined to a point in time where the contents become redundant. Birthday parties, the life blood of office culture, might be a thing of the past. Meeting durations may blissfully be limited to fifteen minutes, the maximum recommended time between successive hand washes.

All said and done, the corporate world is not going to allow itself to be outmaneuvered by silly pandemics!

Corporate Communications During Lockdown

In the strange, surreal environment that exists today due to the pandemic, many of us are working from home and trying to adjust to a world devoid of ‘bio breaks’ during meetings and exchange of gossip through ‘water cooler conversations’. I would assume that I am not alone in voting ‘corporate communications’ as the most painful aspect of being confined to the four walls or, in the case of some lucky ones, the basement of your home.

I dread opening my Inbox every morning. There is a plethora of communications from my HR department on how to stay motivated, what training courses I can take while being under house-arrest, how I can energize myself, followed by how I can calm myself down. This feels like the time when I was five years old and my mother, grandmother and various other elders were teaching me how to become a good citizen. Comparison to death by a thousand paper cuts is not all that far-fetched.

Why is there an assumption that I need to be propped up constantly? And why is there the gross misconception that I have any less work now than before? Frankly, I have been so used to working from home over the years that I don’t need constant pats, more like blows, on the back to continue doing what I have been doing all my life.

Wait, there is more….as they say on those blessed commercials on TV. The ‘corporate’ office also encourages employees to communicate with one another to ‘stay in touch’. This is misconstrued by many eager-but-held-back-so-far-by-decency coworkers to unleash a hailstorm of their own. These take place by way of mass emails or through group chat facilities, paid for by the company on an emergency basis. The contents vary from photos of their pet snakes, videos of piano recitals by their toddlers, vivid descriptions of their dishwashing adventures and daily walks in the woods. I get it – people want to stay in touch. But what about actual work, at least as an afterthought?

In large organizations, you might start hearing from sections of the company which you never knew existed. You might get ‘guidelines’ from the Manager for Digital, peer-to-peer social media communications. You  might also hear from the Office Manager responsible for removing or repurposing unused furniture (who is using any office furniture now?). Or from the VP for global communications strategy – do I ever get a break?

Amidst all that is going on in the world today, one thing stands out, steady as a rock – the ability for the corporate giant to tie itself, and others, into knots!