On the Other Side

As the United States continues to lead the world in COVID-19 cases, with nearly 1 million, and, tragically, in deaths (54,938 at Noon p.m. ET, April 27)¹, and as Lysol, Clorox, other disinfectant manufacturers and the Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) frantically urge the public not, under any circumstances, to gargle with or ingest cleaning products, our thoughts begin to imagine a return to some semblance of normalcy.

With an emphasis on ‘begin,’ since, for those who cherish health, normalcy is still months away.

While many in Georgia, Oklahoma, Alaska and eleven other states² begin to grapple with staying healthy and opening their economy, and while some of us wonder how Las Vegas can reopen at all³, this seems like an ideal time to consider what the workplace might look like upon our return. If, that is, we had the power to refine and update the world of work to incorporate key learnings from our shelter-in-place experiences and, importantly, to jettison things about it we’ve never liked, were counterproductive, and/or based on principles created more than 100 years ago. Indeed, why go back to what we had when we have the opportunity to modify and create an improved ‘new normal’ deliberately? If anything positive comes out of this period of isolation it should be a revamped 21st century model for the workplace. One updated to incorporate ways to make the workplace more palatable, more efficient and more conducive to producing outstanding outcomes. Indeed, one more human.

To that end, we suggest every organization consider seriously the following possibilities:

  • A new ‘work day.’ Working 8:00 a.m. — 5:00 p.m. (or some variant of that) is old school, with little rationale to justify maintaining it across the board. Consider allowing each department, each unit, each supervisor to define work schedules, if work schedules are even needed. Maybe some people start at 5:00 a.m. and others at 10:00 a.m. or later. Maybe some work at night. This may not be feasible for those in retail, manufacturing or those in service industries, but it can be viable for nearly anyone who works in an office. Greater flexibility will create more opportunity to attend to individual and family needs, will provide less rigidity and, not unimportantly, will reduce traffic during rush hour — which, come to think of it, may become a thing of the past. As we’ve seen consistently over the last 4–6 weeks, the work will still get done. Even so, we’ll need well-trained supervisors and enhanced HR systems to make this happen.

Out of crisis comes opportunity. We are not close to being out of the woods, to being on the other side, given that the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow daily. We do not yet have ample testing, effective treatment and a vaccine. But the edge of the woods is in sight. It’s time to begin a serious, thoughtful, creative discussion and requisite planning to create a post-COVID-19 workplace. One that reflects the 21stcentury and one that builds on the human needs of those who work for a living. Something positive should come from the pandemic. A new workplace may be it.

¹ https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2020/health/coronavirus-us-maps-and-cases/

² https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/04/states-stay-at-home-orders-ending.html

³ Here’s a tidbit: Because the Las Vegas Strip, that portion of Las Vegas Boulevard where the majority of casinos are located, is not actually in Las Vegas, but in an unincorporated part of the county, the mayor of Las Vegas has no legal say as to when those casinos which most define that city can reopen. Somehow this minor point was missed by nearly every news source. But not by our intrepid Editor in Chief.

⁴ With thanks, of course, to Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.



Alan is a consulting psychologist with a long and storied history of helping organizations of all sizes become more enriching, empowering places to work.

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Alan Schnur

Alan is a consulting psychologist with a long and storied history of helping organizations of all sizes become more enriching, empowering places to work.