A Year of COVID-19: Working Through a Global Pandemic

Today’s post comes to us from the executive director of The Workforce Institute, Dr. Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR.

Today is March 16, 2021. Think about where you were a year ago. It had been five days since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic and three days since a National Emergency had been declared in the United States.

Most of us were in some kind of mad scramble: endlessly doomscrolling news sites, glued to cable news, scouring the shelves of our emptied local supermarkets for bread and toilet paper, trying to comprehend that our kids may be out of school for a few weeks (which seemed monumental and impossible at the time – ha!), worried about our parents and grandparents and great-grandparents, figuring out how to do our jobs from home, learning about a new technology called Zoom, worried about whether or not it was safe to go into work, worried about not getting paid if we didn’t, leaving our houses for the very first time in a face mask and thinking, “this can’t be real life.”

It was chaos.

The tragedy that followed that chaos was far worse than most of us ever could have imagined: Around the world, there have been nearly 120 million cases of COVID-19 (nearly 30 million in the U.S.) and 2.6 million deaths (more than 530,000 in the U.S.). This level of death and devastation was unimaginable to most of us a year ago.

Life still doesn’t look normal. Many of us are still working from home, not travelling, not seeing friends and family the way we used to. Most schools are still not up-and-running normally. Many of us are grieving the loss of loved ones and still worried about the future.

BUT…it does feel like that light at the end of the tunnel is getting ever closer. More than 355 million doses of the vaccine have been administered worldwide, and other aspects of our lives are moving closer to a return to some kind of normalcy. In the U.S., President Biden gave an address last week where he urged us to keep wearing masks and socially distancing and get vaccinated with the hope that come July 4th, we can gather in small groups with our loved ones. I’m really looking forward to that.

Here at The Workforce Institute, the first piece we published about the COVID-19 pandemic was on March 25, 2020, a link to a webinar that the UKG (then Kronos) VP of Global Workspace Solutions Jon Proffitt participated in when companies were just starting to grapple with what business in a pandemic might look like.

Since then, we’ve tried to focus our content on providing you with actionable advice to help you through this time as an employee, manager, organization and human being. Some of those articles include:

COVID-19 Challenges Negative Specialness

This piece from board member Alexandra Levit examined the stress many of us were feeling at the outset of the pandemic, how we were (and are) all in this together, and what organizations could do to create more flexibility for employees.

COVID‐19 Continues to Negatively Impact Government Employees

Board member Neil Reichenberg has written a series of informative and compassionate pieces in the last year focused on the toll the pandemic has taken on frontline, public sector employees many of whom have not had the luxury of working from home but have had to show up to work each and every day in uncertain environments.

How COVID-19 Will Redefine Wellness Programs

Sharlyn Lauby took a look at the long-lasting impact of COVID-19 on health and wellness programs at organizations, focusing on mental and financial wellness, resiliency and embracing flexibility.

Panic in the Supply Chain: How America’s Basements Changed Manufacturing Forever

Board member John Frehse looked at how all that toilet paper-hoarding affected the global supply chain last year and what companies learned from it.

What’s Your COVID- Overhead? Understanding the Pandemic’s Labor Cost

Board member Bob Clements wrote about the profound impact COVID-19 has had on daily operations for so many organizations and the great lengths they have gone to to stay in business.

Why Employers Who Prioritize Safety Will Win the War for Talent

Dan Schawbel wrote about research he conducted with UKG looking at policies, practices and procedures around COVID-19 finding that “Safety is the main ingredient that will forge trust between employers and employees during this crisis and in its’ aftermath.”

Reflections on the Year in Healthcare That Was – and What the Future May Hold

UKG’s Chief Nurse Officer, Nanne Finis, wrote this heartfelt and informative piece about the incredible work done by frontline healthcare workers during the pandemic and why she’s hopeful about many aspects of the future of healthcare.

Embracing Flexibility

Natalie Bickford wrote this insightful piece asking why it’s taken so long for companies to not just allow, but embrace flexibility: “Let’s take this opportunity to create a level playing field for our employees, and celebrate flexibility, rather than begrudgingly allow it.”

Gen Z Mental Health During Quarantine

Board member Dennis Miller wrote this compassion-filled piece about supporting our younger colleagues through this time.

Re-thinking Office Space in a Post-COVID World

I wrote this piece about the impact COVID-19 may have on how organizations and individuals view “the office”, and how offices may be designed or re-designed moving forward.

This is just a sampling of the content we’ve produced over the last year. A big thank you to all of our board members for consistently providing us with your valuable insight, advice and expertise on all things work. And don’t forget to subscribe to The Workforce Institute so you don’t miss a thing.

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