It comes as no shock that the early 2020s have radically altered the structure of our world. Not only have big shifts impacted governments and industries as a whole, but the very nature of people’s home life, work-life, and family organization has changed. In particular, people are now looking at their jobs and approaching them with a much different mindset than pre-2020. The following will explore this shift in workplace norms and approaches while also examining how this shift has altered aspects of people’s lives outside of the workplace. Particular attention will be paid to how changing workplace expectations is influencing people’s decisions to move away from larger city centres.
What’s Going On In The Workplace?
Before diving into the mass exodus that seems to be happening in major cities everywhere, it’s important to first understand the developments ongoing in the workplace. When the pandemic of 2020 hit, pretty much any worker who could complete their work from home was strongly encouraged to do so. This led to mass numbers of remote and virtual workers all around the world.
There were lots of hiccups as people and employers figured out how to manage to work from home. People needed to combat distractions, figure out technologies like Zoom, and rely more on digital devices. In many cases, employees were working far more independently than they ever had in the past. Employers were struggling to figure out how to handle their workplace health and safety requirements, track employee hours, and keep everyone connected.
It wasn’t perfect, but for the most part, we did it. Of course, not every job lent itself well to the work-from-home model. Many of the cases that didn’t adjust well-involved people in already precarious financial situations; low-skilled, low-paying jobs suffered the most in this regard, particularly the professions that revolved around service.
The Second Wave Of Work-From-Home
In the majority of remote or virtual work scenarios during the pandemic, there was a general understanding that once the pandemic settled down, people would return to their offices and carry on with their work on site. This didn’t happen.
Employees around the world got ready to combat the call to return to in-person work. It turns out that working from home offered a series of spectacular benefits that, once held, were hard to let go of. Studies have found that anywhere from 30-45% of people are prepared to quit their jobs if they are asked to return to full-time in-office work.
Virtual Work And The Work-Life Balance
Why? There are several factors. Foremost, people and especially women with young children, who have for generations been forced to fight for some semblance of work-life balance, finally got a tiny bit of ease. They didn’t have to choose between making money and being present with their children. They didn’t have to debate with themselves about whether their child’s cold was severe enough to warrant them staying home together (taking ALL illnesses seriously is one of the major lessons we’ve collectively learned during this stretch; no one should be going to work or school while they’re sick). There was less guilty about missing out on family moments or not being available for children.
The Health-Life Balance
Other benefits included healthier lifestyles. Eating lunches at home, avoiding workplace vending machines, and being able to get up and walk around or stretch while working have been cited. Work grew more meaningful as micromanagement from higher-ups was impossible to the same degree as before. People’s mental health improved as they could go at their own pace while working.
The Freedom Of Remote Work
Beyond these initial benefits of working from home, many people found their lives had been opened up wide while working virtually. Suddenly, they could go spend a week at their parent’s place. They could set up work at the cottage and enjoy the serenity of nature around them. People began, en mass, to leave large urban centres. The quality of life was better outside the city, and they didn’t need to be in the city any longer to have a job. Moreover, rural areas tend to have a much more manageable cost of living.
The Real Estate Impacts
Because of all these factors, there’s a resurgence in interest in real estate properties in rural areas with low population densities. Take, for instance, the extreme interest in properties and land in Manitoba compared to pre-2020. In all likelihood, the changes we’re seeing in real estate behaviour are going to have far-reaching cultural impacts on society as a whole.
The Third Wave Of Changing Workplace Norms
Some employees are in the process of taking this a step further. Confidence in institutions and systems is at an all-time low, and many people no longer view working for someone else as a wise or safe thing to do. The result has been a wave of resignations. People are starting their own businesses and turning to alternative income scenarios; many do not want to have to rely on someone else to get their money made.
In particular, industries that did not or could not provide adequate feelings of safety for staff or industries that pushed people to their limits, forcing them to work through feelings of extreme terror and anxiety, are seeing the greatest number of resignations. People are waking up to the fact that they don’t ever want to have to choose between their health and their income.
The Health And Wellness Impacts
It’s too soon to be able to predict the long-term effects of this level of migration, but initial reports are promising. People seem to be having an easier time giving their families the time and energy they want to be giving. People also seem to be spending more time in or near nature than in recent history. Finally, there is a rapidly developing cultural norm of not ignoring any symptoms of illness, however small, which can be expected to result in people resting more when becoming sick (which shortens the time spent ill) and with people catching on to illnesses and diseases more quickly.
The above breakdown should have outlined the unprecedented changes ongoing in the workforce at the moment and some of the effects these changes are having on society as a whole. It can’t be said that 2020 and the following years were easy, but it can be said that humans learn quickly and adapt when they have to. As it turns out, some of these adaptions might produce positive, lasting results.