By Ellen Albright, Director of Talent + Workforce Development
Take a deep breath and think back to this time last year – Autumn 2019. How many of you were attending fall sports, either for your own kids, or as spectators/tailgaters? Were you grocery shopping online and relying on delivery of these goods weekly? Did you go on in-person sales calls or travel for work? For those of you with kids, had you ever even heard of Class Dojo or Google Classroom? Here we are a year later, and so much has changed, yet many of us have not had the time to process the change, rather we adapted on the fly.
Let’s take some time now to fully realize how much our day-to-day lifestyles have been disrupted, and let’s give ourselves the space to honor all the work we’ve done to adapt.
Becoming a digital consumer: With one blink of an eye in March, we were all racing to source toilet paper and cleaning products from big and small chain retailers, online marketplaces, mom-and-pop shops, and even bartering with one another. Many of us relied on neighborhood groups to post updates like, “There are Clorox wipes at Giant!” or “Toilet paper at Sam’s Club right now!” I even once offered a neighbor wine for a roll of paper towels. As supply chains recalibrated, shipping and logistics were streamlined, and demand lessened a bit – we have all continued to cling to some of our new habits in shopping, and this recent McKinsey & Company report demonstrates five key shifts:
- Consumers have shifted to value and essentials, with a 20 to 40% net decrease in intent to spend on discretionary categories.
- There has been a flight to digital and omnichannel spending, with a 20 to 40% increase in intent to spend online even post-COVID-19. Moreover, many anticipate much of their holiday shopping will be done virtually.
- Shock to brand loyalty – 73% of consumers have changed stores, brands or the way in which they shop, with many willing to switch to lower-cost brands or generics to save.
- The newly coined “homebody economy” continues to prevail. While out-of-home activities are certainly picking up, there are still 64% of consumers surveyed not-yet comfortable resuming ALL “normal” activities out of the home.
- 84% of Americans plan to maintain or reduce holiday spending, with nearly half of consumers across all generations (Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers) shifting to more online shopping this year.
Education & Childcare: This is a biggie for so many reasons. First, our schools and their faculty had to rethink learning methods, explore new digital tools, and roll out new programs to students and parents – all while doing so from their living rooms and kitchen tables. Parents have had to learn how to “teach” their children to support learning from home, figure out new apps and programs, all while balancing their own workloads and sharing WiFi bandwidth. And for the students themselves, the impact of digital learning is vast and difficult to measure. For at-risk students, the loss of in-school resources and support presents even deeper concerns. In a July 2020 report from the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation on “Working Parents, Childcare & COVID-19,” five key findings emerged:
- Almost half of working parents are now working remotely. Flexible working hours and the ability to work remotely were identified as the most important employer-provided benefits for working parents.
- 75% of working parents currently have children staying at home with a parent during work hours.
- Two-thirds of parents have changed their childcare arrangement due to COVID-19.
- 60% of parents will need to change their current childcare arrangement within the next year.
- 22% of parents are unsure whether they will return to their pre-COVID-19 working situation.
Thriving in a Remote-Work Setting: Many industries – service/hospitality, manufacturing, construction, skilled trades, healthcare/first-responders, and retail – have not had the option to work from home during this pandemic. To each of these individuals, we salute you and your bravery to show up for work every day. In many cases, you have made a lasting impact on the lives of the people you support through your dedication.
That being said, for this last section – I am going to focus on those who had to shift to remote work suddenly to highlight the onslaught of virtual adaptations necessary to be successful. From creating an “office” space in your home, to ensuring strong internet connection and overcoming the challenges of cybersecurity, while also trying to create boundaries between work hours and downtime, this swift shift is another demonstration of our resiliency and ability to change. A recent Forbes article highlighted the impact of ongoing work from home, which is timely being that just this week – Microsoft has announced that some of their employees may work remotely permanently. Here are some main takeaways from the Forbes article:
- More than 50% of respondents said that even after it’s safe to return to the office, they’d still prefer to work a combination of some days in the office and some at home; 23% said they’d like to continue working at home full-time.
- The designation between work and personal time has become more blurred, yet half of the respondents still felt that work-life balance was easier in a remote setting.
- 48% of respondents said work that requires focused thinking is easier, with 44% finding it easier to meet their deadlines.
- On the contrary, when it comes to work that requires collaboration – 47% have found it far more difficult from home, not being able to simply “yell into one another’s offices.”
- When asked what their company could do to help them thrive working remotely long-term, respondents indicated that they primarily want the basic tools required to do their jobs — 53% would like the company to provide the right home office equipment, such as a monitor, desk chair or printer. Connectivity, of course, is also a priority, with 48% saying it would help if the company paid for a better internet connection at home.
If you are still struggling to thrive in a remote environment or dealing with the stress of your child’s education, the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance is here to help. We are offering free trainings on relevant topics to help you navigate these tough times. For a full list of trainings, view our events calendar.