The COVID19 pandemic upended professional life and caused us to evaluate all aspects of the workplace. There are some superficial changes, such as routine health screenings. Others are more comprehensive, such as the prevalence of flexible workplace arrangements. It will take years for the full impacts to be felt, but I suggest that two enduring differences that will remain are the importance of purpose and the value of relationships.
The Importance of Purpose
For many people, the pandemic caused them to re-evaluate what truly mattered in their lives—and their career came up lacking. The pandemic stripped away distractions and forced us to consider what we want to be part of building. It woke many up to realize that their current career was not where they wanted to invest their time and effort, so they made a change. Meaning is foundational for a fulfilling life and career.
The Value of Relationships
Being forced to stay home and isolate brought into sharper relief the importance of connection and relationships—including in the workplace. Returning to the office has not only increased productivity, it has strengthened ties. We will never take the simple things, like laughing with a colleague, for granted in the same way again. Relationships give texture and richness to our professional life. We can accomplish exponentially more together—and have a whole lot more fun along the way.
The Pervasive Problem
Two areas where these principles intersect is the importance of banding together to further the mission of your institution. One of the most pernicious ways we undercut the vital work of higher education is through maintaining a culture of faculty elitism. In most colleges there is a stark division between faculty and professional staff. At its worst, that can lead to costly errors from undervaluing the input of others or noxious work environments where professional staff are treated as underlings. Snobbery on college campuses is one of the most counterproductive things we do.
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