A Dane Abroad: Work life flexibility or inflexibility?

According to a recent article in the Economist, COVID-19 is here to stay. 

The WHO bleakly announced last month that for at least a decade the world will continue to be greatly affected by this crisis, and disruptions to our work life will play a significant role long-term as we continue to adjust our lives to the omnipresence of a highly contagious disease. 

The interesting part is how we all plan to do that.

Crazy happy mostly
During lockdown many people have been challenged to redesign how they deliver their work. For many, an inability to meet the sudden demands of flexibility has meant an abrupt and unceremonious end to their work or business.

In Denmark, many workers have been uniquely fortunate to have been shielded to a great degree from job losses due to the government-initiated pay compensation schemes.

However, many also report having benefited positively from the change to their work structures. The coronavirus lockdown has presented a new way of working that is far more flexible than the old 9-5 structure. And despite countless comedic memes of people going stir crazy at home during lockdown, a great percentage of people prefer working from home if given the choice, according to the WHO.

Massage via Messenger?
Overpopulation in larger cities is a growing concern in most countries. If more people are able to work from home, the effect may be a natural dispersing of people across the landscapes, posing a solution to traffic congestion, crowded cities and rural communities on the brink of extinction.

Despite this, the newly arisen COVID-19 restrictions are a cause of considerable concern for many other industries that rely more heavily on a personal presence. 

Anyone whose work relies almost entirely on person-to-person contact may suffer greatly during this crisis. For example, how do you deliver a massage online? A great many have simply been unable to carry out their work remotely, and they will find it difficult, if not impossible, to convert their work into a digital delivery. 

A bad hand for some
Personally, I am lucky in that I have been able to continue most of my work delivering health consultations as a physiotherapist via a digital platform. This is fortunate indeed, and it has been a relatively easy transition purely because my current role has a large advisory component. Had my daily work been all hands on, I would have really struggled during these changes.

For many, rolling naturally into a working-from-home model has been the opportunity they have been waiting for. But for others this is a dark dream as they are forced out of business if their work cannot be carried out remotely or becomes infeasible due to space restrictions.

Flexible delivery is key
Because so many people work in offices in front of computers these days, there may be a tendency to believe that moving our work to our homes won’t be a huge deal for many people. But so many people don’t have that option. And for them this crisis is not offering a more flexible work life, but instead a very in-flexible work life.

This is indeed a time to consider what we do for work (if we have that luxury at all) and to assess whether our work can be carried out in more than one way. 

‘Flexible delivery’ appears to be a key quality in determining whether our work fares a good chance of surviving in the future. This all reminds me of a quote I read during the lockdown: “We are all in the same storm, but we are not in the same boat.”