No doubt about it; COVID-19 has changed the world around us in ways that we probably won’t fully comprehend until we’ve had some distance between the inciting event and the resulting consequence to see the bigger picture but I can tell you, the modern workplace will never be the same.
Enter the “feral” worker as we’ve affectionately been termed in numerous memes circulating throughout the Internet as we attend Zoom meetings in the wardrobe equivalent of the mullet: business on top and party on the bottom.
That’s right, we might be wearing a business casual top but we are more than likely wearing pajama bottoms or no bottoms at all because, who’s going to know? We answer business calls from the comfort of our bed, email from the toilet, and have a newfound obsession with TikTok and afternoon naps.
Working mothers are changing diapers and slathering peanut butter on toast for a howling toddler while refereeing the Lord of the Flies situation brewing between warring siblings in between conference calls.
Working fathers are questioning their sanity as one of their progeny races by wearing a diaper on their head, silently begging for the opportunity to return to the relative quiet of the office.
But those days are likely fading like a distant, preapocalyptic memory as we reminisce with faint horror how people used to actually shake a stranger’s hands upon meeting them.
We have a collective sense of COVID-19 paranoia. An innocent cough might not have been noticed pre-pandemic; now, it makes people surreptitiously distance themselves from the potentially “infected.”
Everyone is wary of catching “The Vid” as comedian Kevin Hart joked but it’s true. I’m a GenXer so social distancing comes fairly easily to me. My generation is notoriously jaded, having flirted with the allure of total anarchy our whole lives. We are the generation that could watch it all burn to the ground with little more than a vague brush of interest without losing our appetite for lunch.
What does that mean moving forward? Well, the reality is that most office jobs can be done from home. Either the work gets done or it doesn’t and the proof is in the pudding. It doesn’t really matter if the work was finished during banker’s hours or at midnight.
I’m not alone in my inability to imagine returning to the office for eight hours at a stretch. To be clear, I can’t imagine wearing pants for an entire day. The thought of dressing head-to-toe is mentally exhausting.
So, it seems that COVID-19 took many things from us but some things I won’t miss.
I won’t miss handshakes, awkward hugs, or long, boring meetings that could’ve been accomplished with an email.
I won’t miss recycled air, the thermostat police, or working lunches.
I won’t miss shoes that pinch, networking, or inane chit-chat about things that don’t interest me.
I’m officially a card-carrying member of the new feral workforce. We’re here to stay. We aren’t wearing pants. And we aren’t going back.
Kim Van Meter is a former full-time reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Escalon Times and The Riverbank News; she continues to provide occasional columns.