The many ways in which work culture has been forever changed by the COVID pandemic

By Francesca Johnson

Updated May 31, 2023 at 01:58 PM

Reading time: 4 minutes

Well, it seems that the “Roaring Twenties” are truly off to a great start. For one thing, we are in the midst of the “Great Resignation,” instead of the Great Depression—though the global economy is silently suffering in the background, work culture is changing. In fact, it already has. If you told me two years ago that the world would shift to university students sitting in Microsoft Teams lectures, that school children would meet their new classmates for the first time through Zoom and that Google Meet would become the lifeline for a lot of people’s daily office interaction, I would have laughed in your face. Yet here we are. It’s 2022, and (hopefully) we are nearing an oh-so-deserved post-pandemic time, full of uncertainty as well as lots and lots of video calls. You win some, you lose some, heh?

The modern-day workforce is defined by a generation of Zoombies, jacked up on caffeine, with weary tech neck syndrome setting in. It makes you wonder how we got here, doesn’t it?

The cataclysmic pandemic

Here at SCREENSHOT, we like to dive deep into all things gen Z and millennial-related. Naturally, we have to talk about the elephant in the room—the COVID-19 pandemic, which put a pretty large dent in the already tricky road to adulting.

The pandemic swept through the world and with it, took hundreds of thousands of lives and many more in the form of robbing people of memories, milestones and events that they should have been able to experience. Graduations were cancelled as the world was put on pause. Many spent a lot of their time cooped up in the house on furlough waiting for their jobs to open up in the service industry, while the suits were carefully placed back in the wardrobe in exchange for comfy loungewear as people learned to work from home, decking out the home office with a well needed spruce up. And don’t get me wrong, it was fun at first.

Now, as we approach the possibility of entering the virtual space of the metaverse permanently, a lot of us (myself included) took to streaming episodes of The Office, somewhat longing for a past life. But enough with the soppy nostalgia—let’s get into all the ways the office IRL has changed.

Remember when Zoombombing became a thing?

The normality of jumping on Zoom calls on a daily basis and getting the hang of virtual presentations was a learning curve a lot of people have finally overcome. The endless online meetings even prompted some to take up an unusual pastime for entertainment: Zoombombing. The crashing of calls rose to prominence in the early stages of us getting to grips with life being solely online. Since the pandemic, cyber-related crimes have risen 600 per cent as online safety became compromised by the boredom of internet trolls.

The rise of the living Zoombies

Now, we all know it’s not exactly rainbows and sunshine working from home. Though it’s possible that you could work from home forever, every dream has a catch. As a result of the many lockdowns we endured—that we thought would never end—dress-codes switched up and some turned into sweats-wearing, hoodie-hooked Zoombies. A little FYI, the haze of day in and day out Zoom calls with little pace change definitely does catch up with you.

If you’re not sure what a Zoombie is, it’s all in the name really: a zombie on Zoom calls. Zoombies are easily spotted as the odd ones out on call meetings, eyes glossed over, very ‘head empty, no thoughts’ vibes. It’s no surprise so many employees turned into such sleepless beings. It’s surprisingly easy to get sucked in and get turned (no bites needed), all you actually need is a daily routine with no exercise involved and little to no stimulation during the day—other than your Zoom calls, of course. Makes you want to pick up that exercise mat, am I right?

Hustle, hustle, hustle people

To avoid turning into a Zoombie themselves, and in lieu of the stay at home orders that defined the lockdowns of 2020, people took up their creative passions and dived into the hobby lists and resolutions that they had initially ditched in the first week of January. The ban on going outside propelled many to take up at-home exercise, going their own way as freelancers while others found their inner Remy from Ratatouille—through a lot of cheeky food delivery orders were made, no doubt.

At this time however, the hustle culture fanatics couldn’t leave well enough alone and allow people to actually enjoy things other than getting that bread. In the chaos of the sudden redecorating and renovation projects, you may have come across a lot of content online spurring people to upgrade their lives. From #wellness TikTok to the ‘girlbossify your life’ Pinterest boards, no place was spared—even Twitter feeds were full of viral hustle tweets telling people to get their money up. The rat race didn’t seem to cease for a global pandemic as people jumped into the realm of cryptocurrencies, and the boom of NFTs in the art world became a new normal.

Side hustle galore has been glorified online especially, but no amount of moodboards and aspirational planners can take away how detrimental this movement has on the next generations of workers. ‘Why not use up the very little free time you do have at the end of the day to drum up more dough with an online career?’ This question has a lot of us stumped. Of course, money makes the world go round, but at what cost? Polyworking has us all in a chokehold too. The newest problematic term in the work from home jargon has its own issues as a lot of zillennials are faced with the dilemma of having to work multiple jobs to survive, while also trying to attain the distant dream of sneaking our way to the top.

Let’s not forget the dreaded ‘office Karens’

If the Zoombies didn’t get to you yet, then the office Karens definitely will. What is an office Karen, you ask? Well, similar to the archetype we all love to hate that ruins the fun for everyone and radiates peak toxic feminine energy, office Karens are native to the, you guessed it, office. There in the depths of the rows of desks and the corridors of cubicles, you will probably find one lurking, or rather dwelling in paperwork as the manager of the place.

Geared up to gaslight, gatekeep and girlboss, the office Karen may not know herself that she is one, but if you’ve ever gotten a passive aggressive email from the zero-chill lady in charge, then you’ve for sure encountered one.

Where do we go from here?

We’ve already seen some countries fully embrace WFH culture by introducing work from home laws—an efficient way to create boundaries for their citizens’ work-life balance. Though it’s not caught on universally to ban bosses from texting their employees outside of work hours, we must remember that this is all new territory which we haven’t entirely figured out yet.

So don’t let the blursday blues get you down too much, the new normal isn’t all that bad. It’s not the end of the world guys (yet), though I’m sure the Zoombie apocalypse had a few of us scared for a second.

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