55+ in the Post COVID-19 World
We are just starting to step into the Post COVID-19 world. We will not be fully into this new world for probably 18-24 months. If you are 55+, your experience will be different than your younger colleagues. In fact, it may be very different because those of us who are over 55 probably have pre-existing health conditions that make us vulnerable to COVID-19.
I have spent the last few weeks talking to HR consultants, reading as much as I can, and talking to readers like yourself about what you are experiencing. The one thing I can say is if you are working from home now, do not expect to return to the office anytime soon.
Return to Work
Companies are being very cautious about bringing their employees back into the office. The liability of bringing employees back and then have someone contract the virus is just too great. One of our favorite restaurants back in Austin, Thai Fresh, shut down after one of their employees contracted the virus. They were only offering take out service and the employee likely contracted the virus out in the community. No matter the reason, they closed down for 2 weeks to be cautious.
Many companies have spent the last 10 years implementing open offices as they wanted to reduce the cost of real estate. Those offices now are the polar opposite of what you want when implementing social distancing. This is driving a massive discussion on what the future of the office will look like.
Here are just a few articles that discuss what the new office might look like:
- Experts say that when offices reopen, group work areas might replace the ‘seas and seas’ of single desks, while workers stay home for individual tasks. Here’s what the ‘new’ open office could be like – Business Insider
- Will the open office die following the COVID-19 pandemic? – ZDNet
- The Pandemic May Mean the End of the Open-Floor Office – NY Times
This redesign will take time. In fact, Google and Facebook have already announced that they will not bring employees back into the office until 2021.
Who Will Come Back to the Office?
Companies will likely bring employees back in phases. They will also be watching everything to make sure employees are safe, which may include your life outside of work.
I highly recommend you listen to the Wall Street Journal podcast Welcome Back to the Office. Your Every Move Will Be Watched. In this episode, they discuss that initially only 30-50% of the employees will be able to be in the office at a time.
One company is looking at classifying workers into 3 categories based on risk:
- Tested positive for the COVID-19 antibodies
- Are younger with no pre-existing health conditions
- Have pre-existing conditions that make them vulnerable or live with someone with pre-existing conditions
This would require the employees to give the employer access to their health information and possibly health information for their family and or roommates.
My guess is most people 55+ would fall into the 3rd and most risky category.
Will your employer allow you back into the office in the post COVID-19 world? Probably not in 2020 and possibly not in 2021.
Will Your Employer Monitor Your Behavior?
Some companies are planning to send a questionnaire to the employee each morning to ask how they are feeling. They would then be given a code that they enter to be able to access the building
Employees may be asked to download smartphone apps so that the employer can track who they come in contact with at work. The companies could score the employee on how well they are socially distancing. Similarly, companies may put tracking software on computers that people will use in their work from home (WFH) programs.
For those of us who grew up with the book “1984” by George Orwell, does this sound like a big brother?
After 9/11, we gave up a lot of civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism. Will we do the same in battling this pandemic? Will these civil liberties return after the COVID-19 is licked?
My guess right now is NO!
Will Retail Be in Your Future in the Post COVID-19 World?
According to the recent Washington Post article Retail workers in their 60s, 70s and 80s say they’re worried about their health — but need the money, almost 25% of all retail workers are over 55 years of age. My good friend Susan P. Joyce who runs the website Job-Hunt.org is maintaining a list called Top 100 Employers with 700,000+ Jobs Open NOW. This is a great resource but take a look at the top 10 on the list:
In general, they are all customer-facing with the exception of the possibility of Amazon warehouse jobs. These are likely to be jobs that are labeled as “essential” and therefore, will put the employee at the greatest risk of becoming infected.
I am not saying to not consider these jobs. If they come with health insurance coverage that alone may be a reason to take one of these jobs for a year or more. As someone who is pre-Medicare eligible, I completely understand the need for affordable health insurance. I live in Mexico exactly for this reason.
Work from Home (WFH) is Here to Stay
If you are employed by a major employer and 55+, I would expect to keep working from home.
On the other hand, those of us who are 55+ will probably be disproportionately affected. This last decade has not been kind to the baby boomer generation job-wise. Check out my post Baby Boomers, How is the Economy Working for You?.
Kerry Hannon wrote in her article Opinion: Why COVID-19’s impact on the job market is far worse for older workers
Over 30 million Americans have now filed for unemployment benefits, according to the Labor Department. Not surprisingly, the unemployment rate for workers age 55 and older is climbing, according to the AARP Public Policy Institute.
Pre-retirees (approximately 50-65) are getting the wind kicked out of them right now,” said Ken Dychtwald, founder and chief executive of Age Wave, a consulting and research company, and author of “What Retirees Want: A Holistic View of Life’s Third Age,” in his presentation on the American Society of Aging broadcast, “Aging in the Time of COVID-19: Reflections on Life, Health, Family, Community, and Purpose.”
Once again the 55+ audience will have to work harder in the post COVID-19 world to get ahead.
The silver lining is there will be a lot more remote work. I have already had one member of the Career Pivot Membership Community receive an offer right before the pandemic hit and then the employer almost immediately converted it to a remote position. This was a big bonus because this meant she did not need to sell her house and move.
In Kerry Hannon’s article on the AARP website, How You Can Prepare Yourself for the New Job Market, step #4 was Look for work-from-home jobs.
These are clearly the future. Along with going to jobs.aarp.org, you can find jobs on these sites that focus on remote work: FlexJobs.com, Remote.co, WorkingNomads.co, wahve.com, and RatRaceRebellion.com. These sites screen for legitimate employers.
I am a shining example of a digital nomad which I wrote about in my post – My Life after an Amazing Two Years as a Digital Nomad.
When Will We Return to Normal?
I fully expect the post COVID-19 world to look very different than what we experienced in the last decade. What it will look like I cannot predict. However, as someone who is approaching 65 years of age, I know I have to stay nimble and be prepared to rapidly adapt.
Will 2022 be the year we will be back to normal?
NO, I think we will live with this for years and there will be a new normal.Marc Miller