What Coronavirus Means for the Workplace

What Coronavirus Means for the Workplace

March 11, 20202 min read

As the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the coronavirus (COVID-19) a pandemic, organizations, schools and large public events have been scrambling in an effort to figure out what will happen next. 

But what if your employer doesn't have a formal work from home (or remote) policy?

"Given that a high percentage of families have two working parents, managers need to understand that their usual expectations for productivity are going to have to adjust," says Narda Quigley, PhD, professor of management in the Villanova School of Business. 

In addition, it will be a completely different dynamic for the manager-employee relationship. Deadlines and tasks will need to be fluid in a more virtual workday, Dr. Quigley says. 

"It is impossible to expect that there wouldn't be an extreme impact on the processes that organizations depend on for day-to-day functioning, and so the goals have to change accordingly. Productivity goals and expectations probably need to be tabled (or at least dramatically decreased) until more about COVID-19 is understood. The organizations that are able to be nimble in the face of an unknown and developing situation, yet understanding of the urgency of public health directives and the needs of their employees, will emerge from this situation with valuable experience that may help them weather the next unexpected situation."

Dr. Quigley also notes that women may be negatively impacted by an extended work from home period. 

"As work transitions to the home sphere, one question to consider is whether this disruption will have a longer-term adverse impact on the careers of women, rather than men. Given the continued prevalence of traditional gender roles and expectations around caretaking in many American families, women will likely be expected to focus less on work when they are working from home, particularly if they have children at home or individuals in their families who are sick. 

"Upon transitioning back into their regular working lives, women may find themselves further than ever from their next promotion. Organizations must be cognizant of this and understand that there are likely 'hidden' ways that women are contributing to their ongoing ability to operate—and without this activity, their ability to continue with business-as-usual would grind to a halt. However, this would require a fundamental, culture-wide rethinking of how we value what stands as work in this society, as American cultural norms are so strongly gender-specific."

Connect with:
  • Narda Quigley, PhD
    Narda Quigley, PhD Mahoney Family Endowed Professorship in Business; Professor of Management | Villanova School of Business

    Narda Quigley, PhD, is an expert in leadership, organizational behavior and teams.

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