Back To Normal? Not Gonna Happen! — Part 2

Changing How We Learn And Work
Andrii Yalanskyi/
Summary: Stop wishing things go "back to normal." It's not going to happen and nor should it! There's no going back, only forward. The pre-pandemic world was anchored to a very tired and dated approach. We didn't notice only because societal complacency set in. It's time to rethink how we learn and work.

Changing How We Learn And Work

If you read my last article, "Going Back To Normal? Not Going To Happen!" you'll note that I'm exceptionally confident we're not going back to the way it once was. Why would anyone want it to? And if you're hoping it does, then you're setting yourself up for a huge disappointment and probable failure. Look, the toothpaste is out of the tube, the genie out of the bottle, use whatever idiom you'd like, but we're all moving toward real progress; so, either get on board or get left behind.

Those who want a return to (a past) normal fear change. They're comfortable with things as they are rather than as they should or even could be. They fail to recognize the societal complacency that we all got comfortable with and fail to see the potential that awaits. They're the dinosaurs. Don't be a dinosaur.

The human species is meant to grow, evolve, change, and learn. It's programmed into our DNA. Remaining static and resisting progress will see our species shrivel up and cease to exist. And if you're unaccepting of this fact, then ask yourself, "Why is the human species at this stage of their evolution?" If we weren't meant to evolve and progress, you'd be reading this article by a fire in a cave in sub-Saharan Africa. If you are one of those "resisters," please stop wishing to return to an incompatible past and start looking toward the bright and opportunistic future.

As we emerge from this unique and once-in-a-lifetime event, many wonder what will be the new way of doing things? To be honest, I don't know what that will be but much of it is already happening right under your nose...and you're probably contributing to it without realizing it.

The pandemic is a blessing in disguise, as it is forcing us to do and adopt new and innovative ways of doing things. Do I wish society evolved without a tragic event like this? Naturally, I do, but as I said before, societal complacency is insidious. Seriously though, these new ways, in my opinion, are fricking amazing and, like me, you probably don't even realize how it's taking over your life. It's time to recognize it, embrace it, and then leverage it to your benefit.

Learning In The 21st Century

Learning is one area that hasn't evolved much in the past century. Learning, as most of us know it, is usually sitting in a classroom environment with a subject expert lecturing or instructing. Even well into the twenty-first century with significant technology advancements, those who create eLearning continue to emulate this out-of-date approach...well, up until this pandemic. Those responsible for learning must now look at their truth and either live up to expectations or be irrelevant (read: "eLearning's Time To Shine? Apparently Not").

Since the start of the pandemic, and with little end in sight, educational resources have been forced to adapt their learning efforts to online-remote models. If you have school-aged children, you know this too well. As a university professor, all of my courses, which were once in-class, have now become remote learning. And as an employee, you're not only working remotely but all of your workplace training and compliance needs are likely virtual.

This is the moment learning practitioners and many educators have been wishing for! The moment when eLearning is front and center and the go-to standard for all types of learning interactions. This is the moment practitioners could say, "See, I told you so!" to leaders and decision-makers. For this type of opportunity to be any better, it would have to have a bow on it or a cherry on top.

But eLearning isn't living up to the hype or the expectations. This is a broad generalization and there are some who are fulfilling the eLearning promise but these are the exceptions. The issue is that those responsible for workplace learning either rushed to cobble anything together or worse, simply converted instructor-led courses into eLearning without due diligence, thought, or judgment.

It's worse with academic institutions and educators. Administrators forced teachers to transition their classroom-based instruction into virtual instruction. Simply, most of it is a "Zoom-style" remote classroom with terrible PowerPoint and poorly designed virtual activities. It should come as no surprise the frustration employees and students are experiencing with learning.

Here's a about actually living up to people's learning expectations? How about demonstrating what eLearning and a blended learning approach can be and offer during a period when it's required most? The pandemic isn't going to last forever, but there's an opportunity in front of you to create innovative and impactful (blended) learning environments. Academics and practitioners have (and begged for) the technology and software to do this so it's time to step up or risk forever eroding your credibility for any future endeavors.

New Way Of Working

Naturally, the most obvious change for many of us is our collective new work reality. Remote working isn't anything new; what is new is the scope of the reality and how well we're adapting to our new ways of working. Like many, you've probably not seen the inside of your office, cubicle, or company building for over a year. And surveys show that you probably won't for a long time, if ever again.

Prior to the pandemic, only 7% of workers in the U.S. were provided access to a “flexible workplace” or telework, based on a Pew Research Center survey using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics recent National Compensation survey. A recent Pew survey reported that more than half of employees, given the option, want to keep working from home post-pandemic.

As wonderful and welcoming employers tried to make the corporate office, let's be honest, it got old and dreary fast. We just accepted the dreary drudge commute to another location to then return after 8 hours only to repeat the insanity daily. This is such a 20th-century mindset. The pandemic clearly showed how outdated this approach is.

The pandemic has proven to corporate leaders that there isn't a need for employees to physically show up at a specific location for a specific period. This is what was required when we had to do physical labor, like working on an assembly line, but it's pretty insulting to expect it from knowledge workers. In an industrial environment being "present" is essential; in a knowledge one, results and innovativeness are the expectation, not attendance. Come 2022, Global Workplace Analytics believes that 25-30% of the workforce will be working from home multiple days a week. It's time to rethink and fully embrace the new reality of how and where we work. Simply, employers are realizing and shifting their workplace paradigms and reality.

Not Going To Happen...

I've said this before and I'm going to keep saying it, stop wishing or wanting to go "back to normal." It's not going to happen and nor should it, EVER! There's no going back, only forward. The pre-pandemic world was anchored to a very tired and dated approach. We didn't notice only because societal complacency set in. And when that happens, it's not good. Our knowledge-focused environment requires progressive thinking and approach.

Every facet of our lives, both personal and professional, is changing. You can continue to resist and pine for the "old days" and "old ways" but that only makes you nostalgic and irrelevant. Whatever your role in the workplace, the new or "next normal" is going to require an evolution of work practices, workflow, adapting to employee and employer expectations, and everyone learning from this pandemic experience what they must do to be more adaptable and less complacent.

The pandemic's silver lining is your opportunity to foster substantive change and to apply what you've learned to improve your future. We've all been granted permission to reinvent how and where we work without significant repercussions. It's now your responsibility to capitalize on this unique opportunity to learn, make changes, and grow.

Please share your thoughts and feedback with us. We’d enjoy hearing about your efforts. And who knows, it may be the topic of our next eLearning Industry article. Also, please check out our LinkedIn Learning courses to learn more about developing your business credibility for your learning efforts. Please share your thoughts and remember #alwaysbelearning!