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  • Writer's pictureVimala Suppiah

How Covid-19 Is Impacting Generational Diversity At The Virtual Workplace.

The workplace is reeling from an unimaginable turmoil brought about by the coronovirus pandemic and its impacting all aspects of our lives. As we are in the midst of a public health crisis, a global economic meltdown and a truly VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) landscape, how will the five generations at the virtual workplace shape the "new normal"?

First, who are the 5 generational cohorts ? They are:

Traditionalist - born before 1946

Baby Boomers - born 1946 and 1964

Generation X - born 1965 and 1976

Millennials/Gen Y - born 1977 and 1997

Generation Z - born after 1997

Traditionalist and Baby Boomer's are used to going to a building, managing their people, processes and have lots of face-to-face meetings. While, Gen Xs and Gen Ys also go to offices, they are more familiar and adaptable to virtual team environment to do business. On the other hand, Gen Zs only know how to live, work and play in the virtual world.

With Covid-19, all of us are experiencing some form of restrictions to our movement and the need to work virtually has become the requirement. As we sip our coffee/tea and dressed casually-smart, we are busier than before attending meetings with our smart phones and lap tops. Doing back-to-back video chats, con calls aided by social media collaborations is now the gameplan.

Against this backdrop, not all is well in the generationally diverse virtual workplace. There are employees stressed out as they have to show up for a 8 am meeting called by the Babyboomer Boss whose transactional leadership style of managing people while demanding endless virtual meetings seems ok, because we are all at home! Micromanaging is on a speed dial. HR are at a loss on how to cope and balance their mediating role between a demanding Boss and demotivated employees. Team meetings are unstructured as leading a virtual team was not the norm before this. The tech savvy Millennials and Gen Zs are turning up for virtual meetings while demanding work-life balance.

Each generational group's working styles and how communication takes place across generational divide don't come easily. It is framed by the different values and priorities of each of these groups whose life experiences have been shaped by some unique events, such as World War II, the economic boom that followed, the consumerist society, technology, hands-off parenting styles, 9/11 and the Great Recession.

But, none of the above mentioned significant events forced all 5 generations to retreat into their homes to work virtually. Little did we know as we glided into 2020 and into 1st quarter of business operations, that the advent of Covid-19 would make us sit up and take note of that VUCA disruption. VUCA became a reality. It showed up as cancelled conferences and schools. It shut down 5 star hotels and brought the aviation industry to a standstill. Wearing a mask to the supermarket and washing our hands as we sang the Happy Birthday song twice became a routine like brushing ones teeth.

We are all in it, whichever generational cohort you belong to. With all those multiple

values and perspectives, if we can't work collaboratively and set aside our differences, learn to communicate with respect and empathy, support the younger workforce with coaching and mentoring while they "lean-in" into the Boomers and Gen Xs experience and wisdom, then the Covid-19 virus with a crown wins.



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