Probably no experience in our lifetime so completely changed what we do and how we think as the COVID-19 pandemic. We still deal with the after effects in healthcare, business management, technology, views of the workplace, and socialization.
Before COVID we probably never even considered or understood the concept of “supply chain.” We took for granted that needed materials and equipment would be there when needed until they were not. We also expected that the contacts and employees we were used to dealing with to answer questions, process claims, and make the mid-level decisions would be there until they were not.
The transition to a “new normal” has not been without its stumbling blocks and mistakes and we do not yet know what that normal might look like. Here, though, are some of the things we do know.
• Massive Numbers of Employees Lost Left a Gap That Will Take Time to Fill. One subject not often raised is the impact of experience on just getting things done. If you were used to dealing with Mary in claims and Mary is no longer there the next person might not know the procedure to follow or might develop an entirely new process. She might also be working from home and unable to access needed information. Replacing a worker is not just a matter of moving someone new into a desk. This might be one reason why among other things employers have reported being “ghosted” by new employees who might recognize early on that the job is not what they expected or that it is time to move on again until they feel comfortable in the position. Many jobs are left unfilled or are filled by persons completely inexperienced in the work they are now doing. It makes sense that it will take some time before they catch up and, meanwhile, businesses and companies are changing the ways they are doing business anyway. On March 17, 2022, U.S. News magazine published an article, “COVID-19 Did a Number on the Workforce — and the Workplace,” with the subtitle “Many workplace norms were upended during the pandemic, some permanently…” At that time the author noted the economy had four million more jobs than workers to fill them and conversely “the recovery in the labor market has been historic…” We began to value the worker more.
• Some processes and procedures changed. Some did not. This makes completion of some tasks easier and some more difficult. Some processes that have always been done using paper continue on with the same rules and time frames. Other processes including filing of legal pleadings or researching citations are moving online but still include paper filings. Some meetings today are in person. Others by zoom. Some combine in person and zoom at the same meeting. This can be an enormous benefit and great convenience where it is not necessary to travel to remote locations. On the other hand most users of zoom and similar technology have encountered occasions where one or more participants is unable to connect.
• The opportunity for one person or business can be a problem for another. One serious issue is where there is a dramatic difference in technological acuity between participants in the same conversation. Think of what it is like for someone who does not have a computer or a cell phone to communicate with someone or a business or government agency who handles all business online. It is as though that person is speaking a foreign language, actually worse since languages can be translated. It could be compared to someone not owning a phone — any phone — 50 or more years ago.
• Rules for compliance sometimes conflict. If rules require that a given activity be completed or that given documents or responses be provided in paper in a given period of time there are times when this is extremely difficult if not impossible to accomplish. This is especially true regarding deadlines and modes of transport.The U.S. Postal Service in particular and rules regarding, for instance, service of process can become a nightmare although other means of transport can also run into problems. If you are required to respond to a document within a given number of days and you receive it after that date, what is the rule? If all communication goes completely on line the consequences of not reading your email could become extreme.
Janet Colliton, Esq. is a Certified Elder Law Attorney (CELA) by the National Elder Law Foundation recognized by the American Bar Association and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and limits her practice to elder law, retirement, life care, special needs, guardianships, and estate planning and estate administration with offices at 790 East Market St., Ste. 250, West Chester, 610-436-6674, [email protected] She is with Jeffrey Jones, CSA, co-founder of Life Transition Services LLC, a service for families with long term care needs.