There’s no doubt that Summer 2020 will be our cruel summer at work.

cruel summer at workGreetings from the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C. where an unrelenting heatwave of 95 degrees or higher is in progress. Summertime heat and humidity typically sap our strength and resolve. But Summer 2020 is a formidable beast that leaves us as beaten up as a $2 beach chair.

When COVID-19 stay-at-home orders went active last March, we prepared for a deeply distressing and cruel summer at work.

Thus, Bananarama’s 1980’s era ear-worm haunts our nightly dreams.

Lately, people who work are generally miserable.

Some dread the end of July 2020 when their PPP and CARES Act payments stop flowing. Others lament the start of the 2020-21 school season; several D.C. area school systems scheduled tele-learning for at least the first 90 days of instruction. A few school systems will experiment with a hybrid plan providing in-class instruction two days a week and tele-learning the other three days. Whatever the plan happens to be, parents who must work dread that their tethered children will continue to upend work commitments and high-speed internet bandwidth.

Did it have to be like this?

That rhetorical question shares mental real estate with Bananarama’s number-one hit song. I feel the question’s answer is a resounding NO.

Around these parts, mask-wearing and social distancing compliance is spotty. Late last month, we vacationed in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware and discovered that barely 20 percent of Boardwalk visitors and beachgoers practiced social distancing or wore masks. When we returned home, we learned that a big COVID outbreak happened on the Delaware Shore. We were urged to get COVID tests; our test results came back negative. PHEW!

Had our fellow vacationers complied, our Northern Virginia community may have felt confident to open schools this fall without restriction. Instead, they brace for a terrible fall (and a terrible Fall).

We muddle through summer days that traditionally bring rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. That leaves many of us depressed while many more suffer from anxiety. And an American Workforce that should be agile and resilient is addled and restless.

Despite this, can we make our way to meaningful work?

As depressing as our summer days have been, I remain confident that these times will effect the kind of positive change that the American Workforce has craved for the past 40 years. And to start, I believe that the “human capital” mindset will go the way of D.C.’s football franchise’s team name.

In its place, smart companies and hiring managers will empower their professional talent to own their missions and success. 

How might this play out? I think that professionals will be rewarded on the outcomes of their hard work and not with all of the hours that they worked to achieve the outcomes. Great and inspiried hiring managers will invest in the health and well being of their teams; they will encourage people to think about how work enmeshes with their career and meaningful work goals. As a result, more of us who work will own carve-outs for personal projects and to lead missions of social responsibility.

Perhaps the biggest and best result of a workforce doing meaningful work is that our day will not be defined by the work day. Instead, authors and Millennial Generation channelers Mike Hais and Morley Winograd predict:

“Work will become part of the day, not the day.”

When we liberate ourselves from the clock, we become empowered to do meaningful work. And when that happens, and when the summer heat subsides, our best days lie ahead.

DAN SMOLEN is founder of The Dan Smolen Experience, LLC. He is also the executive producer and host of The Tightrope Podcast.  Please comment here to let us know how we are doing, and, to offer suggestions for future guests and topics. Also, please catch up with our past blog posts, like this one and this one.  

Image credits: Summer worker with mask, twinsterphoto for iStock Photo; Dan Smolen with mask, The Dan Smolen Experience, LLC; “Cruel Summer” video, Bananarama.