What the Vaccine Means for Your Job

As the COVID-19 vaccine rolls out across the nation, here’s what employees can expect.

Published: Apr 20, 2021

Leah, a single salesperson in her thirties, loved traveling all over her region to call on her clients before the pandemic. After spending a year grounded and mostly alone in her apartment, she hoped that getting vaccinated for COVID-19 would put her back in the air.

The CDC reports that more than 90 million people in the United States have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 as of April 23, 2021. The number is climbing every day, and many Americans eagerly look forward to life—and work—after vaccination. But what will work actually look like?

“Many people feel a huge wave of relief when they get vaccinated, but we’re not out of the woods yet,” says Brian Bloom, vice president of global benefits and cochair of the COVID-19 task force at Korn Ferry.

Here’s what’s likely to happen with most professional services jobs as the vaccine rolls out.

Many people feel a huge wave of relief when they get vaccinated, but we’re not out of the woods yet.

Vaccinated or not, you need to follow the rules.

Vaccination is happening at a different rate in every city, and a significant percentage of the population may opt not to get the vaccine. A partially vaccinated workforce poses a challenge for companies, and governments are still debating the legality of corporate vaccine mandates. Hence, most leaders are taking a conservative approach to the continuing risk of infection as they reopen offices.

Even as the population moves toward herd immunity, experts still predict that people coming to the office will be required to wear their masks, practice social distancing, and continue frequent hand washing and use of sanitizer. Employers are also taking extra steps to keep the work environment clean and safe; reach out to your company’s human resources department to find out more about your company’s sanitation protocols.

Some face-to-face work will come back, but not as much.

While there are many positives that come with remote work, such as reduced commute times and greater efficiency, many professionals crave face-to-face interaction with their colleagues, clients, and partners.

Companies, even those with a strong campus culture, are beginning to see the financial upside to cutting back on expensive office space and travel. If you went to the office every day or constantly hopped on planes, it’s unlikely that that style of working will fully return.

Most people working in professional services jobs have realized that they can be fully remote if it’s required. But not everyone wants that, nor is it necessarily better for our mental health. “We’re yearning for human connection, and no one knows the long-term effects of the kind of isolation we’ve experienced,” Bloom says. He predicts that, except for certain sectors and companies that remain fully remote, some in-person working will come back—just in a more structured, efficient way, without all the downtime and expense.

Say goodbye to having your own office.

For the foreseeable future, Bloom predicts a widely used system of “hotel desking,” where you’ll reserve a spot for the time period you’re on-site and likely won’t return to the same spot next time. Employees will come in at reduced capacity, and desks will be spaced out and socially distanced.

This may come as disappointing news to people who have been counting down the days before they can return to normal life. “Just because we yearn for what we used to have, doesn’t mean that’s what it’s going to be,” Bloom says. “Once two-thirds of the population are fully vaccinated, we’ll get to some herd immunity and things may change again at that point.”

Even more agility will be required.

So much is still unknown at this time, and company leaders are making difficult choices that they hope will be best for their workforce and customers. Because so many companies are reinventing themselves based on what they’ve learned over the past year, employees need to stay agile.

Career experts say that work-life integration is the new work-life balance; boundaries between work and all other aspects of life will be more fluid than before. “We’re going to emerge from the pandemic into a new world,” Bloom says. “Those who can adapt to the future of work will be very successful.”

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