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Workplace Traditions That Are Gone Forever

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They produce the most dynamic work together
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Business Not as Usual

For generations, having a job meant traveling to an office or other workplace where we saw the same co-workers every day and the boss hovered nearby. The big break in the tedium might be a perfunctory gathering to watch a colleague blow out birthday cake candles, and working from home was a rare thing — maybe allowed if the weather was bad. But the coronavirus pandemic changed all of this seemingly overnight for many, and its effects continue to ripple through our lives. Read on for a quick survey of some workplace changes and ask yourself which ones you truly miss.


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Time card
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Working 9-to-5

When Dolly Parton sang about “working 9 to 5,” most people could relate. You could expect that plenty of people in your time zone had alarm clocks going off at the same time to shower, grab breakfast, and arrive at a workplace at the same time to break for lunch and drag through the remaining hours until leaving at the same time — bookended by two stressful “rush hours,” around which your time was your own. These hours were innovated by Ford Motor in 1926, widely adopted, and formalized by the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938, designed to combat factory workers being taken advantage of. A new way of life arrived for many workers as the coronavirus pandemic sparked a remote revolution, though. “Many remote jobs also come with flexible schedules, meaning that workers can start and end their day as they choose as long as their work is complete and leads to strong outcomes,” says Brie Weiler Reynolds, career services manager at FlexJobs and Remote.co.


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Complaining About the Commute

Commuting was once a necessary evil and a reliable topic of conversation with colleagues, especially if there was a backup on the road or train you all took in. Having a commute also could mean time to prepare mentally for the day ahead or decompress before arriving home. “The Auto Insurance Center found that commuters spend about 100 hours commuting and 41 hours stuck in traffic each year, with some ‘extreme’ commuters facing much longer commute times of 90 minutes or more each way,” Reynolds says. In the 2020s, though, many workers have been able to ditch these interludes for “more time for personal priorities outside of work.”


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Office Cubicle
Office Cubicle by Ben Mautner (CC BY-NC-ND)

Decorating Our Office Space

Offices and desks have been places for pictures of family, office-themed jokes, and scenes of whatever beach or mountain top you’d rather be on, but always a way to bring your personality into the workplace. The Muse even once shared a piece on making your workspace “more fun to stare at all day.” Those days seem to be over: Many employees no longer have their own space or even spend much time in an office. “Now that many companies have switched over to a hybrid working model, many employees won’t have an assigned desk anymore,” says Kristin Myers, editor-in-chief of personal finance site The Balance. That means we can “say goodbye to the days of framed photos, desk plants, and personalized decor.” 


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Colleagues talking after work at a coworking
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In-Person Happy Hours

Co-workers grabbing a drink after work is how generations of adults bonded, and countless articles have pointed out the benefits of socializing outside the office — while pondering the dangers of it. “Now that many people are no longer grouped together in offices, working from home makes a corporate trip to the local pub feel odd at best. Many companies are attempting to preserve their corporate culture through online happy hours and other digital events, but for the time being, office happy hours are still on ice,” Myers says.


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Birthday Party
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Office Celebrations

The bigger-scale holiday office party has been a classic setting for all sorts of mischief and drama over the years — heck, we wouldn’t have “Die Hard” without it. And we’ve spent decades cringing through a circle of colleagues singing “Happy Birthday” to us and etiquette experts weighing in on the best ways to celebrate to make everyone feel appreciated. “Every time your birthday came around, you could always count on all your coworkers signing a card and getting a cake (or cookie cake!) for you,” Myers says. But most people don’t celebrate in the office anymore, “so say hello to virtual cards and goodbye to handwritten ones. Most people can now expect birthday celebrations virtually with co-workers on Zoom, and if they’re lucky, their job will make up for the cake by sending a nice treat or gift to your house.”


Related: Holiday Traditions That Are Disappearing

Our business requires us to travel
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Business Travel

Trips to unveil a product at a trade show or hold a team-building retreat were once common, with business-class travel lounges and extra-space seats on airlines, occasionally luxe hotel rooms or even generic ones providing a break from home, and per diems that allowed for some sweet dinners and a night or two on the town. But “business travel may never fully recover from COVID-19,” The Economist says. While some workers may be eager to return to airports, hotels, and conference rooms, their employers may be harder to convince that going back to all that is necessary.


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Teamwork and technology, indispensable tools for corporate productivity
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Dressing for Success

There were once work clothes and the sense of decorum that went with them — just think of Melanie Griffith and her co-workers slipping out of sneakers and into high heels as they arrived in the “Working Girl” office or Don Draper of “Mad Men” with the extra dress shirts he kept in a drawer. The pandemic and the Zoom era turned that into a joke: that people working remotely dressed appropriately only from the waist up. But the jokes petered out, and “Americans are returning to work and finding that sensibilities and dress codes have changed,” The Washington Post says. 


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Angry caucasian bearded director in shirt and tie arguing with his sloppy female employee. Printing shop interior.
dusanpetkovic/istockphoto

Knowing Who’s the Boss

You were the employee and had a boss who made the decisions — remember? And a job offer laid out what was on the table, and it was a rare employee bold enough to ask for additional perks? It was the way of the work world, evidenced by stories such as Business Insider’s 2019 piece, “36 Things You Should Never Say to Your Boss.” But the upending of how we work and stresses of the so-called Great Resignation mean talented workers have the upper hand in some cases. “We’re seeing workers leverage the talent shortage to their advantage,” says Dawn Fay, senior district president at the management consulting company Robert Half. “Managers are giving employees [more] freedom,” and that “can boost morale and productivity.”


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Local Hires

Despite rare situations in which a family member worked in another city and came home on weekends, most people over the past decades looked for work within a reasonable commute of their home. Stories abounded on the “benefits of living where you work.” Now many companies draw from all over and no longer have to convince top candidates to relocate. “Our research shows 50% of employers are offering remote options and evaluating candidates outside of their office’s geography. Companies can better attract top talent and gain access to a wider talent pool by hiring from anywhere,” Fay says.


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Pay Equaling Success

Those who made the most money have long been considered the most valuable at a company, and envied by many. The pandemic found many people reevaluating what they want out of their work life, with a balance of personal needs rising in importance. “Employees are not content to trade their well-being for a great salary. After spending more time at home during the pandemic — and sometimes watching loved ones lose their lives to illness — many people realize that they need to focus on their family and overall quality of life,” says Ber Leary for Helios PR. 


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