Did Your Job Description Go Out the Window During the Pandemic?


Dana Barnett already had two roles at Maverick Pools, which builds swimming pools and spas, when the pandemic started: She was both its chief procurement officer and a project manager. But when the Chicago area locked down in March, her job ballooned even further.

“It kind of happened naturally,” says Ms. Barnett, who is based in Barrington, Ill. She soon found herself knee-deep in administrative work, writing extra project proposals and sending client emails from her personal address rather than a shared company one, because she knew she would be the person answering the correspondence. Her pre-pandemic office usually ran from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but she found herself regularly staying up until midnight.

This month, she accepted a competing job offer and had to prepare a list of her duties to train her replacement. It ran to two pages. Her replacement will take over her procurement role, leaving many of her other current duties vacant when she departs at month’s end.

White-collar and front-line workers found themselves taking on unexpected duties beyond their original job description as the coronavirus abruptly transformed businesses and stretched many workforces thin. Today, many of them are re-evaluating their broader job demands. Some can ask for changes to their compensation, title or job description—but others may leave their overstuffed roles altogether.

The average workday increased by 8.2% in the pandemic’s early weeks, according to a study of 3.1 million people working from home around the world published by Harvard Business School in September. A full 93% of retail, e-commerce and fashion workers reported taking on additional responsibilities in 2020, in one December survey of 641 American workers by Airtable, a cloud collaboration service.

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