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The Big Question: How the pandemic changed the way 10 Granite Staters think about work

A top-down photo of hands on a computer keyboard. An iPhone sits to the side on a wooden table.
Cytonn Photography
Joined the Great Resignation? Love working from home? Need the office now more than ever?

The past two years of the pandemic have transformed the workforce. People left jobs or changed their career. Some worked from their living rooms and many continued working in person. And many younger people entered the workforce for the very first time.

For this month’s Big Question, NHPR wanted to know how all of this made you think differently about the work you do, and how a job fits into your life. Below are some of the responses we heard from you - from people decades into their work life to those just starting out.

In the Workforce

Fran Bader, Mont Vernon

Two years into the pandemic, essential worker Fran Bader is double-masking during her job at a grocery store. Pre-pandemic, she said she never really worried about her safety at work. That changed when she couldn’t control the way the people around her chose to protect themselves.

Fran Bader

In the early days of the pandemic, Bader was working long hours. She clocked 50, sometimes 60 hours a week. Those hours are down now, she said.

Valyria Lewis, Berlin

Valyria Lewis is a union representative for hospital employees. She said her work is easier to do face-to-face, but remains out of the question. Lewis has an autoimmune disorder and takes immunosuppressants to manage it, so being in a hospital is risky for her. She’s also personally experienced the toll of COVID-19, having five family members pass away because of the virus.

Valyria Lewis

Lewis has continued to work remotely as the pandemic continues, but has recently been able to return in person to her other job: music. Lewis is a singer and was able to take to the stage in early March with her group, Miss Vee And A Badass Band.

Follow Valyria Lewis and six other women NHPR is following as the pandemic changes in our series Overtime.

Cherie Greene, Manchester

Cherie Greene was working at a temp agency when she was initially sent to work from home in the early months of the pandemic. A Pew Research Center survey found that in 2022, more people are reporting working from home because they want to than in 2020. But many others, Greene included, prefer work at the office.

“When I do work at home now (mainly in bad weather), I have to use a laptop and camp out on either the kitchen table or my bed. It's just not as comfortable. Maybe if I had a fancy home office like my son the computer scientist has, I'd feel differently, but I'm not in that kind of income bracket.”

Greene said now that she’s back in person, she has a spacious desk and a desktop computer with two monitors in an office she was able to decorate herself. But the pandemic made her realize working from home isn’t the right fit.

Entering the Workforce

For many young people, the pandemic hit as they were trying to sort out what they wanted to do for a career. NHPR went to Concord Regional Technical Center to see how the pandemic changed the way high school students who will soon enter the workforce are thinking about work.

Joseph Foote, senior

Joseph Foote is a senior at Merrimack Valley High School, studying computer engineering at CRTC. Foote said when school went remote for part of the pandemic, it actually prompted a shift in his career goals.

Joseph Foote

Foote found that although he missed some peer interaction, he could get more done without distractions, and realized he wanted to pursue a job in cybersecurity and software.

Alyssa Woodman, senior

Alyssa Woodman is a senior at CRTC in the nursing program. Because she can’t get vaccinated, she’s having to rethink her options for a career because she can’t participate in the “clinicals” portion of her coursework toward becoming an LNA, licensed nursing assistant.

Alyssa Woodman

Woodman said she’s hoping some policies around vaccinations will be relaxed and she’ll be able to pursue nursing without restrictions.

Sullivan Remare, senior

Sullivan Remare managed to start not just a career, but his own business during the pandemic. Remare, a senior at CRTC studying in the auto shop program, saw an opportunity arise and opened up a towing company.

Alex Morrill, senior

Alex Morrill is in the auto shop program at CRTC, but through the early days of the pandemic he worked at a grocery store in Warner. Morrill said it was stressful as he watched products fly off the shelves and tried to keep up with the long hours.

Alex Morrill

Despite the stress, Morrill said his time at the grocery store provided him with some clarity: He realized he really wanted to work as a mechanic, a job that doesn’t require so much face-to-face interaction.

Dylan Sheehy, senior

Dylan Sheehy is in the computer engineering program at CRTC. For him, the Great Resignation presented an opportunity.

Dylan Sheehy

Sheehy said with so many current openings in the workforce, securing a job in his field isn’t so daunting anymore.

Sarah Jenness, senior

Sarah Jenness said the pandemic galvanized her to work toward the goal of pursuing nursing in college. Jenness said she wants to be able to help in a field that needs support and the pandemic showed her how essential nurses are.

Sarah Jenness

Jenness will study nursing at Endicott College after she graduates.

Kathryn Langille

Kathryn Langille is a senior at Concord High School in the Education and Behavioral Science program at CRTC. Langille hopes to become a middle school psychologist and said the pandemic laid bare the need for mental health professionals in schools.

Kathryn Langille

With the current high demand for mental health care, Langille said she thinks her “appointment list is going to be crazy long,” but it’ll be worth it.

Next month, instead of a Big Question,we’re asking you for your poetry. April is National Poetry Month and at NHPR we’re celebrating by partnering with State Poet Laureate Alexandria Peary, who will reflect on poetry you submit to us.

Each week will touch on a different theme: Belonging, Waiting, Growth and Mistakes & Solutions. You can submit your poetry on one or more of those themes by emailing voices@nhpr.org. You may hear your work during All Things Considered, or find it online.

Julia Furukawa is the host of All Things Considered at NHPR. She joined the NHPR team in 2021 as a fellow producing ATC after working as a reporter and editor for The Paris News in Texas and a freelancer for KNKX Public Radio in Seattle.
Peter Biello is the host of All Things Considered and Writers on a New England Stage at New Hampshire Public Radio. He has served as a producer/announcer/host of Weekend Edition Saturday at Vermont Public Radio and as a reporter/host of Morning Edition at WHQR in Wilmington, North Carolina.
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