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over 1 year ago by Executive Grapevine

COVID business terms that would have made no sense in January.

People With Maks Touching Elbows In Office

It's surreal to look back on the past year and consider that words that have permeated every aspect of our lives, due to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic and the havoc the virus wreaked across the planet, just 11 months ago the vast majority of professions simply didn't know.

COVID was an unprecedented event. Governments scrambled to deal with its snowballing spread across continents, whilst the economy went into shock as consumer habits changed overnight and businesses sought some form of sustainability and longevity. All of which took place through the lens of language that had previously been almost unknown.

Speaking about how the public’s language changed so quickly, Fiona McPherson, Editorial Manager and Public Liaison of OED Management, recently told Fast Company: “This particular crisis has brought a mixture of new coinages and the adaptation of terms that already existed to talk about the pandemic and the impact on the world.”

Simply put, this crisis was so massive, so central to the way in which 2020 (and possibly onward) was going to play out, that the language we use had to adapt to its presence. So, what terms within the business world either didn’t exist one year ago, or took on new meaning throughout the course of the year?

Essential Worker 

Employee purpose has always been an essential part of both motivation and wellbeing, but never before has the public or the Government championed those who, in this crisis, kept the world turning and the economy afloat. Those working in supermarkets, those in public services such as police and fire departments – and, of course, those working for the NHS, found new purpose in their roles, and many wore the term ‘essential worker’ like a badge of honour.

Zoom Fatigue 

Pre-COVID, connectivity platforms such as Zoom, Slack and Microsoft Teams were already seeing an uptake in business as companies slowly but surely embraced remote working as a viable alternative to being office-based. However, as the vast majority of companies were plunged into mandatory remote working across the board, these platforms served as a lifeline of communications. Yet for many, the increased volume of meetings, get togethers, performance reviews and town halls brought about a new specific form of burnout coined by many as ‘Zoom fatigue’ – Zoom being a primary source of such meetings for many.


According to data complied by the University of East Anglia and Auckland University of Technology, it discovered that due to the blurring lines between home and work life, plus the effects of furlough and mass redundancies, the average professional is now working a total of 84.5 minutes longer than their allotted hours. Those minutes add up over the course of a week and, by Thursday, many workers feel physically and mentally exhausted. Hence the rise of the term ‘blursday’ – as in, by Thursday, working life has devolved into a blur.


Another, tongue-in-cheek jibe aimed at the platforms that has seen massive adoption across the corporate world, zoombombing is a term that originated from the hijacking of corporate meeting by hackers, usually resulting in some form of obscene stream. However, it has also come to summarise cases in which screens showing non-work-related content, sometimes highly NSFW, has accidentally been shared by workers.