Business as unusual – how coronavirus caused the future of work to arrive early

 (photo credit: ING IMAGE)
(photo credit: ING IMAGE)

The pandemic has changed jobs. Everyone has tried to adapt, but what about the long term effects?

Several months have passed since the World Health Organization declared the planet is facing a pandemic, and during this time, hundreds of millions of employees had to find ways to get accustomed to working remotely. The lucky ones shifted to working from home, but millions lost their jobs and dealt with financial insecurity. So, it's not wrong to say that the future looks uncertain. No one can tell when the pandemic ends, and if the society will ever return to normal. How would our normal look after months of being locked inside the house, and what kind of scars will coronavirus leave? 

To understand how the pandemic will affect the job market, in the long run, we need to understand what are the greatest unknowns we will face in the following years, how we will live, work, and thrive in a post-coronavirus age, and how the pandemic will reshape the world. Will it impact it forever?

This article will look into how the pandemic and lockdown have normalized remote work and what it means for the job industry. Will we ever go back to the office, or should we look for ways to convert home spaces into areas proper for work? Will organizations come up with a hybrid form of working that provides new solutions for how we work and communicate? Or will remote work be the leveller in terms of diversity and gender equality now that the only way to differentiate between workers is to consider their performance? And what will our jobs mean for us if we work from virtual offices and lose our coworkers' interactions? 

For a precise evaluation, we also need to examine what happens with the companies that cannot switch to working from home or those that depend on a steady traffic flow. What can we learn from the pandemic to build a safety net for vulnerable communities? And if we're heading to a digital future, how can we ensure that no group is left behind because they lack knowledge and skills? 

This is how we expect coronavirus to influence our lives. 

The job market will adopt technology

During the transition to working from home in the last months, over 25% of the planet's companies invested in new digital tools that facilitate remote work. They had no second thought if this is a smart move because they're convinced that the tech usage is permanent even if the pandemic ends in the following months. 

These companies don't intend to ask their companies to come back to office post-pandemic and want to make working from home their new normal. They consider that the industry is moving towards a more integrated system and hybrid work. Brands that adopted technological solutions to fight the pandemic effects will see returning to the old way of working as a step backwards. 

But not all companies share this opinion; in fact, the attitude is ubiquitous because some prefer to have their employees gathered in the same working space. The companies that consider remote working a long term solution had somewhat adopted it before the pandemic imposed it. But the brands that entrenched office culture won't change their minds to come back to the working space once the pandemic is over. 

Specialists state that working from home is a reality we would have faced in a decade, with or without the pandemic, and coronavirus only accelerated the process. For specialists working in the lifestyle industry, the pandemic meant using technological tools to connect with people offline. Fitness experts can get a personal training certification, create an app or online platform, and train their clients from their house's comfort. As long as they're willing to adapt to the new reality, they'll have a job and income. 

The market will register a shift to hybrid working

Not everyone who has a functional internet connection, Skype or Zoom account, and high-quality devices is ok with remote work. The reality the pandemic presents comes with big questions for brands, about how they need to structure their workforce and how their employees can connect and work together. It won't be easy for companies that were organized on the idea of encouraging people to work face to face, to adapt to the new conditions. Michael Segalla, a management professor at HEC Paris, thinks that people don't want to live disconnected from the other people and work in a fully automated world. 

In the near future organizations need to shift to hybrid working that implies splitting work between home and office to prevent the virus's spread. For 2021, a rota system is required to empower companies to create teams that alternate between home and office and respect social distancing requirements. And if everything works well, we expect hybrid work to remain in place post-pandemic because it lowers expenses. 

Workers will experience a shift in mentality

50% of managers think home work during the coronavirus lockdown has gone better than predicted. But we cannot say for sure how remote work functions globally because the answer depends on what those managers expected from the shift. If they thought the process would bring chaos to the operations and instead registered a minor drop in productivity, they might find the experience positive. 

When the lockdown forced everyone to work from home, many were sceptical it would work, especially if they've never done it before. But the companies that allowed employees to alternate between working at the office and home found the process effective. Because the pandemic forced organizations worldwide to adapt to this new reality, remote is no longer a taboo everyone questions about. They consider it a practical option, and most employees and managers feel comfortable maintaining it for a long time. 

The future of work was heading in this direction before COVID-19, and now that coronavirus accelerated it, we can do nothing else than accept it.