5 Predictions How Coronavirus Will Change the Future of Work
The coronavirus has already caused substantial changes to the way companies operate. An immediate, and negative, change is the large number of people who have gotten fired from their jobs. But as the current situation becomes the norm, companies are adjusting and adopting policies that will impact how the future of work will look.
There are already indications that certain changes may be permanent; here are 5 predictions on how the coronavirus will change the future of work.
Work-From-Home Will Become Prevalent
The most likely way that the coronavirus will change the future of work is an enormous increase in part-time or permanent work-from-home positions. The short-term shift towards work-from-home is already in effect, but all indicators show that it will become permanent.
Companies are already seeing the benefits of introducing work-from-home positions – they have a large positive impact on employee satisfaction, while the productivity of the workers either remains the same, or increases.
Major companies like Microsoft, Facebook, and Twitter have already introduced many permanent work-from-home positions, and others will be quick to follow. As of yet, there have been no reports that company productivity could suffer due these changes.
Collaboration and communication tools already exist, but their efficacy will only increase as they see more use. Additionally, large and small organizations are investing in the development of these tools, meaning that the technology will rapidly advance.
Investing in both hardware and software for their employees to use will incur initial financial losses, but those losses will be quickly recouped as workers become productive. Training may also pose challenges at the beginning, but it is a worthwhile investment if it leads to increased productivity.
Employers have direct financial motivation to establish as many work-from-home positions as possible. The cost of office space can be a deal-breaker for companies wishing to expand, and maintaining offices is a huge financial burden for organizations that have them.
Work-from-home positions allow for significant cuts to the budget allocated for office space, allowing employers to invest money in research and development for work-from-home technology, saving money in both the short and long-term.
Employees report increased work satisfaction if they are allowed to work from home, and are even willing to take pay-cuts in order to retain these positions. Lower salaries will allow employers to have wider profit margins.
Many companies also report an increase in worker productivity when allowed to work-from-home. Employees are both more efficient and often work longer hours. Additionally, companies can significantly cut travel expenses.
It all makes sense. When you work remotely, there is no commute to work. It allows you to start working as soon as you get up, and it is easier to remain motivated knowing that you won’t have to spend hours going home. Then, why not finish the project that you started, instead of leaving it for tomorrow?
Even if all the positives of work-from-home for companies are not enough to induce a permanent change in how they operate, it is hard to imagine that the workforce will acquiesce to return to the old model, after they have been allowed to work-from-home for a time.
Companies Will Hire Globally
The world is interconnected, and professionalism and expertise can be found around the globe. Many of the most successful companies already have a geographically diverse workforce.
As telecommuting becomes more prevalent, organizations that refrain from hiring the best-qualified employees, regardless of their location, will see huge losses compared to their competitors.
As technology develops further, it will not be a problem to organize a remote team, with each member being from a different country. Managing such teams may be a challenge, but not one that cannot be overcome with good policies and training.
Companies will also need to invest in their global workers, providing them with the appropriate tools to work efficiently, but the initial losses will be easily recovered when they have the best possible workforce.
The coronavirus will induce significant changes in the hiring practices of companies, and the positions will significantly diversify from local, to global ones. Organizations that do not adopt the new model will struggle in hiring and retaining a qualified workforce.
Less in-person meetings and travel
You have probably had few, if any, in-person business meetings during the pandemic. This trend is likely to continue after the situation has stabilized, with your work week containing less meetings in general.
The coronavirus has forced many people who were previously hesitant to use the different tech tools provided by their companies to adapt and become more tech-savvy. The workforce in general has become more accustomed to using communication and collaboration tools for work.
It is unlikely that people will stop using their new-found skills, just because the situation doesn’t demand it. When you have been patiently learning how to use new technologies and become adept at using them, there is no reason to remove these skills from your arsenal, just because they are no longer the only way to communicate.
These skills will allow in-person meetings to be slowly phased-out. Meetings can become emails, and emails can become direct messages. For those meetings that still need to be held, video calls and conferences can be used.
Similarly, co-workers who were previously sharing the office space and communicating privately via messages and phone calls, may start using video calls as a way of retaining the closeness. It is easier to develop a trusting relationship when you are invited to communicate with someone face to face, even virtually.
As traveling is generally halted, and telecommuting is allowing companies to cut costs and grow their budgets, many traveling experts believe that the nature of business travel will become permanently changed.
Social distancing rules and people’s personal preferences will limit the organization of large group meetings, such as company conferences and business conventions. In the short term, this will directly impact the number of people traveling for business purposes.
The companies that are able to adapt to the current situation and remain productive and profitable will realize that many of the business trips were unnecessary and could be done via conference calls, or using similar tools.
The companies which have had significant losses will need to stabilize their budgets and cut costs, and travel-related budgets could be the first to be cut. All in all, in the foreseeable future there will be much less in-person meetings and business travel.
Employees Will be Allowed Flexible Work Hours
Many companies and organizations have already relaxed their rules about set work hours. The current situation has exposed the weakness and posed challenges to the current model. As more people start working from home, it has become a struggle to juggle work and home life, when both are done at the same place.
For employees to remain productive from home, a certain flexibility of their schedule is necessary. A flexible schedule also comes with more personal responsibility for the employee, and that requires the employer to show trust in his workers. Employers and employees may develop more confidence in each other, which will permanently change the way people are managed.
With employees successfully managing their time and being just as productive while working from home, it will be hard for employers to justify denying flexibility in any work setting. The standard 9-to-5 will become not only unnecessary, but unjustifiable.
That does not mean that organizational structures will cease to exist. Employers will still need to set specific time frames during which everyone will need to attend an office meeting, conference, or any other team activity, be it online or in person.
Having to be at an online conference for just one or two hours will still allow you to organize your schedule around it, instead of forcing you to be at the office all day. An important thing to note is that flexible work hours, or working from home does not mean that you are effectively at work constantly.
A delineation of work time and personal time is still necessary. You cannot be expected to be online constantly, or answer work calls and emails at any time of day. Employers and employees will need to work together in order to find the best way of managing when somebody is expected to be available.
Flexible work-hour arrangements have shown to increase worker satisfaction while allowing employers to retain the same amount of productivity. It will be hard to justify reverting to the strict 9-to-5 model; flexible work hours seem like a permanent change.
Equity Between Men and Women Will Increase
A positive change that could come about due to the coronavirus pandemic is that the relationship between men and women in the workplace, as well as at home, becomes more equitable. Research has shown that women are more likely than men to adjust their employment situation to their family’s needs.
In numerous polls, above 30% of women who took a break after having children, report that they took it because their employers didn’t offer any work-hour flexibility. These breaks amount to huge financial losses when combining the wages lost and potential future wage growth.
Flexible hours will also allow men to spend more time at home, with their families. Similar to women, men also have problems with inflexible work hours – many men report that they would like to spend more time at home with their families, instead of at work.
The changing work conditions may lead to a more equal work situation between men and women – women will be allowed to continue working if they wish, while men will be able to stay at home with their families.
5 Predictions for the Future of Work
Major Companies Are Moving to Permanent WFH Positions
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