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How will the world of work change post-coronavirus? 

Coronavirus has changed many things, however one of the most significant impacts it has had is on the world of work. For the first time since the recession of 2008, the economy has hit an all time low and people have struggled to keep afloat financially. The importance of work to our survival has become more obvious and on the one hand there are many industries where job losses are occurring, and on the other there are industries reaching saturation point (healthcare, age care, insurance etc.)

Aside from the obvious changes of job losses and market changes, coronavirus has also edited the way that we work. Many of us have been forced to trial remote working due to isolation and are grappling with new ways of communicating and engaging with one another to get tasks done.

These kinds of changes are natural after a global pandemic such as we’re seeing at the moment, but how long will this last, and what will happen when it’s all over? Will the way we work change? Will job security change? What can be expected from the world of work over the next decade? 

We’re taking a look at how things might change, to predict what the post-coronavirus world of work might be like.

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1. More people will work remotely

It’s no exaggeration to say that before the pandemic most people would have wanted to work from home. Whether isolation has changed their opinion on this (quite possibly!) it’s too early to say. However, what we do know is that prior to corona, 76% of workers would be more willing to stay with their current employer if they could work flexible hours.

People wanted to work from home for a few reasons, one main one being quality of life, with 44% of respondents to a survey by FlexJobs saying that flexible working hours would have a “huge improvement” on their overall life. Interestingly, 78% said that working remotely would allow them to be healthier and a massive 86% said they would be less stressed.

Despite these figures showing that people wanted to work from home, most people weren’t doing so. In fact, from the 12-month period from January to December 2019, of the 32.6 million people in employment in the UK, around 1.7 million people reported working mainly from home. This had actually increased over time, and at the time of conducting the survey the number of people working from home was at an all time high.

However, due to coronavirus and isolation, everyone who is able to work from home now is. This shift will see huge changes in how people work, with remote work being offered as an option more regularly. If the pandemic has proven anything, it’s that the people were right all along – they can work from home, and they should be able to. Many people have seen increased productivity and a better work life balance since working from home, and this is something we will likely see continued.

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2. Economic values may shift 

On a deeper level than just how we work in the day-to-day sense, people’s attitudes to work are likely to change too. The current crisis has brought home the fact that we need work to live and to survive. However it has also highlighted how meaningless much of the workforce’s jobs are.

Many of our jobs are in existence with the sole purpose of fuelling economic growth, whereas those on the frontline of the crisis – doctors and nurses and the like – have an integral part to play in keeping people alive. For many, this has made their roles in society feel trivial, so it is likely that we may see a lack of engagement in employees during and following the crisis.

As people’s economic values may shift, we’ll see changes in how people view their jobs. In the past, a YouGov survey found that 37% of British workers think their jobs are meaningless, which is already a very negative statistic. However with the coronavirus putting into perspective the most important members of society (most of whom are paid very little), it can be estimated that HR teams will have their work cut out when it comes to keeping their employees engaged in the post-coronavirus era. 

It’s important to note that this shift has nothing to do with money, and is likely to edit the way we view engagement. Post-coronavirus people will want to do important work and to feel valued more than ever. The rules of engagement will be changing, and it’s essential that HR teams stay on top of this slump in motivation and meaning once the pandemic settles down.

MacBook Pro near green potted plant on table

3. People will feel less secure in their jobs

There’s nothing like a global pandemic to make people feel insecure in their jobs. During the coronavirus outbreak, many people have had to have tough conversations with their employees about whether they can keep them on.

In the current economic climate, 7 out of 10 firms in the UK have furloughed their staff, meaning that the government is stepping in to pay the majority of their wages because the company cannot at the current time. This has made people feel incredibly insecure in their jobs, and as a result is likely to lower engagement and workplace wellbeing.

If we look to the 2008 recession for a guide to how people might react to the increased job insecurity, we can see that lowered job security and increased pressure following the recession of 2008 caused huge workplace disruption in terms of engagement. 

According to a paper published by the Journal of Happiness Studies, in 2006 83 % of employees felt that there was no chance of losing their job, or it was very unlikely, in 2012 the figure was down to 78 %. These changes to job security caused natural workplace wellbeing decreases, with wellbeing dropping by 35% in those who felt their job was insecure.

Aside from the job security aspect, during 2006-2012, it was not financial remuneration that most impacted workplace wellbeing, rather it was “quality circle participation is associated with greater Enthusiasm for males, while the Organisational Communications indicator is linked with Enthusiasm for both sexes”, showing that proving that communication and inclusion is one of the most important ways to navigate these changes in job and market security.

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How can we create a better working world post-coronavirus?

One of the main things that has come out of the coronavirus outbreak is that remote work should be permitted if requested by the employee. Communication, effective onboarding and upskilling should be paramount to this change, which is where a people development platform with these capabilities will be essential. Knowledge sharing for distributed is likely to become essential to business success, as well as the ability for employees to feel confident and secure in their roles.

In uncertain times and fast-changing environments, standing still is getting left behind.

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