Published on September 29th, 2020 | by Sunit Nandi0
How Work Will Change Post-COVID, And What You Need To Prepare For
Statistics show that through the COVID-19 pandemic, 4.3 million people – started working from home. That was a big increase in the number of homeworkers previously, and the early indications are that this trend is there to stay – one research company is predicting that 41 percent of employees are likely to continue working from home at least some of the time moving forward.
These are big percentages of the population and suggest demographic-wide changes that will have some flow-on effects on how we work and live… both positive and negative.
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Dealing with change
The challenges in working from home can range from mild irritations to the downright amusing, and certainly, many professionals have found ways to have fun with the “perils” of remote working brought about by the rapid shift in workstyles that come with remote work.
For many remote workers, working from home is a generally positive experience, too. Research conducted before the COVID-19 pandemic hit suggested that employees that were given permission to work from home enjoyed better job satisfaction and were more productive. While the panic of job security and the sudden inaccessibility of the office has led to an increase in worker burnout through 2020, all indications are that as a sense of normalcy returns to work, remote working will again be seen as a good thing for mental health and work/life balance.
However, there is also a dark side to remote work that cannot be overlooked, and over the next few years, there is every chance that these challenges will cause disruption and discomfort for employees and businesses as “teething” issues and periods of adjustment require some change management.
One major issue is that employees will need to grapple with the idea that their job can be done from anywhere. The initial response to this idea is positive: “Oh, great! I can work from a tropical resort,” but in practice, it means that each employee will be competing with a global pool of talent. If a company can access the skills of an employee remotely, then the temptation will be there to outsource to a nation where skillsets are cheaper to hire.
Going hand-in-hand with that is the increasing casualization of the workforce. Many organizations will see remote employees as an opportunity to convert full-time staff to contractors, and avoid the need to invest in training, holiday leave, and sick leave. To an extent, this will benefit the individual, as many of them will start working for multiple clients, but the lack of job security will create social and political tension. On the up-side, leveraging skills without recruiting employees will also allow enterprises to scale back up rapidly and kickstart their economic activity more readily.
The secondary impacts of remote working will be most evident at first within CBDs and other business districts. Where local economies built up around supporting office workers (food courts for lunch, cafes for the morning coffee run), there will be a dramatic reduction in business. Even when offices re-open and some staff return to working in the office (or start splitting their time between the office and the home) there will still be a notable decline in revenue for these already at-risk small businesses.
Real estate will also feel the impact of a decline in demand for office space. According to Buttonwood Commercial Property, this is already occurring with office space subleasing at a record high. For the next decade (or more) there will be a much less pressing need to add new office space to traditional centers of offices, and this will also affect construction companies and gentrification projects being led by the council.
However, regional areas might see an increase in demand for small satellite offices, home renovations (to add a home office), and local businesses in those areas will see an increase in patronage.
The shift to remote work will have far-reaching implications, both for professionals on a personal level, and the way that society has formed around work. With the office space less prominent, so too will be the way that people work to change. What’s important to understand is that the changes won’t be a net negative, and rather, will simply represent a shift that people will need to learn to adapt to.