Navigating the Changing Workplace Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
Mon, April 19, 2021

Navigating the Changing Workplace Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated changes in our workplace at a nearly unimaginable pace. Many businesses and companies have found themselves searching for and implementing temporary solutions the past few months not only to help them deliver uninterrupted service to their customers but also to assure their employees that they are protected with them. With the pandemic staying until a vaccine is developed, firms need to adapt to these changes to keep the business going.

A recent survey revealed that the industries experiencing significant impact from shutdowns are healthcare (56%), retail (56%), mining (55%), manufacturing (46%), and automotive (43%). According to the World Economic Forum, an independent international organization committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas, these figures show that business models that are hard to digitize, highly people-dependent, or rely heavily on global supply chains are most exposed.

On the other hand, the least affected sectors are professional services (4%), high tech (5%), education (9%), insurance (10%), and telecommunications (12%). The International Labor Organization (ILO) said we could lose up to 25 million jobs across the world – and depending on the timeframe, it could be worse than that. Thus, many companies are doing everything they can to still run their businesses amidst the increasing unemployment rates and the slowdown of economies.

While no one can truly predict what’s in store post-COVID-19, it would be difficult for working life to go back to exactly the way it was. Some of the changes during this pandemic might stay even years after the lockdowns have been lifted. Eric Arnold, president of Arnold Contract, a New Jersey company that makes custom office furniture, said there’s been growing emphasis on technology nowadays. Thus, this would improve the way we navigate workplaces in the future. 

Workplace Trends in This Pandemic

Remote work wasn’t embraced by many industries before the pandemic, including the architecture industry. However, firms are forced to set up a new option that could keep the business running while keeping everyone safe. Diana Nicklaus, principal and co-founder of Boston-based architecture company Saam Architecture, has always believed in remote work as a viable way of conducting business. 

“Our clients can reach all of us any time of the day, as our personal cell phone numbers are available to them. Our team provides a high level of responsiveness, as we are all equipped with the tools to work remotely, whether we are designing or responding to emails,” Nicklaus said.

Today, the safest way for anyone to avoid being infected by the virus is to stay at home, which is why work from home setups are incredibly helpful. Many companies are hinting that after this pandemic, they may adppt some changes that were implemented during this crisis. The latest US research reveals that 74% of businesses want some workers to permanently work remotely and business leaders are actively shedding leased office space. 

Amazon, for instance, has told staff whose job can be done from home that they can do so for a certain period. “Employees who work in a role that can effectively be done from home are welcome to do so until at least October 2,” an Amazon spokesman said in a statement. 

 

 

Since many companies are eager to adopt the work from home policy among their employees after this pandemic, commuting will also change. Statistics revealed that US commute times reached record levels and most UK workers spent more than a year of their lives traveling to and from work before lockdowns were enforced. The lockdowns have now made streets a lot quieter than usual. While many will still need to work from home for weeks or months to come, governments are planning to stagger working times for workers so public transport is not overwhelmed.

However, humans don’t like being isolated. They would eventually crave the physical closeness that comes with just being alongside other people. This is where co-working spaces come in. According to Phys.org, an internet news portal that provides the latest news on science, a recent analysis revealed that more local co-working spaces will emerge after this pandemic. While independent co-working spaces in some areas were thriving before COVID-19, the researchers said that they may become more mainstream if they survive lockdown.

At the same time, it is predicted that there would be more emphasis on sanitation in workplaces after this pandemic. Nicole Keeler, director of sustainability at interior design and space-planning firm Nelson Worldwide, said that she’s fielding questions from companies and building owners about easy-to-clean materials. “There are surfaces that are antimicrobial, just like you would see in a health-care system or in a laboratory which could become a new norm for workstation surfaces,” she said. 

 

 

Reskilling Workforces

As much as we try to prepare for the worst, workers still need to plan ahead amid the changing workplace—how to navigate and survive after this pandemic. A 2017 report McKinsey Global Institute estimated that as many as 375 million workers—or 14 percent of the global workforce—would have to switch occupations or acquire new skills by 2030 because of automation and artificial intelligence. These figures are expected to increase in the coming months or years. 

Meanwhile, companies should also start planning the future of their workplace. Experts say that leaders can reskill and upskill the workforce to deliver new business models in the post-pandemic era. They need to learn how to match workers to new roles and activities. A recent Gartner CFO survey revealed that almost three in four CFOs plan to “shift at least 5% of previously on-site employees to permanently remote positions post-COVID-19.”

Companies need to map out which skill pools will disproportionately affect it and drive it forward by quickly identifying crucial value drivers and employee groups. To do this, they need to specify the exact contributions of these roles to value creation and reimagine how their day-to-day work will change as a result of value shifts. At the same time, businesses may also need a different skillset to facilitate the increase in demand and customer expectations.