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Future Work Trends Ushered in by COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic will lead to permanent changes in the way business is conducted, how we manage our workflows and how we handle our personnel.

It has forced many companies to furlough workers or keep operations going by having staff that, if they can do so, work from home ― and it’s clear the work landscape is not as it was just a few months ago. The consulting firm Gartner recently published a paper on its predictions for how the pandemic will have a lasting impact on the future of work.

Look at each of the trends below and consider how they will affect your operation and what steps you need to take if any of them are likely impact your company’s plans (expansion or breaking into new markets, for example).

Some of the trends were already underway prior to the pandemic but have been accelerated by it, while others started when non-essential businesses were ordered to close and people told to shelter at home.

More remote working

Probably the biggest human resources effect of COVID-19 is the rapid migration to working from home, which built on a trend that has been slowly growing over the past 20 years. A Gartner survey found that 48% of employees have been working remotely at least part of the time since the pandemic started, compared to 30% before.

If you were forced to rapidly shift to remote working or are planning to do so in the near future, you should decide what your employees will need in terms of resources, skills and work ethic to be able to work and collaborate from different locations.

You will need to decide which jobs can be done remotely and choose which employees can perform them. Staff selection should be done in a manner so as not to appear discriminatory.

Electronic data collection

With the shift to remote work, 16% of employers are electronically monitoring their employees through methods such as:

  • Virtual clocking in and out
  • Tracking computer usage
  • Tracking productivity
  • Monitoring employee engagement.

This was a trend also underway before the pandemic, but it’s accelerating now due to the increase in telecommuting.

More use of independent contractors

With unpredictable workflows and economic uncertainty, many companies have increased their use of independent contractors to “maintain more flexibility in workforce management,” according to Gartner. Its survey found that 32% of organizations are replacing at least some full-time employees with freelancers, gig workers or independent contractors.

Designing business for resilience

Companies that were able to adapt to the changes wrought by COVID-19 were able to quickly change course and keep going.

But, too many organizations are tied to strategies that are laser-focused on efficiencies, in terms of employee roles, supply chains and workflows. That made some companies too rigid and when COVID-19 arrived, they were unable to adapt.

Gartner recommends that you design your operations and employee roles so that they are more flexible. It also advises providing “employees with varied, adaptive and flexible roles so they acquire cross-functional knowledge and training.”

Better treatment of workers

If anything, COVID-19 has brought human suffering to the forefront, and the threat of contracting the virus at work has made going to a typically low-risk job perilous. The pandemic has prompted many employers to prioritize the well-being of their employees more than ever before.

Employee morale during this time is fragile. How you treat workers during this period of crisis will echo for years to come. Whatever new systems or procedures you put in place due to the pandemic, be mindful of the effects on your employees.

For example, if workers point out inequities between remote and on-site workers, you need to investigate and make changes if necessary.

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