Do you remember a time when we all got dressed, went to work and spent most of the day outside our homes? It seems like a distant memory, doesn’t it? To say that Covid has forever altered the way we live and work would be an understatement. Stock markets languishing at their worst performance since 2008, job losses at an all-time high, and most countries now in recession, we’re all hoping that the worst is behind us. With so much of our lives upended by the pandemic, what does the future hold for the working professional?
During the pandemic, most companies embraced a new way of working, where virtual meetings replaced in-person ones and employees worked remotely for more than a year. It was assumed, pre-pandemic, that the office was essential to collaborative working and productivity. This all changed during the pandemic when professionals had to collaborate across cities, even countries, and employers were forced to question some of their long-standing beliefs.
At the crux of the matter is that employees have realised that remote working gives them the freedom to better manage their personal and professional lives. They save time without daily commutes—time they now spend on personal development or productive work. Some are able to concentrate better without the umpteen distractions in an office, and others have been able to supplement their income with side hustles that would have been impossible to engage in if they had been office-bound. Overall, according to a McKinsey survey, over 60% of employees want a hybrid working style in the future, with 88% wanting to work between one to five days from home.
Therefore, it seems unlikely that most offices can or will return to their former ways of working. So, what does ‘work’ look like post the pandemic? Here are the emerging workplace trends we see gaining traction today.
- The need for greater flexibility:
As stated above, employees are demanding that companies allow for a hybrid model of working. What was once considered ‘out of the question’ is now a necessity if companies want to attract and retain the best employees. While some employees want a fully remote job, most want a balanced number of work days from home and the office. Remote working also makes it possible for people to migrate to smaller cities from metropolitan areas, thus affording employees a better quality of life and greater satisfaction overall. Companies will also benefit from being able to hire from a global talent pool when recruiting for a job. They won’t have to settle for locally available talent; they can recruit talent that fits their ethos and requirements from literally anywhere.
- A change in employee evaluation:
With the global talent market now available to small, big or medium companies, employers are changing how they evaluate employees. Productivity will cease to be measured by the number of hours spent in an office and instead will be measured by the number of tasks completed and the business value generated. High-value employees will be the ones who have a knack for problem-solving, critical thinking, creative thinking and who will upskill themselves constantly to the requirements of the industry.
- Greater importance to health and well-being:
In 2019, a survey revealed that most employees felt that their employers were not sensitive to their physical and mental needs. This will change post-pandemic as an increasing number of employees become concerned with their well-being and reprioritise it. Future office spaces will have to be airier and have outdoor spaces, and companies will have to rethink leave and insurance policies.
- Increased reliance on technology:
With remote working, employees will need access to sensitive documents and information wherever and whenever, even on unsecured networks. Businesses will have to spend large sums to ensure their data is secure without the safety of closed networks. In addition, there will be an increase in automation. Companies will automate mundane tasks to increase efficiency and reduce the requirement of warm bodies in the office. Technology will also become the interface through which remote teams gather in the same virtual room. There will be advancements in virtual and remote working technology as the technology goes mainstream.
- Gig workers are welcome:
Before the pandemic, gig working was on the rise. In the early days of the pandemic, contract and gig workers were the worst hit. However, many full-time workers also lost their jobs, forcing them to join the contingent engaged in nonstandard work. As a result, there was an influx of highly skilled resources available part-time or on a time-sharing basis. Post the pandemic, it is likely that businesses will increase their reliance on contract and gig workers to ensure greater flexibility and limit their liability.
- The great flattening:
The hierarchical organisational structure will evolve into a flat one as companies remove inefficiencies and prepare for resilience. The ever-increasing complexity of businesses will demand faster collaboration and information flow among teams, leading to smaller high-performing units that can quickly handle fluctuations and changes in the industry and work within small time frames.
For recruiters, candidates, and employees, the post-pandemic world will be very different from what it once was. Successful companies will be the ones who will embrace these changes and try to get a competitive edge by becoming the best places to work, attracting top talent. If you’re planning to hire in the near future, keep these trends in mind while making important strategic choices.