The pandemic has changed the way we work – here’s how.
When the first lockdown came about, the consensus seemed to be that we would return to our normal lifestyles once the pandemic was over. Talk of ‘going back to normal’ was discussed as if it were inevitable – yet reality as we now know it looks very different. Whilst the five-metre rule and the dreaded ‘next slide please’ now feel like distant memories, many industries are still feeling the long-lasting aftershock. This article explores four ways in which Covid-19 has revolutionised work for good. Written By Charlotte Lassman.
- Remote Working
The classic 9-5 office workday was overhauled practically overnight, and of the many adjustments which were made, remote working had to be the most drastic. Chats by the coffee machine and drinks after work were a thing of the past, to the joy of some and the dismay of others. The benefits were manifold, with studies finding that the shift led to increased mental wellbeing and productivity, coupled with reduced Co2 emissions. However, since restrictions have been lifted and many workers are being asked to return to the office, debates have arisen about which model – hybrid, remote or in-person – is best. Some argue that the office environment encourages relationship-building, and that remote working can isolate workers. Others suggest that the flexibility that WFH affords is second-to-none. No matter which side of the debate you stand on, this shift has given workers the platform to participate in discussions which were rarely even acknowledged prior to 2020.
- The Rise of Freelancing
Uncertainty was an underpinning feature of the pandemic, and it has understandably pushed employers to rethink and adapt their employment models. Part of this was evaluating which tasks could be outsourced, and weighing up the value of in-house versus out-of-home services. This event has seen more and more work being given to freelancers and contractors, who at times represent a more valuable investment of resources than hiring and training a permanent team member. Some domains are particularly sought-after at present. These include software development, digital marketing and data science.
The effect of Covid on career prospects has been a central talking point. Students and graduates lost their places on grad programmes and internships at a high rate, leaving them questioning how this would affect their attractiveness on the job market. The wave of people quitting their jobs since 2021, a phenomenon known as The Great Resignation, has led to employers questioning how to find and, most importantly, keep, talent. Whilst many factors come into play, such as the cost of living crisis and general job dissatisfaction, researchers have put forward that discussions around remote working, schedule flexibility and changing work conditions have reshaped outdated definitions of job satisfaction.
- Wellbeing at the Forefront
Discussions about mental wellbeing were already beginning to gain attention pre-pandemic. However, it may have pushed them further along, with mental health in the workplace being spoken about more openly than ever before. Lockdown was at the heart of increased instances of loneliness, social isolation, and depression, to name a few. Calls with loved-ones and Zoom pub quizzes (can we finally admit that we all dreaded these?) replaced in-person socialising. After such a large global disruption followed by a wave of resignations, many businesses have made it a priority to prioritise staff wellbeing. A number of initiatives have been introduced to this effect, not least the introduction of flexible working and hybrid options.
Whether Covid has accelerated existing trends or created new ones, it’s unquestionable that the job market is miles away from what it was pre-2020. Whilst industry changes and debates surrounding them continue to develop, it’s important that open discussions between employers and the workforce continue to grow.
Watch this space!