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Has COVID Changed the World of Work Forever?

November 19, 2020

By Mary E. Corrado, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

I recently read a fascinating article from BBC Worklife where they asked leading experts how they felt the world of work has changed as a result of COVID.  They looked at remote work and how it’s been normalized through this pandemic and what effects it’s expected to have long term.

The questions posed in the article are very thought provoking.  Below I share a few of my favorites.

How many people actually want to work in offices?
This question was answered by Stewart Butterfield, CEO and co-founder of Slack, who stated that according to research from Future Forum, the majority of 4,700 workers never want to go back to the 9-5 office. Only 12% say they want to return to full-time office work.  72% stated they prefer a hybrid model in the future. This pandemic has likely changed 9-5 office work for the long term.

How can companies become ‘virtual first’?
Currently, more than half of the global workforce is virtual.  We’ve learned that most tasks can be completed remotely without a loss in productivity. According to Indranil Roy, executive director, human capital practice at Deloitte Consulting, organizations have to rethink their working arrangements. Employees appreciate the newfound flexibility they have.  But will the loss of face-to-face interaction have a detrimental affect over time?  Roy says that organizations who successfully adopt a long-term hybrid model have these characteristics in common:

  • The workplace is distributed across home, office, and satellite offices. Employees can choose their work preference.
  • Teams are virtual ready. Managers know how to manage, coach, collaborate, evaluate performance, and motivate their team remotely.
  • Technology is in place to support remote work as well as office work.
  • The culture prioritizes trust and belonging – whether the employee is remote or in-office.

Could remote work increase gender equality?
Women account for half of all entry-level employees, yet they compose only a third of senior managers and a fifth of C-suite executives.  Many are of the opinion that this is most likely due to women prioritizing family over their career. Jean-Nicolas Reyt, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behavior at McGill University states that this increased work flexibility can increase gender equality in two ways:

1.       Remote work can help mothers better balance their work and family responsibilities, which makes them less likely to sacrifice one for the other.

2.       Data collected during the pandemic suggests that working from home may also enable the father to be more involved.  According to a survey by the Council on Contemporary Families, couples share family responsibilities more now than they did before the pandemic.

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