The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives in ways we could never have imagined. These changes have also led to shifts in how we think about work and our approach to it. While some of these aspects are temporary, many will remain even after the world returns to a post-pandemic normal.
The shift has been sudden and dramatic, with millions of people moving from an office setting to working from home almost overnight. While many companies were already using remote work — particularly large tech companies like Google and Amazon — the pandemic has forced others to adapt quickly as well.
This shift has had repercussions across a number of industries, from the way we think about office space to how we use technology to communicate. Here are 12 ways the coronavirus pandemic is changing the work culture today.
Remote work is becoming more common
The adoption of remote work might be the most obvious sign of change during the pandemic, but this trend will likely continue after things return to normal.
A study by Gartner found that 74% of CFOs plan on shifting employees to remote work permanently once the pandemic is over, while 48% expect at least 5% of their workforce to be permanently working remotely.
This trend was already growing before the pandemic hit, but companies were reluctant to embrace it because they weren’t sure it would work for them. Now that we’ve seen how well it works, we can expect more companies to make remote work a permanent part of their culture.
Working hours are becoming more flexible
The conventional 9-to-5 schedule is slowly becoming obsolete, and this is one of the most significant changes in the way we think about work. The need for social distancing has forced companies around the world to embrace remote working.
This means that employees can work from anywhere, with flexible hours and more control over their daily lives and schedules.
Less emphasis on traditional office spaces
The emergence of virtual workplaces has made physical office spaces redundant. The new normal has demonstrated that companies can run smoothly without physical offices as long as employees have access to the right tools and resources.
Companies are now investing more in developing technologies that support remote working, such as collaboration software and video conferencing apps.
Less work commute or business travel, more video conferencing
According to an annual survey by CareerBuilder, over 70 percent of employees don’t feel they need to go into the office five days a week. That’s because there are several technologies that allow employees to do their jobs remotely.
Video conferencing tools like Zoom, Webex or Skype have made it easier for millions of companies to conduct virtual meetings with their clients. In fact, Zoom reported a 300 percent increase in daily meeting minutes since March 2020 compared to 2019.
However, while there are many advantages to virtual meetings, there are some disadvantages as well. It can be difficult to read body language and facial expressions over a computer screen, making it hard for sales teams to close deals. For this reason, it’s important for sales teams to think outside of the box when communicating with clients and prospects..
Work-life balance becoming a priority
Remote working allows employees to spend less time commuting, giving them more time for their personal lives. In addition, many companies allow their staff members to work from home on some days of the week even when restrictions are lifted so that employees can spend more time with their families and friends.
As a result, many people will feel less stressed about their careers as they can easily balance their professional and personal lives.
More focus on digital workplace solutions and project management software
With an increasing number of companies going fully remote or adopting hybrid working models, there is a greater demand for digital workplace solutions like Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace (formerly G Suite). These productivity suites provide organizations with cloud tools that let employees work remotely on projects, collaborate across teams, and manage their workflow seamlessly.
The use of project management tools has been on a steady rise even before the pandemic. Now that work from home is the new normal, its use will only continue to grow.
Many companies are now turning to online project management software such as Slack, Basecamp, and Asana to help manage their teams. These platforms make it easy for team members to collaborate on projects and keep track of the big picture while working from home.
A shift towards hiring freelancers or contractors
Many companies have been hesitant to hire permanent staff during the pandemic as they look to reduce costs and avoid long term commitments.
The result is an increase in the employment of freelancers and contractors who can be hired on a short term basis to handle one-off projects or to cover for staff absences due to illness or other personal reasons.
Greater work efficiency
The current situation has made it clear that employees can work efficiently even from the comfort of their homes. Earlier, many companies did not allow remote working or had an unstructured work-from-home policy for employees. But after an unprecedented situation hit us, companies are realizing how important it is to have a robust remote working culture.
According to a survey conducted by Bitly (an American URL shortening service) in March 2020, 65% of respondents reported that they were more productive while working from home than at their regular office. This is because when people work remotely, they focus on the task at hand and accomplish more within the given time.
Closer bond with co-workers
We have always known that work is more than just a job. It’s a place where we form relationships and communities. And it’s in these communities where we gain a sense of belonging, identity and purpose.
In the new normal, these relationships get more challenging to navigate. The face-to-face interactions are limited, and our workplaces are largely virtual. Reducing physical proximity with coworkers means less opportunities to foster strong emotional bonds.
According to data from Gensler, only 45% of knowledge workers feel connected to their coworkers since shifting to remote work. And with teams spread across multiple time zones, there is a heightened need for establishing connections beyond the confines of office walls and hours.
The pandemic left many people feeling isolated and in need of support. As a result, many turned to technology for a connection, to get inspired or stay informed. In fact, it has been reported that online learning platforms like Coursera have seen a 200% increase in enrollment since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Many organisations were forced to reconsider how they deliver learning and development, and employees had to adapt their learning habits. While this is a challenging process for both parties, it comes with some benefits – there’s less travel needed, virtual training is more environmentally friendly, and employees can learn at a time that suits them better.
A more relaxed dress code
The corporate suit wear is going out of style. It has been for a while now actually, even before COVID-19 happened. But now people are realizing just how many outfits they can get away with at home since no one ever sees them.
Pants? Yes please! A hoodie? Why not? A shirt with a collar? Absolutely not! There’s zero judgment here – everyone is just trying to be comfortable because comfort is what’s important right now after all. In fact, most businesses will even allow employees to wear casual clothes during office days.
Some jobs are becoming obsolete and others getting a boost
Jobs that require human contact and are therefore considered high-risk are taking a hit. As more people stay at home and avoid going out for entertainment and socializing, bars and restaurants were forced to close their doors or reduce staff hours. Fitness instructors and personal trainers also lost much of their clientele when gyms shut down.
On the flip side, jobs that don’t require much human interaction — like delivery drivers, software developers and remote customer service representatives — have become more sought after.
That means that people who have skills that can be used remotely, such as SEO copywriting and digital marketing are seeing a boost in the job market — and their salaries — as more companies look for workers who can help them navigate online spaces more effectively.
Are you making the most of the “new normal”?
The world may still be reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, but, as we’ve seen time and time again, human resilience knows few bounds. It’s not a stretch to say that we will continue to welcome change in the years after we emerge from this tumultuous time in our world’s history.
These changes will take many forms before they come to an end and life returns to normal, but there will always be a few things that remain constant: who we are as people, what we value most, and how we live our lives.