Coronavirus 101: The future of work

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The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we know it. Unemployment has skyrocketed on a global scale, and many businesses across all industries have been struggling to keep moving forward. As millions of people are now working from home, there is a clear shift in attitudes towards remote working. A new way of living is here to stay.

Over the last month, restrictions all over the world have been slowly lifting, but many people fear second waves of infections and there is still no clear indicative when and whether companies will be able to resume their old modus operandi.

Will automation dominate human workforce and become the preferred way of doing things wherever possible? What could we expect the future of work to be after the coronavirus crisis blows over?

Technology replacing people

According to a recent report by CEDEFOP that projects levels of automation penetration in Europe across industries affected by the pandemic, between 20%-25% of all new jobs created by 2030 will likely involve high levels of technologisation. These include low-to-mid-level skilled jobs in manufacturing, hospitality, real estate, wholesale and retail, as well as associate-level scientific or engineering positions that are performed by low- to mid-qualified workforce.

Jobs requiring highly-qualified employees on the other hand are less likely to become automated. These include science and engineering professionals, business and numerical professionals, as well as people with legal, cultural and social occupations.

The workspace

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, corporate headquarters were traditionally seen as a key element in employer branding and positioning. Now that some 60% of people in the US and Europe are working from home and social distancing has become the norm for the foreseeable future, tech-savvy businesses with decentralised premises and agile ways of working and communicating are likely to become more attractive employers while big shiny offices might become a status symbol reserved only for businesses with substantial budget and workforce.

For those choosing to return to office work, face masks are mandatory accessories and office layout has changed: greater distance between desks, dividing panels, constant availability of disinfectants and on-the spot screening for symptoms are very likely to become the norm for years to come.

Economic uncertainty

One thing we remember from the global financial crisis back in 2008 is businesses flattening out middle-management layers within their organisations in an attempt to cut costs and counterbalance economic downturn and growing uncertainty.

Are we seeing this scenario repeat during the COVID-19 outbreak, and what are the pros and cons of reducing management in the context of working remotely?

Within a flat company structure where few managers oversee bigger numbers of direct reports, there is naturally more room for error. If businesses are to navigate this situation successfully, they will have to accelerate their digital transformation journey if they haven’t done so already. A shift from the traditional 9-to-5 office working hours to a schedule characterised by trust, respect and flexibility is key.

Economic crisis accelerates automation. Naturally, companies that have successfully undergone digital transformation will thrive. The introduction of high technology across different industries does not necessarily come at the cost of unemployment and loss of jobs. As remote work and telecommuting are becoming increasingly important factors for employee retention, a global need for increased and improved broadband infrastructure should be addressed by governments.

 

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