COVID-19 is forcing business leaders around the globe to rethink policies for security, business continuity, and remote work. Chances are that some of these efforts will stick. I think the pandemic will speed up the evolution of the much discussed, much less practiced “future of work,” and ultimately retool multiple industries for the better.
In fact, where we once saw the future of work unfolding slowly over years, I now believe COVID-19 to be an accelerant that will help the future of work unfold within months.
Here’s the three trends we’re expecting to see happening.
1. Businesses leaders will speed up digitization
As countries have gone into lockdown, many people have been forced to work from home. In times like these, digital technologies have proved just how crucial they are in keeping people connected and businesses afloat.
As a result, even businesses that used to be “digitally lazy” have been forced to step up their digital game: Video conferencing, document sharing, cloud solutions, information security, machine learning, and AI – businesses across all industries, will have to use digital technologies to keep their operations running now.
2. Remote working will be the new normal
As the pandemic unfolded, workers turned to Slack, Zoom, Skype, Trello, and Hangouts to meet, collaborate, and come together for the occasional Friday bar. Workers juggled deadlines and responsibilities from home even as family responsibilities became ever more present. Colleagues talked, in many cases even more, and more effectively. And with no other alternatives, managers trusted their people to do the right thing.
Business leaders who have previously shied away from allowing people to work from home have noticed that some workers become more productive if they can work in their own environments.
Remote working will likely be an option in many businesses even after COVID-19 recedes, as businesses find that they can be highly efficient – and cost effective – with distributed teams.
However, some businesses will make the move to remote working more seamlessly than others. It takes TRUST and a “goodbye to micromanagement” to work. These businesses will have to alter policies and procedures to make remote working more available and in doing so recognize that they can tap a global pool of highly skilled workers.
Further, many skilled employees will simply demand being able to work from home more often going forward, as they’ve experienced that they can focus better compared to being in a busy office all week (if the kids are not around that is).
3. Flexible workers will be in high demand
As businesses are rapidly adopting more flexible, remote work models, as well as keeping up with an uncertain economic climate, we see a clear pattern towards being more open-minded to working with freelancers and independent consultants than ever before.
The trends supporting this started well before the current crisis, as flexible workers now account for around 15 per cent of the working population in the UK. Freelancers represent a highly skilled on-demand pool of talent that supplies businesses with instant access to talent coupled with the advantage of scalability to meet fluctuating demand.
Will COVID-19 accelerate the freelance revolution?
COVID-19 could be the catalyst which takes the freelance workforce to the next level of growth, in ways that considerably improve business leaders’ opportunities to act with greater flexibility and agility during these uncertain times.
Businesses that have previously embraced future of work practices are likely well positioned to sustain their operations and respond quicker to the demands of navigating COVID-19. In these businesses, work, workforce, and workplace experiences are supported by an ecosystem of virtual resources, technology and an agile workforce structure and that define work as a thing we do, not a place we go.
Currently, we’re experiencing the negative impacts of COVID-19, and it’s quite frankly a tragedy. People are losing their jobs, businesses are filing for bankruptcies, and the virus has sent financial markets into a tailspin. We see news headlines calling this the worst crisis since The Great Depression. There’s really nothing good to say about any of this. Despite responses from governments on social distancing measures, lockdowns and rapid financial policy, it seems this recession will have lasting effects for years to come.
But in times of crisis, we have the opportunity to change, to reflect, learn, grow, and build better and more robust solutions for the future – just like we did after the Financial Crisis. The COVID-19 scare may just show us a better way to work. How enterprises change to work will be telling, but one thing is for certain: Coronavirus will bring us into future of work.