We know the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the lives and routines of millions of people all over the world. Now that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, we’re all imagining what a return to normality might look like. While the economy is opening, the job market is recovering, and businesses look ahead to the future, some things are likely to remain changed forever. As the pandemic has forced businesses and workers to transform the way they operate, it’s seeming less and less likely that the workplace will completely return to life before the pandemic.
Over the past year, many businesses have been forced to come to terms with how well, or how poorly, they can operate with a remote, distributed workforce. We’ve seen hundreds of companies adopt new routines, policies, and technology to balance business needs with employee health and safety. The questions that many company leaders are trying to answer are: how many of these changes are permanent? What will work life look like after the pandemic? And how will my business adjust?
While it’s difficult to predict the future with any certainty, below are several workplace trends we’re confident will emerge in the post-pandemic world.
Remote Work Will Continue In A Hybrid Format
While the transition to a 100% remote work environment may have been difficult for some, a large percentage of the workforce has gotten used to working from home over the last several months. According to the American Psychological Association, when done correctly, remote work can drastically improve employee productivity and satisfaction. This is a win for both the company and the employee.
As a result, it’s likely many companies will consider offering employees a hybrid model that allows for the flexibility to freely move between the home and the office throughout the week. This flexibility will also allow large companies to ensure social distancing and other health safety protocols can be managed in an office setting until a significant portion of the population has been vaccinated.
It will also allow employees to ease back into an in-person routine. Even as companies begin bringing people back into the office, 5-day in-office work weeks are likely to be a distant memory. You might consider having 2 “core” meetings on weekdays in the office so people can plan for and conduct important in-person meetings on those days.
Physical Office Space Will Change
Before the pandemic, many companies were adopting open floor plans and shared working spaces as a way to promote collaboration. It’s safe to say this trend is likely a thing of the past. Office spaces will need to be reformatted in a way that keeps employees safe when they return to the office. This could mean bringing back large cubicles, directional arrows on the floor, and sanitizing stations throughout the office. Employees will need to be spread out and many will still avoid face-to-face meetings when possible. In order to avoid cramming people together, large corporations in downtown office buildings will need to rethink gathering places like elevator rides, cafeteria floors, and bathrooms.
Job Hoppers Will Be On The Move
After the economy stalled and the labor market disintegrated in 2020, many job-hopping Millennials and Gen Z employees took a breather. As a result, we witnessed a significant attitude shift as employers were forced to turn to layoffs and remaining employees were thankful to retain jobs. As the economy begins to reopen and companies reenter growth mode, the environment will once again switch to a candidate’s market. Look for job hoppers to be on the move again and for companies to refocus efforts on employee retention and satisfaction. Efficient training, excellent onboarding, and a flexible work and benefits structure will help promote retention of job hoppers.
Recruiters Will Have A Larger Talent Pool
Historically, many organizations were hesitant to offer fully remote roles, and oftentimes these positions were the only ones requiring very specific skill sets. Now that HR departments have grown accustomed to fully onboarding employees remotely, companies will likely feel comfortable opening more roles up to remote work in the future. With more and more positions no longer being location-dependent, recruiters will have a much larger talent pool which will ultimately make it easier to build high-performing teams.
Companies Will Continue To Adopt AI and Automation
An inability to bring employees into the workplace underscored the need for continued adoption of automated solutions, especially in industries like manufacturing. Adopting AI and automation solutions in warehouses, call centers, and retail stores allows companies to achieve production objectives while maintaining physical distance between humans. Going forward, it’s likely companies will continue to invest in AI solutions that allow their businesses to continue to operate efficiently in the event of future disasters.
How Should My Business Prepare For Work After COVID-19?
The pandemic introduced unique challenges for every business. From remote work to logistics, to revenue impacts, company leaders were forced to make quick decisions to adapt to a rapidly evolving situation. Likewise, companies will again face unique challenges after COVID-19 has passed. Deciding when and how to bring employees back, how to keep them safe, and how to recruit future talent will vary depending on the business and industry. Nevertheless, company leaders should focus on creating smooth transition plans that enable employees to return safely while minimizing disruptions to business processes and operations.
As company leaders work through the challenges of work after COVID-19, they’ll need to continue to remain agile, adopt new technology, and do everything they can to prepare themselves and their organizations for future disasters. Teams and leaders should take time now to write down what did and did not work during 2020-21 and build the useful experiences into your company policies and procedures.