WILL COVID REVOLUTIONISE THE WORLD OF WORK?

For better or worse, there are changes coming. Some will be permanent.


Following lockdowns and restrictions imposed on countries all over the world, office workers have been forced to work from home. COVID-19 has acted as a trial for this new working practice and many companies argue it is here to stay. However, what are the longer term implications of this radical lifestyle change?

It seems that firms of varying sizes are seriously considering incorporating remote-working in some form post-COVID. One study interviewed approximately 1000 directors in the United Kingdom and discovered that 74% planned on maintaining the increase in remote-working.

On the most part, those who are currently working remotely are welcoming the changes. A survey conducted in the United States showed that 82% of those working from home would like to maintain or increase their time out of the office.

However, there are indications that a generational divide in opinion applies to the prospect of working from the study or the kitchen table. One survey showed that 28% of millennials found the transition of working lifestyles to be difficult, compared to only 11% of respondents aged over 55.

This divide in opinion could be as a result of several different factors. One could be the lack of space in their homes for the younger generation. Naturally older people are likely to be more established and have progressed further in their careers. Whereas younger people live in cramped houses or shared flats. These spatial constraints have the potential of making the work-life balance particularly challenging.

There are also concerns for the impact that the transition will have on those beginning their careers. When they were expecting to learn the skills of their trade by observing and working with more experienced colleagues or developing connections and networks at lunch breaks or after-work drinks, they are now restricted to the confines of Zoom or Microsoft Teams. This is supported by a survey which suggests that 82% of workers from Gen Z feel less ‘connected’ as a result of remote working.


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In other ways, the ability to work from anywhere with a reliable internet connection has inspired creative outlooks on what a working lifestyle can look like post-COVID 19. The Times of London looked at the growing number of people who have decided to ditch attending daily Zoom meetings in their pyjamas and use this flexibility to work from exotic holiday destinations.

Moreover, the restrictions imposed as a result of Covid-19 have helped in some ways to increase access to application processes. Almost all companies now conduct their interviews digitally. Assessment centres for graduate jobs are now run virtually on online platforms, whereas before, applicants would have to put up the cost of travel and potentially accommodation for a chance at one of those sought-after positions. Equally there are concerns about how well people from poorer backgrounds perform in these virtual assessments. First impressions are still incredibly important and the inability to find somewhere quiet and uninterrupted could be detrimental

In academia, seminar groups and conferences which would have often been held exclusively in person are now being held online, thereby allowing a lot more people to attend. It also reduces the cost for early-career scholars having to fly and travel to foreign universities to present their papers. Conversely, online meeting platforms don’t provide the same networking experience that after-talk drinks and breaks between lectures offer.

As we adjust to post-COVID society, it is evident that this revolution in our working routines provides an opportunity to improve our lifestyles. However, this process will require innovation and careful thought and not simply a continuation of the status quo established under COVID-19 restrictions.


MACKAYAN: COVID & THE WORK REVOLUTION

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