The coronavirus outbreak has changed the world around us. Businesses have had to find new ways of working to ensure continuity and minimise the impact on company performance. The pandemic has led to new categories of ‘essential’ workers, from nursing staff to delivery drivers. Meanwhile, billions of people are now working remotely while more than 4 million UK workers have been furloughed.
While the priority for the country is to continue fighting Covid-19, UK businesses must prepare for what comes afterwards. Even once the crisis is over, it won’t simply be business as usual. The aftermath of Covid-19 will transform everything from the way we live, learn, work and travel. The impact of the coronavirus has been felt across all sectors and has pushed everyone into a more digitalized world. But there will also be other more subtle but equally profound changes post-pandemic.
Organisations have been forced to hastily improve their IT infrastructure and the digital capability of their workforce in order to remain operational. Working from home has become the new model that organisations are expected to give serious consideration to moving forward.
Before the outbreak of Covid-19, remote working was often something that employees wanted but only a few were granted. Concerns over trust and productivity often made employers reluctant to allow remote working. For those who were allowed to work from home, it was generally just once or twice a week or month. But the pandemic has seen remote working rapidly become the new normal. If workers show they work just as efficiently at home, employers could allow more staff to work remotely in the future. This will also save businesses in office costs, especially as the technology is already in use during isolation. Some businesses may even look to abandon physical offices altogether and reduce the size of their headquarters to only accommodate key staff.
9-to-5 office hours
Lockdown restrictions have meant people are now juggling the demands of their work and home life in the same place. This has led to employers relaxing the rules around the time workers can start and end their working days. This trust in the way employees manages their time and workload could become the new norm. As many employees have shown they can successfully work from home, it will be much harder for employers to deny flexible working hours to their staff. After being at home so much, especially without childcare, managers will likely have a new respect for life’s demands and more of an appreciation for a work/life balance.
Social distancing in the workplace
Once offices and workplaces reopen, work culture is set to look dramatically different in a bid to keep workforces healthy. Crowded offices will likely become a thing of the past with flexible working becoming the new normal. Firms will have to look into enhanced cleaning techniques and introduce increased distancing among staff. Employees could also return to work to find arrows on the floor indicating the way they must walk around the office. Desks could also be positioned at least six feet away from each other. There will also need to be entirely new protocols introduced across the workplace. For instance, the way people use communal areas such as kitchens and sharing office equipment will have to be reviewed.
As organisations have had to hastily improve their IT infrastructure, this period in lockdown will show businesses the true value of face-to-face meetings. Post-pandemic work calendars will likely contain far fewer meetings as businesses look to a more agile way of communicating and working with colleagues. While more meetings will become emails, more emails will likely become instant messages. For those team members who are no longer office-based, face-to-face meetings and phone calls will likely move to platforms such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype and Slack. Since March there has already been a 200% increase in workers holding virtual meetings via Microsoft Teams.
It’s also likely that a change in consumer preferences and a greater concern for social distancing will lead to a significant change to large group events such as conferences. Business travel will also likely see a permanent decrease as companies acknowledge that certain business travel is unnecessary.
The working world post-pandemic will undoubtedly look very different as organisations will want to review how they operate and the way their employees will work from this point on. After all, it’s in everyone’s interest to do so.
Further HR assistance
Visit our Coronavirus Advice and Guidance for Employers for information and advice relating to Coronavirus.