Outside of world wars, there hasn’t been another period that has seen such change, on a worldwide scale, in such a short time. In the space of a few short months, our personal and professional lives have been turned upside down. We’ve looked at some of the immediate repercussions for families, but the consequences for our careers could be very long lasting.
Putting to one side the fact that many of us may find ourselves without a job, as the economic ramifications take hold and the number of people out of work increases, those of us lucky enough to still have employment are likely to find our circumstances greatly changed.
Not only are the types of jobs likely to change as certain sectors, like hospitality and travel are hit hard, while others thrive in the new order, but the way we work has changed significantly too.
Many (me included!) have been extolling the virtues of flexible working for a long time, with varying levels of success. Some employers have been onboard, but many other organisations have dragged their feet.
If only we’d known that all it would take to introduce wholesale change was a global pandemic?!
With businesses forced to introduce remote working to combat Covid 19, it has led to a change of heart for many organisations. Whereas before, many employees had to fight for the right to work flexibly, now working from home and video meetings have become the norm for a lot of different sectors.
By using technology such as Zoom or Teams for example, employees have been free to set their own schedules and work around their family commitments. The 9-5 has been replaced by a more flexible model where workers can utilise their time to best suit their circumstances.
For many, this has been liberating, with many now able to achieve a better work life balance and organise their time more efficiently. Last year the average Brit was spending 65 minutes commuting per day so the time (and money!) saved is significant in improving quality of life.
To begin with, I was sceptical that the enforced changes in our working behaviour would be permanent. Employers have dragged their feet for so long, I thought that maybe as soon as they were able, they would revert to normal practices.
But now I’m not so sure.
Firstly, many employees have embraced their new found flexible working arrangements. It will be very hard to take it away after it has become the norm for so many. While in the short term, with jobs at a premium, workers may not be able to be so picky, in the longer term I think many people now better understand the importance of a healthy work life balance and will be prepared to defend it.
As we haven’t been able to see friends and family for so long, it has led many of us to reevaluate our priorities and realise what is important in life. After being isolated from loved ones for so long, it’s only natural that we want to spend as much time as possible together when we can.
.Also, with the economic consequences biting hard, organisations will be forced to be as efficient as possible. Running large offices is incredibly expensive and represents a massive fixed cost. In the future smaller, more flexible working spaces and an increase in remote working would seem to be a more cost effective option.
Furthermore, with Coronavirus still present, and likely to be for some considerable time yet, it is a big risk to put large numbers of people together in a building. If one person shows symptoms, does that mean the whole workforce will be in quarantine for two weeks? It’s also obviously not appropriate for employees with underlying health concerns to be working in close proximity to others.
There are clearly benefits to an increase in flexible working, but is it all rosy?
This forced change in behaviour has taken place in a very short space of time, and businesses have had to adapt quickly and often learn as they go along. If this change is to remain permanent, more planning will be needed to make sure it is sustainable.
In many cases, employees don’t often have a suitable space to work in at home and sometimes IT infrastructure has been lacking. Many organisations have also struggled to provide the correct level of support and guidance to remote workers.
It is also clear that not everyone enjoys working from home. Lots of people enjoy the social aspect of work, and like having a clear boundary between their personal and professional lives.
It may be that it doesn’t have to be a case of working from home, or in the office, but maybe a combination of the two in a more dynamic and flexible way.
Whatever form flexible working takes in the future, it is clear that the current situation has given many firms the impetus to introduce change. This process will continue to evolve for some time and will lead to long lasting change in the way that we all work.