7 Key Ways COVID Will Change the Workforce Forever

Written by
Rebecca Smith

Nov 20, 2020

Nov 20, 2020 • by Rebecca Smith

The coronavirus has shaken up more than just the general rhythm of life and commerce. It’s also turned the workplace inside out and upside down. At this point, the notion of an “office” is more of a concept than a place. Collaboration is just as likely to occur in team members’ individual dining rooms as it is in a brick-and-mortar location. And resilience at every turn seems to be the name of the game.

How has COVID changed corporations across the board, whether they’re startups or enterprise size firms? Check out these seven key ways the pandemic has spurred unpredicted improvements and growth.

  1. It amplified the need for more flexible, transparent hourly scheduling.

In a world where people might not be able to control much, they want to take charge of their schedules. However, hourly workers have routinely had little say in when they had to work. This problem is especially prevalent in fields like logistics and eCommerce operations. Yet research from flexible scheduling platform MyWorkChoice shows that workers are finished playing nice. A full 55% of hourly employees said they would leave a position if they couldn’t decide how many and which days they worked. 

The good news is that businesses seem to be responding positively to these needs. Around nine out of 10 human resources representatives agree that flexible schedules will boost employee engagement levels. After all, when staffers feel they’re in a partnership and not a one-sided transactional arrangement, they’re less likely to call off. At the same time, they’re more apt to give their best and be as productive as possible.

  1. It tore down the barriers to remote work.

Many businesses held firm that their workers couldn’t handle activities from their homes—until there was no other choice, that is. During shutdowns, countless companies moved their workforces successfully into virtual zones, taking advantage of platforms from Slack to Zoom. In fact, Zoom became so prevalent that no one went to meetings anymore. Rather, they Zoomed.

Stanford research estimates that by May 2020, remote working skyrocketed. At that juncture, around 42% of the workforce was telecommuting. Even now when workers have the option to return to the office, they’re waffling. Many want a hybrid, adaptable approach that allows them to decide when and where they do their jobs. In order to hold onto talented team members and not have to go through an expensive replacement process, employers are often capitulating. Some are even offering chits for in-home office setups to ensure their workers have everything they need to contribute and produce.

  1. It placed a new emphasis on in-office cleaning and hygiene.

Let’s face it: Before the pandemic, employees might look the other way when their workplaces were less than pristine. Now, they’re demanding that facilities managers not only increase their cleaning protocols, but communicate when and where cleaning happens. Plus, they’re not being shy about pointing out neglected places like stairwells, entryways, and bathrooms.

It’s doubtful that offices will pull down their hand sanitizing stations or “Wear a Mask” posters any time soon. Until a COVID vaccine is widely available—and proven effective—office cleanliness will be as essential as ergonomic chairs and branded swag.

  1. It spotlighted the use of and need for emerging technologies.

How did so many teams successfully and swiftly move all their gameplans into a virtual forum without missing a beat? For those without a centralized knowledge database, the answer was to embrace emerging technology such as robust project management, communication, and employee scheduling software. 

Relying on technology will continue to be critical, particularly in offices where people work virtually all the time or time-to-time. This will ultimately necessitate more and better training for employees. Why? A tech stack only works when it’s accessible to and understood by all team members.

  1. It sparked innovative office layouts.

One type of industry that’s doing well during the coronavirus reopening phase is the office furnishing supplier. Plenty of employers are bringing in designers and architects to rethink their public and private spaces. Gone is the long table in the open floorplan where everyone sat close and chatted during work. In its wake are plexiglas barriers and standalone cubby workstations.

Although the hope is that social distancing won’t be necessary forever, pandemic-linked office layout facelifts probably won’t disappear soon. It’s an investment to switch up the floorplan of an office space, after all. Therefore, employers are more than likely to keep employees distanced, at least when they’re working solo.

  1. It showed a need for expanded healthcare benefits.

A June 2020 Unum employer survey revealed that companies are starting to review and expand their healthcare offerings. What precipitated this change? It was employees’ fear of what could happen if they required short-term or long-term medical leave. By next year, 44% of survey respondents said they anticipated extending more leave choices to their workers.

Other types of perks may be on the horizon, too. These could include stronger retirement plans that would incentivize workers to stay with companies longer. That way, all parties could gain the advantage of mutual loyalty.

  1. It turned the tables on business attire.

No one should get on a corporate Zoom call dressed in sweats and a nightshirt. That’s still a given. Nonetheless, all the work-from-home frenzy took a bite out of dressing up for a job. In fact, companies relaxed to accommodate the realities of most employees being virtual. And those employees got accustomed to doing work barefoot with furry friends at their sides.

To be sure, certain circumstances will still demand suits, jackets, and skirts. (Think high-powered client calls and interviews.) Nevertheless, society might be seeing another rise in the trend toward a new chapter of “business casual.” Let’s face it: Few people miss wearing ties or hosiery—and they’re welcome to dress up if they want. 

No one can predict what 2021 will look like, especially with the cold and flu season around the corner. However, it’s a sure thing that offices won’t operate the way they did at the beginning of 2020.