What Does Employment Look Like After COVID-19?

COVID-19 has changed much about our world, creating unanticipated economic struggles and shifts in culture on a personal, social, and organizational level. While we are all eager to return to the way things were, the changes sparked by the global pandemic may be more permanent than we think. Businesses have been forced to evaluate the way that they run, from the division of labor to the necessity of being in the office. More than 83% of employers are reporting adjustments to the way their business operates and with many employees succeeding in remote work, some are re-evaluating whether employees need to be in the office at all.

Experts aren’t shy about stating the economic impacts of the crisis COVID-19 has presented. Many businesses have closed, 40% of American employers are reporting partial or complete shut down of at least some aspect of their business, and one-third of businesses have reduced their workforce with no intention of re-hiring when the immediate crisis has ended. While these statistics may feel dire, not all changes brought on by COVID-19 are bad. A silver lining is that this virus may have allowed us to change for the better, improving the way that our businesses run and improving the lives of our employees.

For the first time, many companies are seeing what it looks like to manage a remote workforce, encouraging employees to manage their schedules and empowering them to balance the responsibilities of work with their home lives. While going remote, especially with schools closed, is not ideal for everyone, it has provided employers an opportunity to evaluate remote work and see how it may fit into their organizational culture. There are many pros and cons to remote work but some experts say that the pros are outweighing the cons for many, resulting in more independence and innovation for workers, reducing overhead costs for employers, and allowing businesses and employees to reassess their work/life balance. For many businesses, these changes may become permanent, at least partially, when we return to work.

Employees in the U.S. are now largely responsible for managing their schedules. Working around teaching children, juggling video conferences for every member of their family, and maintaining a productive workflow has pushed employees to request accommodation en masse. We are seeing what is possible and, particularly in the disability community, how work from home can empower the success of the business and the employees. Rather than focusing on the number of hours worked, expectations have shifted, becoming more project and results-oriented. Employers can no longer expect to see employees from 9 to 5 and are instead allowing a new level of flexibility that empowers employees to maintain a healthy work/life balance and allows them to work when they are most effective, encouraging productivity and creativity.

In addition, the majority of Americans working at home has had significant positive impacts on the environment. While fish may not have returned to the canals of Venice, we are seeing a reduction in pollution, improvements to climate change, and decreased use of previously essential but environmentally detrimental services. Cutting down on our daily commute seems to have impacted our environment more than the average person expected, and it has allowed organizations to cut costs by not having to maintain office space. Because of these benefits, some organizations are considering making these changes permanent, moving their workforce at least partially remote when we all return to work.  Some employers say this could work through reduced numbers in the office, sharing spaces and alternating work from home days.  Others are opening the door to hiring entirely remote workforces.

This drastic shift in the way that we work has allowed the American workforce to re-evaluate the way that we operate on an individual, organizational, and national level. We have found unanticipated success in flexibility, supportive cultures in organizational crisis, and discovered just how essential coming to the office is or is not. No matter how your business has approached the crisis, this is an opportunity to evaluate your impact and your success. Hidden in the seeming chaos, maybe a chance for your company to cut costs, improve work/life balance, and inspire innovation in your employees.

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