2020 hasn’t been, like, the greatest year so far, what with massive civil unrest, drought and raging bush fires (remember those?). Oh, and that pesky global pandemic.
So, things are different. We’re adapting to a new normal, and while much of life will go back to the way things were BC (before COVID) there’s a lot that will stick – and the world of work is no different.
For better or worse, here are some of the new-work-order shifts we’re predicting.
Woah, people don’t need to all work in the same place at the same time to be productive? For lots of businesses, this was revelatory. After the scramble of getting remote access to servers and setting people up with laptops, managers realised something we remote-work pros have always known: offices don’t equal productivity. And in many cases, people work harder, smarter, and longer at home. Remote work comes with some challenges – but businesses have woken up to the idea that it’s far more manageable and rewarding than they expected.
Also? The accountants are loving the idea of smaller (read: cheaper) offices. AMP Wealth Management, for example, is exchanging its 2500sqm worth of offices in Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand for spaces out in the burbs. The idea is that its 350 staff will mostly work from home, with these local spaces as hubs for huddles.
To be clear, this is a company that has its name on sky rises – that’s how much things are changing. It’ll have a seismic effect on our business districts. Similarly, software giant (and one of our clients) Atlassian is letting employees choose their ideal mix of home or office work. Even so, they’re still plugging ahead with building the world's tallest timber tower for their HQ in downtown Sydney? They say it’s "about choice and about norms … and we need to serve all people… by thinking about office space differently."
With workers no longer entering a single business district, rents and property values will decrease, and businesses relying on office worker foot-traffic will struggle.
More remote work will have some good flow-ons too – swapping commuting for… literally anything else is a plus, especially when it comes to worker wellbeing. Imagine parents both being there for breakfast and dinner, having time to exercise and space to just sit and think about gnarly issues. Imagine having time to cook dinner instead of grabbing take-out, nipping over to check on a neighbour or spending 10 minutes weeding the garden. The flow-on effects on mental and physical health, innovation and families could be immense.
We’ll also see local communities blossom, not just physically (although more workers mean more cafés) but people’s attention will turn more to their neighbourhoods. They’ll get to know each other, rebuilding the ties they’ve been losing in our ever-more-urban lifestyles. It’s part of why 54% of U.S. workers say they’d leave their current job for one they could do remotely – we all had a taste of the possibilities, and no one wants to go back.
Women are disproportionately bearing COVID-related job losses – in NZ 90% (!!!) of all people who lost their jobs due to COVID were women. The lucky ones still in work? They’re picking up more than their share of childcare and housework. That tells us two things: first, we still need feminism. Second, women with children are absolute machines.
Businesses that can offer the flexibility mums need will win dream employees, and tap into a pool of incredible, but under-used experience and skills. Now we’re all comfortable with remote work (tick!) and flexible hours (double tick!) women with children should find there’s far more opportunity for them in the workforce – and that’ll be a tick, tick, tick for businesses.
As businesses expand and contract in response to the COVID upheaval, using more contractor power is logical – and we’re already seeing that shift with 32% of organisations swapping full-timers for contractors or part-timers to save money. But as the number of these workers grows, countries are taking steps to ensure that contractors aren’t being taken advantage of. New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is already in the process of reviewing workplace conditions for contractors – and we can expect to see similar things over the ditch.
During the long tail of the COVID crisis and recovery, we’re going to see businesses having to scale up and down sometimes almost overnight. While talent pools and communities have been a hot topic in the recruitment world for a few years now, it’s this requirement that will see them come into their own.
Talent communities mean organisations have a group of people who are pre-vetted, already deeply engaged with your employer brand and raring to go. We’re already seeing that with some of our large Australian retail clients as they work to keep their best talent in their umbrella group and source new workforces to keep up with shifting demand.
With the global response to COVID19 has come a changed perception about work. Some of the largest corporations are saying, ‘so long’ to CBDs in exchange for the flexibility and affordability of suburban hubs and remote working. As business districts contract, communities will blossom and families will benefit. Women have borne the brunt of initial layoffs but with full-time jobs giving way to part-timers and contractors, those also caring for children may find there are all new opportunities (which is a win/win for business too). We’ll also see the rise of the talent communities as businesses cope with high ups and downs in staffing needs.
One thing we can all be sure of is that when the Covidy dust settles, the world of work will be forever changed.