Five Future of Work Trends Post COVID-19

In just six months, COVID-19 has upended life as we knew it before the pandemic. And it’s still very much part of our present. The pandemic has challenged leaders to handle three things at once: prepare for and execute a return to work; put into place what was learned or enacted during the early months of the crisis; and guide employees on a new path forward. As we move from the summer into fall in this unprecedented year, let’s take a look at some of the emerging trends on work in a post COVID-19 world.

#1: Purpose matters

The direst days of early shutdowns reminded us that purpose matters. People are most motivated when their individual work contributions can be directly connected to your companies’ mission and purpose. Before the pandemic, the groundswell of purpose had been building as millennials became dominant in the workplace. Going forward, organizations which embrace and embody purpose may realize critical advantages.

#2: Well-being matters, too

The pandemic has thrust well-being into the workplace spotlight. Employee stress levels are at all-time highs, with 40% of employees reporting higher levels of stress in April than in March according to the annual US MetLife Employee Benefits Survey. And this is on top of Gallup’s finding two-thirds of employees report stress and burnout sometimes, frequently or always. People working from home in a crisis put more hours into the workday and juggled more demands of work and home, ramping up the potential for burnout. The increased strain of this time will bring mental health and well-being in the workplace to the forefront as a priority for employers and employees at all levels.

#3: From efficiency to resilience

Just last year, Gartner found that over half of all organizational redesigns focused on streamlining and creating efficiency in roles, workflows and supply chains. Efficiency can create weaknesses or systems prone to greater disruption, as these last six months have shown in such supply chains as toilet paper and meat products. Future organizational redesigns may prioritize resilience, agility and flexibility to respond better to tomorrow’s unknowns.

#4: From in-person to virtual

This spring and summer, thousands of events across all industries were converted from physical to virtual. People turned meetings into Zooms and emails into phone calls. New platforms for virtual and digital events are already emerging, and people are realizing the value of conducting business in new (and sometimes more efficient) ways. With travel more fragile than in pre-pandemic times, some of these changes are likely to become permanent.

#5: Acceleration to remote work

A recent Gartner poll revealed nearly 50% of people will work remotely some or all of the time in a post-COVID-19 world, compared to 30% before the pandemic. This change accelerates a shift which had already been underway for the last decade. Remote and distributed workforces will place new demands on technology and security. They will also require new thinking from managers and leadership on how to create company culture across so many disparate work environments and how to use technology to bring colleagues together.

Of course, there are other emerging trends too. These include discussions on ethics and compensation related to some of the lowest-paid workers which emerged as essential during the crisis; the shift from permanent hires to contingent and contract workers; and an expansion in data collection and health protocols as they relate to employee privacy. What is your organization seeing as the return to work in a post-COVID-19 world continues?

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