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3 predictions how coronavirus could change the world of work

Allen Associates, News & Blog

As the economy starts to re-open following the coronavirus lockdown, our thoughts have turned to how the UK workforce may change in the coming months and years. The pandemic has inevitably altered the way that we work, and we know that firms will be developing new strategies to create safe working spaces for their staff.

Much has been written about what the ‘new normal’ could look like. Whilst it’s impossible to look too far into the future, we’re confident that the UK workforce could see huge changes as we return to some resemblance of normality.

Here are our predictions for how coronavirus may have changed our working practices.

Prediction #1 – Remote working is here to stay

This may seem fairly obvious; after all, Boris Johnson has reiterated that “Staff should work from home if at all possible.” Whilst many sectors have struggled to establish ways in which they can safely reopen, we know that our clients in marketing, finance, HR, and administrative roles have it easier than most. These are desk-based job roles which are set up for remote-working – and thanks to the wide range of cloud-based software, it’s technically never been easier!

Whilst remote working has been around for many years, the pandemic has forced many businesses to invest in new technologies to enable remote access. The ONS has stated that in the w/c 14 May 2020,  44% of adults in employment were working from home. From an employee perspective, remote working is proving to be extremely popular with staff. Research from video conferencing firm StarLeaf suggests that “Once lockdown measures are fully lifted, 60% of people would like to work from home more often than they did previously.”

With this in mind, we anticipate that many businesses may not fully return to office-based operations, and instead could focus on remote teams. Companies such as Facebook and Google have extended their remote working policies to the end of the year, whilst Barclays Bank have publicly stated that they are rethinking their long term location strategy.

The guidance published by the UK government has strict health and safety criteria for the reopening of office spaces, including frequent risk assessments (which should be published online for staff to access if there are more than 50 employees), using screens or barriers to limit interactions, staggered arrivals to maintain social distancing and providing alternative exit/entry points where possible. For the majority of small firms, these criteria could be impossible to achieve, and the longer firms remain productive at home, the greater the likelihood that they may remain as virtual teams.

In our previous blog, we shared our insights into how to create an effective home working space for staff, and the CIPD have also shared their report on how to develop effective virtual teams. In our view, there are many positive reasons why you may wish to remain working virtually – not only can you show greater trust in your staff but you can benefit from a wider talent pool of candidates who may not necessarily be from your locality. With the freedom of commuting time, you may start to find that you can attract new recruits from anywhere in the country, allowing you to expand your workforce into a wider geographical net. This can give you greater access to new skills and expertise as well as open up new regional opportunities for ongoing business success.

Prediction #2 – Healthy workforces will become more important

Although many businesses have implemented healthy workplace initiatives to support staff, the coronavirus could see increased efforts made by firms to improve the physical and mental health of their staff.

Lockdown has had a huge impact on people’s mental wellbeing. Due to a combination of economic worries, health concerns, loneliness, and increased anxiety, it is thought that Covid-19 could have lasting implications for the public’s mental health. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has stated that there has been a 43% increase in emergency mental health cases since the end of March and the government has published official guidance on the mental health aspects of Covid-19. With this in mind, employers may need to start implementing healthy workplace policies that can ensure that remote workers are fully supported and cared for in the same way that they were in the workplace.

In the CIPD’s Health and Wellbeing at Work report (published March 2020), they reported that 37% of respondents had said that stress-related absences had risen over the past year. As the survey was conducted pre-coronavirus, we can expect that stress levels will now be even higher amongst workforces who may have additional concerns about their health, their finances, or their children. The CIPD also reports that businesses who have stand alone strategies are better equipped to tackle workplace stress and this is something that we can anticipate will become increasingly important over the next 12 months.

We could also see the re-emergence of physical health initiatives that are designed to get workers as fit and active as possible. Covid-19 has shown that those without any underlying health conditions are at less risk. Diabetes has been proven to be one of the biggest concerns and employers could take steps to help prevent staff from being impacted by Type 2 diabetes, through healthy eating and physical activity schemes. Simple initiatives such as providing staff with pedometers or subsidised gym memberships could be an easy way to improve the health of a workforce.

Prediction #3 – More creative thinking

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

Albert Einstein

Over the last few months, it’s been remarkable to see how businesses have been able to adapt and respond to changes beyond their control. We believe that we may start to see more creative ways of working emerge from businesses who realise that they can be successful in new ways.

We’ve seen numerous changes in the ways that local restaurants and cafes are working as they have had to adapt to survive. From a marketing perspective, we’ve also seen first hand how companies have completely changed their communications strategies as they seek to update their stakeholders about how they are working. HR teams have also had to adapt and refocus quickly; from creating new risk assessments and safety policies through to changing the ways that they conduct video interviews and welcome remote workers to the team.

This shows to us that there is greater adaptability within the UK workforce than might have been thought possible. Often change only occurs when it’s forced upon us, and we are excited to see how our clients will continue to adapt and develop their services. Whether it’s through taking a flexible approach to their workforces or making the most of changing technologies, it’s clear that creative thinking could be limitless.

Over the past 20 years, we’ve seen how our clients have changed and adapted to new environments and new ways of working. We can work with clients in Oxford and London to help them take a creative approach to their recruitment strategies. To find out please, please get in touch.