It's no secret that the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has fundamentally changed the way we work. But, there is a very real possibility that these changes may not just be temporary.
Once the pandemic passes, many of these changes could be made permanent.
And, the numbers are proving just how much of our work culture has been moved online. Zoom recorded a whopping 200 million daily users on its popular remote video conferencing platform in the month of March. Traditionally, about 10 million users log in per day.
According to Gallup, more than half of managers said that the coronavirus pandemic has convinced their organization to let staff work from home more often. And, staff is using this remote work opportunity to maintain a more relaxed work culture, build wealth and spend less time in their cars.
4 Ways COVID-19 Will Change Your Career
The pandemic has changed the way we do business in several ways. Here are the top four.
#1: Working from home
The most obvious change is the widespread adoption of the work-from-home culture. Even without the COVID-19 pandemic, work from home opportunities increased by 159% in the last 12 years. And, nine out of 10 remote workers hope to continue working from home for the rest of their careers.
The forced remote work set up in 2020 has shown many companies that maintaining a remote staff has several benefits, like improving employee morale, boosting staff retention, and reducing real estate costs likes office space and associated monthly utilities.
The benefits of remote work are plentiful. According to an SHRM study, nearly 75% of remote employees said that remote work has improved their work/life balance. And, 2 in 3 workers report an increase in productivity during the day by working at home instead of an office.
A report by Flex Jobs found similar numbers. “Since 2013, work-life balance (76%), family (44%), time savings (42%), and commute stress (42%) have been the top four reported reasons people seek flexible work.”
It's true that remote work won't be possible – or even beneficial, for some staff. But, the numbers clearly show that a movement toward working from home is well-received by the majority of workers.
#2: Less business travel
While business travel won't disappear entirely, the pandemic has changed the traveling landscape. Notably, remote video conferencing capabilities like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype have all revealed the reality of conducting business online rather than through in-person contact, saving time and money on business travel.
Like Zoom, the Microsoft Teams platform has skyrocketed in recent months. Now, Teams sees over 70 million users logging in each and every day, a service that Microsoft released in 2017. Skype has increased in usage by 70% since March 2020.
A survey in Global Business Travel Association, a trade group designed for corporate travel leaders, found that over 90% of businesses have all but eliminated corporate travel. The business foundations that these companies have put into place to help ensure worldwide business continuity will, to some degree, likely remain in place after COVID-19 passes.
#3: Changed office designs
The pandemic has shown the health liability inherent in certain office designs, especially those where desks are facing each other. Tight office configurations keep their staff working in very close proximity, potentially strengthening the hazards of in-office health.
“Companies are going to have to reorient workstations, so people aren't facing one another. That may mean changing where the computer is or where the power source is located”, architect specialist Marc Spector told CNBC.
“Companies are going to have to remove all of the tabling and the seating in conference rooms or other communal areas to give greater flexibility to space distance. Any personal effects at desks or offices need to be removed,” Spector added.
Open floor offices might be on the chopping block, too.
According to the New York Times, many in-person office spaces may begin to include health features like sneeze guards and plexiglass barriers between desks and working areas. Build-in hand sanitizer stations, air filters, and outdoor (rather than indoor) gathering spaces are other ideas being mulled by many organizations.
The Times added that boosting paid sick leave may encourage ill employees to stay home (or work from home) rather than making sick employees feel obligated to work in the office and possibly spread germs.
#4: Global availability of workers
As more business moves online, the physical location of staff will increasingly become less important. This could impact salaries as the demographics of office staff begin to vary wildly between countries and their costs of living.
In addition, the global workforce could change the hiring process. Worldwide staffing options will boost the competitiveness of certain jobs like data entry positions, telephone support, and other roles that do not require specialized skills.
In fact, many companies are actively searching to boost their customer support, sales, and accounting roles even during the pandemic. The reduction in overhead previously imposed by real estate limitations has opened several hiring opportunities that companies like CVS, United Health, Oracle, and Citizens Bank are trying to exploit.
In conclusion, the COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the world, and these changes may not all be temporary. Many businesses rapidly understand the reality of conducting business online and maintaining a remote staff.
At the very least, the pandemic has heavily impacted office design to improve the health of staff and will continue to influence hiring decisions for years to come.
Steve Adcock is an early retiree who writes about mental toughness, financial independence and how to get the most out of your life and career. As a regular contributor to The Ladders, CBS MarketWatch and CNBC, Adcock maintains a rare and exclusive voice as a career expert, consistently offering actionable counseling to thousands of readers who want to level-up their lives, careers, and freedom. Adcock's main areas of coverage include money, personal finance, lifestyle, and digital nomad advice. Steve lives in a 100% off-grid solar home in the middle of the Arizona desert and writes on his own website at SteveAdcock.us.