There can be little doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has been the most significant, and perhaps the most traumatic experience many of us will have had in our lives. It has and will continue to have a huge impact on us as individuals, as a society and as a workforce.
When a major event happens we can all remember where we were and what we were doing. In some cases that event turns out to be pivotal for us as individuals and sometimes for society. Such is the case with Covid-19 as it will likely lead to many of the norms of life changing, some in the short term and some for the long term. Many of the changes we are experiencing now will fade away and things will pretty much go back to normal, just look at the rush to go back to bars and restaurants, jet off on foreign holidays etc. as soon as some restrictions were lifted. However, the coronavirus will result in permanent changes to aspects of how we work. So what has made the coronavirus so different from other events that it will lead to such lasting changes?
Firstly, by definition, a pandemic is global and affects almost everybody, regardless of role, industry or location on the planet. Secondly it’s enduring. Unlike other man made of natural catastrophes its more than a one off, it’s unfolded over months and as yet there’s no end in sight. The term disruptive has in recent years been coined to describe a positive intervention that challenges the status quo. The coronavirus has certainly done that by changing the way we live and work. But what will stay and what will go? Here are a few thoughts on Covid-19 and the future of work.
The biggest working change has without doubt been working from home (WFH). People transitioned to WFH on a huge scale very quickly. Many companies (not all) are already reporting positive feedback from staff accompanied by increased productivity. Happier staff and improved productivity and reduced overhead cost is the dream ticket so we can expect to see more homeworking as the norm for many firms. However, it will be important to retain flexibility as feedback also suggests that it’s not for everyone.
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While companies will cash in on WFH and reduce their office space footprint it won’t go away completely. It will just look and operate differently. If you need to get your head down and focus on something why would you go to the trouble and expense of traveling to the office? Future offices will be more about collaborative interaction and community with a healthy social element.
For many (probably the majority) WFH worked really well. However, a sizable minority have found it difficult not necessarily because of isolation, but because they didn’t have the ideal technology. This has ranged from simply poor internet performance to cyber security concerns.
State of Flux recent supplier management research (published in October) has revealed that access to and functionality of suppler management technology was one of the aspects of supply chain management that was found most wanting during the pandemic so far. This coincided with practitioners wanting more access to supply chain information and the ability to exchange information and collaborate with suppliers.
An exponential growth in the use of video has happened as a result of both protocols – we all turn our cameras on – to peer pressure – one person opens the video and others feel its rude not to - I think its here to stay.
It’s also had another unexpected and not entirely intuitive effect. It's actually helped humanise relationships. No matter how senior or exalted, it’s a person in front of you, complete with the golf clubs or skis in the corner, the barking dog and inquisitive toddler.
Computer based training (CBT) has long featured as a desk based or remote training medium. However, for the most part it has been confined to awareness training or basic knowledge testing and development. More advanced training, requiring more teacher / student or student / student interaction was reserved for the classroom. Covid-19 and the resulting lock down meant that if quality training and vital skills development was to be maintained then training providers such as State of Flux would need to transition their training offering to a virtual model rapidly. Much like working from home, many of the perceived barriers were quickly overcome and while face to face training will return the virtual model will now remain a much more viable alternative.