The COVID-19 pandemic caused a near-overnight shift of the workforce. Jobs that previously were done in-office shifted to home-office the following day and companies had to figure out how to balance productivity, culture and flex work all at once, not to mention ways to keep their workforce healthy through it all. The changes reinforced what we’ve already known: every aspect of every business needs to keep up with digital tools to have the best outcomes. The long-term effects of coronavirus will be substantial. Some of the most dramatic predicted changes to the workforce directly related to digital tools are:
- A rise in workforce automation.
- Social distancing guidelines and general health and safety precautions forced companies to reevaluate how they can maintain productivity while using as few human resources as possible. The scenarios opened the door for discussion about the necessities of people in business processes and the potential for automation to take over. In the case of a global pandemic, robots can’t get sick.
- Destruction of the digital divide.
- Nearly 20 million Americans lack access to reliable internet, meaning that working from home was simply not an option for them. The coronavirus pandemic spotlighted those inequities and drew attention to the need for equal access to resources such as the internet. Going forward, we may see a rise in broadband infrastructure to meet the growing demand.
- Increase in telework options.
- The pandemic has proved that remote work is possible across many industries. The option for remote work eases the concerns of parents who struggle to find childcare and also prevents the spread of illness through the office. One survey found that 98% of remote workers want to continue working from home in the future. If companies choose to allow telework in the future, they will likely need to invest in resources to keep the workforce connected despite the lack of shared office space. The changes will also impact company culture. Businesses will need to navigate building culture without being in the same office as one another- this may mean virtual happy hours, virtual games, or smaller group meetings in unique locations. Having a remote workforce also makes having open lines of communication even more important.
- Decrease in travel and an increase in technology to compensate for it.
- The spread of coronavirus proved just how interconnected our world was via travel. Going forward, many businesses may opt for teleconferencing or AI in place of company travel. This will force many businesses who relied on in-person contact to learn the best methods for remote communication across geographic locations and barriers.
Of course, these times are ambivalent and there is no way to know for certain how the pandemic’s effects will permeate into the various pillars of society. We can say for sure that technology and the ways in which we use it will drastically change in the coming months and years.