Immediately after the pandemic
“Flattening the curve” is the main purpose of the isolation and social distancing laws enforced by many governments. This has led to non-essential workers spending almost all of their time at home. Many workers have realised the benefits of working from home: less time spent commuting, eating better, spending less money and taking less time getting ready for work. There have also been drawbacks: limited equipment at home, less suitable space, less informal communication between colleagues, increased meeting requests and frustration with the limitations of current digital tools. As schools and nurseries closed, people with children required more flexible working hours to balance work and childcare. Even as schools reopen, many parents are still concerned for the safety of their children and some choose to keep their children at home.
Toward a post-COVID-19 society
While waiting for a vaccine, herd immunity or effective treatments, the recommendation to work from home where possible will remain. This will have a major impact on existing work processes as companies have been forced to adapt to new ways and styles of working. Office workers will feel anxious to find new routines that allow them to work effectively and productively at home while separating work and home life. Work stress has invaded the home, blurring the boundaries between work and home.
As the impact of home working is realised, many companies and governments will identify the benefits and disadvantages. The impact on worker productivity and public infrastructure will change cities. The choice of working from home will become a legal right.
As digital tools allow better asynchronous communication and collaboration, fixed working hours will become less critical and employees can choose to work during their most productive times of the day. This means early risers could finish work by lunch and night-owls could work through the night. This flexible time could also lead to less reliance on nurseries as parents could look after children during the day and work at night.
Boomers and Gen X workforces will be resistant to this change as it would disrupt the routines they have been accustomed to for many years. Millennials and Gen Z will welcome this change has is fits their online, flexible lifestyles.
As new working hours become normal, childless workers might question the definition of a working week. More work could be done each day, creating longer weekends. Weekends could be shifted to different days, giving workers total freedom and flexibility in working time. Boomers and Gen X will accept and get used to these new ways of collaborative working; however, they will feel frustrated by their perceived inefficiency.
Not having to travel to work means the benefit of expensive living in the city close to work becomes less attractive. City workers will choose to live in cheaper, more comfortable towns, away from the city, that suit their lifestyle and preferences.
In this situation, younger generations might choose to live with their parents for longer, while older generations will have more freedom to invest in a spacious home for their family.
As working remotely matures and businesses gain confidence in the productivity of their teams, employees might be given the opportunity to live outside the country in which the business operates. This will increase the talent pool available for hire. Workers will feel the increased pressure of competing globally for their next job.
Jobs that require people to be onsite will be less attractive for younger generations. Automating or remotely operating these types of jobs will be prioritised.