5 Insights into the Future of Work in a Pandemic

In this article, you’ll get five insights into the future of work in a pandemic, which can help leaders and their teams make transformative decisions about the future of their organizations.

Right now, companies are contemplating dramatic transformations in the New Age of Work™. They’re reevaluating: 

  • How they work, 
  • Where they work, 
  • When they work, 
  • And the tools they use to build productive, humane and resilient companies. 

Revelations were brought forth during the pandemic about work, life and work/life balance. Companies are finding better insights, tools and disciplines to elevate their vision, create inclusive cultures and reignite the imaginations of both leaders and teams to envision exciting outcomes for the future.

These five insights are merely a starting point to help you navigate the future of your work with ease. 

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1. The pandemic may end but the COVID-19 virus will not.

Up until recently, world leaders focused on achieving herd immunity in their populations to signal the end of the pandemic and how long we’ll be working from home. The Delta variant changed all that.

According to trusted consulting firm McKinsey & Company, the recent influx of cases caused primarily by the Delta variant along with other factors have put herd immunity “out of reach” for most countries in the near future, halting any return to routine daily life known before the pandemic.

McKinsey’s research also suggests that a “more realistic” ending for the pandemic may arrive when COVID-19 can be controlled as an endemic disease. Much of the population would be protected by immunity but the COVID-19 virus will continue to be present, although its impact on society can be controlled “as a constant threat rather than an exceptional one requiring society-defining interventions.” Much like influenza and other diseases are today.

Instead of wondering when the pandemic will end (and bring a return to normal), you can embrace the Work from Anywhere World™, a true era of reimagination that can be inspiring and exciting to lead, even as COVID-19 remains a controllable threat. These are important distinctions if you are gauging how the virus that started all this will influence the future of work in a pandemic and how that will inform your decisions about how you operate.

2. The skills that are prioritized will change.

By 2030, 17 million workers in the U.S. may need to leave their current employers and completely switch occupations. That’s 28% more workers than estimated before the pandemic, according to McKinsey Global Institute.

This kind of transition in work almost all at once can put into motion a new emphasis on:

  1. Leaders reimagining their teams based on specific skills rather than specific seats. For example, there may be a smaller need for skills that can be automated and done much faster with few errors. Meanwhile, the need for social, emotional and technological skills is projected to grow by about 20% over the next ten years.
  2. Workers having the capacity for lifelong learning and the ability to adapt in the face of constant development.
  3. Organizations prioritizing the retraining and upskilling of workers for the seats that are needed in the future.

3. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is about to arrive.

Over the next decade, an estimated 70% of new value created in the economy will be based on cloud-based business operating systems; growth that was accelerated by the pandemic. Organizations have at their fingertips an expanding collection of digitally-enabled tools that help integrate data, opportunities, issues, processes and people into their vision of the future to achieve positive outcomes.

As a result, the need for broader access to the internet remains a priority; right now, nearly half of the world’s population remains unconnected, according to the Platform on Digital Economy and New Value Creation.

4. Leaders and teams alike prefer Work From Anywhere™ (WFA) remote work models.

During the pandemic, 62% of employed people in the U.S. started working from anywhere. And they like it that way. This means that more remote work is likely.

When surveyed, 72% of leaders say their companies intend to run on permanent remote-working models in the future. More research estimates:

  1. 22% of U.S. jobs could be WFA for three to five days a week
  2. 17% could be WFA one to three days a week
  3. 61% could be WFA one day a week or less

The shift to include WFA could also be accomplished with no loss in productivity while maintaining a positive company culture among all workers. In fact, when workers look for their next job, 70% say enabling WFA at least part of the workweek is a preferred perk of employment.

It’s interesting to note, however, that the same percentage of workers in another study revealed that COVID-related restrictions had led to the most stressful time in their careers. Which could shine a light on why many people are reconsidering what matters to them when it comes to work/life balance. For instance, the value of the gig economy in the U.S. is expected to reach over $455 billion by 2023, despite less job security in freelance remote work opportunities.

5. Resilience will remain key.

When the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) examined how the pandemic revealed many new ideas about work and how those ideas affect the quality of life in society, they realized the need for an agile set of actions that support and strengthen resilience. 

Right now, leaders, team members and their organizations are working through a challenging time of rapid change. What is learned from the experience can inform and inspire more inclusive, empathetic and supportive workplaces for everyone and prepare them for more transformation.

Adapting to the Future of Work is Easier Than You Might Think

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