COVID-19 has the potential to change the nature of work forever


Over the last several months, many businesses, large and small, have been forced to close their offices and send employees home to work. This has presented many challenges, but companies have also learned many lessons about remote work that could have an impact on how we think about work in the future.

For most people for much of the 20th and 21st centuries, work has meant commuting to and from an office. While the way we work has remained mostly static, technology has evolved significantly, making it possible to work even when you’re not in a traditional office setting.

While some companies have shifted with technology that enables fully remote or hybrid approaches to work, the vast majority still operate the way we did 100 years ago with the employee sitting at a desk in an office doing their job.

The pandemic has shown what’s possible in terms of working outside the office and many employees have found they enjoy the flexibility. They have also learned that work doesn’t have be done in eight continuous hours inside an office environment, and managers have learned, work is getting done, even when the employee isn’t sitting in front of them.

What does this mean?

While there are no clear answers out there yet about what work will look like when the pandemic ends, it hasn’t stopped companies from doing surveys to find out. Cisco, which makes WebEx meeting software, surveyed 1500 senior managers in 13 countries back in February to gauge their sentiments on the future of work. They came back to 100 of those same people in May/June to take their pulse of after the pandemic hit full force.

The survey found that almost half of respondents believe workplace flexibility is here to stay. What’s more, a similar number believes that having that flexibility could result in a more diverse workplace. Why? Because it gives hiring managers many more choices than a single office location typically could.

In addition, the pandemic has helped managers understand the importance of work/life balance, and a more flexible and inclusive workplace could help contribute to that. In fact, 87 percent of respondents said the pandemic has increased their focus on work/life balance, although only 47 percent believe that will hold over the long term.

Regardless, it seems as though the nature of work is changing before our eyes. The pandemic has shown what’s possible. Cloud tools have pushed companies to figure out how to digitally transform much more quickly than they probably would have. With this knowledge, it seems that many companies will take this into consideration whenever the pandemic happens to end. And perhaps this new-found flexibility will become part of normal working life when it does.

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