How COVID-19 Will Change the Future of The Workforce
The COVID-19 coronavirus is having a massive impact on global civilization and in more than one way. It is primarily a health crisis, and it is exposing various strengths and weaknesses in different nations’ healthcare industries. But this virus is also poised to reshape the workplace, the food industry, and the entertainment industry in the U.S. and beyond, and office managers are advised to prepare themselves for these possible changes in the near future. It is not unthinkable that once the pandemic is over, business and office work will look very different and put emphasis on different values and strategies. What are some possible upcoming changes for a post-COVID workplace?
Many of these expected changes concern IT work, commuting, social media, and customer service, but office cleanliness is bound to undergo some changes, too. Health is a universal concern, and already, a number of offices and workspaces are not as clean as they should be. Many door knobs and handles, tables, and computer keyboards and mice are covered in bacteria and other grime, which is unsanitary even without the context of COVID-19. What is more, many offices have dirty air conditioning systems and air ducts, where dust, pollen, bacteria, and other air pollution particles get circulated around the entire office. That, combined with VOCs from dirty carpets, can greatly lower any worker’s cognitive functions, as studies already show. Clean air makes all the difference in that regard, and cleaner air and surfaces can reduce the number of sick days as well.
So, once the pandemic and workers return to their offices, the managers are likely to make a renewed effort to clean up the office. They can hire maid services to vacuum and shampoo the carpets more often, and they can encourage office workers to wipe down computer equipment, door knobs, and other surfaces more regularly to contain the spread of any disease (not just COVID-19). This will cut back on the number of sick days that office workers need, and that in turn can boost workplace productivity and thus, boost profits, too. Health should never be taken for granted, and the pandemic can give office workers a new perspective on office sanitation. Air ducts can be cleaned out and replaced to help cut down on VOCs, too.
More Remote Work
The pandemic did not have a comprehensive impact on the American workplace. In the years leading up to the pandemic, a great number of office workers were already choosing the option of working remotely from home, and there are more than a few benefits to doing this. During this pandemic, practically every worker that can take this route is doing so, and once the COVID-19 pandemic ends, they may decide that remote work is the one and only way they want to work. The emergency option may soon become the new norm for some businesses.
With or without a dangerous pandemic, what are the benefits of working remotely like this? Such a workplace arrangement was not feasible in earlier decades, but now, it is quite practical. For one thing, a remote worker is not commuting anywhere, so he or she can use all the commute time for the work itself, boosting productivity. This also takes a number of cars off the road, which can add up fast, and ease congestion for the remaining cars, buses, and motorcycles. And, of course, this cuts down on air pollution. Currently, a number of photo comparisons have been done to show how much cleaner city air has become during this pandemic, owing to low traffic. When the pandemic ends, having so many remote workers may help maintain that clean air.
The benefits also extend to having a quiet and distraction-free workplace. A remote worker is ensconced in his or her own home office, a room with a closed door, and no other occupants. This is a quiet place, which contrasts sharply with noisy offices filled with people talking to each other or having phone conversations. Studies show that all this ambient noise will raise an office worker’s stress levels, make them more prone to making costly errors, stress them out, and make phone conversations difficult to hear correctly. In turn, this can lower customer service quality, and that may lead to customers or clients getting annoyed and giving up on the company. One option is to simply have a soundproof phone booth in the office, and a number of offices are indeed installing such things. But remote work can have a similar effect.
Modern internet technology is what makes remote work feasible. A given remote worker will use a PC or laptop to perform their work, and they can use a combination of e-mails and Cloud data storage to receive and share documents from their co-workers, bosses, clients, business partners, and other parties. Already, offices tend to use hybrid systems that combine their physical data center’s own storage with that of the company’s cloud data storage, making for a seamless and universal whole. This way, any file can be shared to and from any party without issue, even remote workers who are miles (or even entire states) away. Something similar can be said about phone calls and video chat programs, and apps such as Skype and others allow business professionals to converse and share visuals such as charts or product prototypes. The pandemic may give office workers a newfound appreciation for all this.
Worker Value and Managers
This pandemic is also making large companies keenly aware of the true value of all their employees, even the ones who are low-skilled. With so many Americans unable to work, companies are realizing what they are missing, and fully understand what these workers contribute. As a result, companies are boosting wages and workplace conditions (and in some cases, workers go on strike first to move this process along). This extends to the value of temp and part-time workers, who are stepping up to help make deliveries possible. Right now, a vast quantity of goods and food products are being ordered online, and they have to be delivered somehow. Countless part-time and temp workers are making those deliveries, such as by car or truck, and this trend may continue into the post-pandemic world.
Even the position of “manager” will be affected by this. More and more office workers are using electronic means to communicate, share files, and collaborate, which is largely eliminating the need for middle managers and project managers. The workers have become so interconnected, these roles are redundant. Instead, there will likely be more positions of “team leader” instead. Similarly, senior managers will likely take fewer physical trips around the world for reviews or meetings, and instead, use video conferences and virtual presences to attend such meetings and presentations. This cuts down on the costs and stress of travel, and reduces the risks of the traveling manager getting lost or hurt, too.
There is no doubt about it — the world will forever be different after this pandemic. Luckily, some of the brightest minds in the world are working tirelessly to find a way for businesses to get back on their feet and for the future workforce to thrive.
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