The future of remote working
A report from McKinsey Global Institute (Feb 21) entitled The future of work after Covid-19 suggests that the pandemic will have a large and lasting impact on work and the workforce.
Around the world labour markets were disrupted in 2020 by the pandemic; millions of people lost their jobs or were furloughed, while others had to quickly adjust to working remotely from home as offices shut.
Key workers continued to provide essential services through their place of work with new protocols in place, including social distancing and the use of personal protection equipment, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Is remote working likely to stay after the pandemic?
There are numerous benefits for both employers and employees, including increased productivity and a better work-life balance. Many employees enjoy the convenience of remote work, not having to commute to the office and having more time for family and leisure activities.
It’s interesting to note that a recent market research survey of students by Cibyl asked them what they were more likely to do as a result of the pandemic; 46%wanted more flexibility at work and 34% wanted to work from home. It’s likely that a hybrid model of working could emerge for many businesses where employees spend part of the week working remotely and part of the week with colleagues in the office doing things together. Some companies are already getting rid of office spaces or rethinking their office spaces to make them fit for purpose in this new era of work.
Some jobs aren’t suited to remote working
These include jobs which require the use of specialist equipment, for example in laboratory or factory work; or jobs requiring physical interaction with people, such as healthcare roles with patients. The potential for working remotely is determined by the specific tasks and activities of the job rather than by occupation.
There are some job activities that definitely benefit from being done in person and may lose their effectiveness when done remotely. These include negotiations, critical business decisions, brainstorming sessions, providing sensitive feedback to a colleague and the onboarding of new colleagues. A hybrid model of working could facilitate those tasks that are best done in person.
What about graduate recruitment in 2021?
Despite 80% of students thinking it would be tough to get a job when they graduate because of the pandemic, there are sectors which have seen an increase in recruitment this year. The top sectors in 2021 are:
● IT and Tech
● Public sector
● Engineering, design and manufacturing
● Media and advertising
● Consumer goods
● Investment banking
● Accounting and financial management
Also interesting to note is that 25% of students have experienced remote working through a virtual internship during the pandemic. This rises to 37% of students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, suggesting that working remotely has actually created opportunities from which disadvantaged students have benefitted.
What lessons have we learned from the pandemic?
Firstly, remote workers can accomplish most of their work tasks without a significant drop in productivity or quality and secondly, most employees appreciate the flexibility of remote working.
However, there are downsides to working from home; for example, some workers’ sense of belonging can suffer. This points to the importance of positive relationships with colleagues that help to keep us motivated and productive at work, and also the need for employers to offer employees on-going mental health support as they continue to adjust to new ways of working after the pandemic.
“People are more productive working at home than people would have expected. Some people thought that everything was just going to fall apart, and it hasn’t. And a lot of people are actually saying that they’re more productive now.” – Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook