Covid-19 has impacted the world in unprecedented ways and is well on course to altering several aspects of our lives. Arguably its greatest effect has been on employment, with consequences for job stability, earning capacity, along with the disruption of existing work models.
Now, with economies reopening, employees are waking up to a new reality that is distinctly different from the past. Job seekers should be aware of these changes to ensure they develop the right skills to prepare them for success in a post-Covid world.
Covid-19 has hastened many trends which were visible in the pre-pandemic era while kickstarting several others. Some of these changes, like social distancing, are likely to be temporary, while others will be enduring. Let’s examine some of the key ways in which the future of work may change and how you can prepare yourself to handle the transformation.
1. Get Ready to Work from Home in the Long-Term
Twitter hit the headlines earlier this year when it announced it would give employees the option to work from home “forever”. Several other tech giants including Microsoft, Facebook and Shopify have also expressed their willingness to consider work-from-home arrangements in perpetuity since then. In fact, one of the more long-lasting effects of Covid-19 has been the acceleration of remote work whose acceptance was gradual in an earlier period.
From an employee perspective, it means getting familiar with the tools of remote work such as Google Docs, Google Meet, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Slack etc. The mainstreaming of work-from-home has made familiarity with telework tools a core skill for employees.
2. Get Ready for Online Monitoring Tools
When employees are in office, it is easy to monitor their use of time through simple observation. But the same thing becomes impossible in a remote setting where workers are set far apart. In this situation, employers are likely to fall back on online monitoring tools including recording log-in timings, monitoring computer usage, computer screen recording, tracking phone use etc.
This Orwellian phenomenon is likely to become widespread and employees should get used to the idea. These steps should, however, be matched by an appropriate level of transparency on the part of the employer regarding the kind of data being collected and how it will be used.
3. Get Ready to Develop New Communication Skills
As the workplace shifts from office to home, it will entail a corresponding shift in soft skills. It will be most visible in the sphere of communication where the balance will tilt towards the written word. The emphasis on chat, email etc. will require employees to display proficient writing skills which will become an important KPI.
With written communication becoming predominant, the absence of social cues such as intonation and facial expressions will make it difficult for people to understand the true meaning of what is being said. Mitchell Hashimoto of HashiCorp suggests that the solution lies in overcommunication including the use of emojis to ensure that the correct message is conveyed.
An entirely new soft skill—chat literacy—will also come to the fore. Hashimoto cites the difference between “ok”, “ok.” and “ok…” as an example in this regard. There is a subtle difference in meaning in each case. Chat literacy refers to the ability to distinguish between them to recognise the frame of mind of the communicator.
4. Get Ready for a Change in Office Layouts
The rise of work-from-home will not necessarily translate into the demise of the office. Companies are likely to follow a hybrid model to accommodate those that are required to work from office, apart from employees that wish to voluntarily operate from the company facility. Expect to see a change in layouts with less open space planning and a proliferation of rooms and cubicles as a safeguard against the virus.
For a sneak peek into what offices of the future could look like, click here to see Cushman & Wakefield’s conceptualisation of a post-coronavirus workplace. Their ‘6 Feet Office’ project is an attempt to help companies devise a post-Covid office using principles like social distancing and hand hygiene which have become critical nowadays.
5. Get Ready for Work-Life Integration
Gone are the days of work-life balance; welcome to the world of work-life integration! As remote work becomes widespread, the intermingling of domestic and professional life is bound to occur as both begin to fade into each other. It is important not to let work take over your entire life by periodically tuning out. Prioritising productivity instead of work hours is the first step to fostering a shift in mindset which can help you cope with the change.
New Rules for Success
A post-Covid world will also see the employer play a greater role in the lives of workers with a special focus on health and wellness. The typical 9-5 routine could be replaced with flexiwork which is more conducive to work-from-home. Relations between colleagues could be redefined as a result of predominantly online interaction. Of course, these changes won’t occur all at the same time—or even at the same place. But a significant transformation is already underway, creating new rules for success.