Perhaps the most obvious impact of Covid-19 on the workforce is the surge in employees working remotely. Although the digitalization of work was already an existing tendency in the “digital era” we are living in, the pandemic situation has prompted the work from home (WFH).
In order to determine the extent to which remote work might persist after the pandemic, its potential was analysed in more than 2,000 activities used in some 800 occupations in the eight reference countries (China, France, India, Japan, Spain, United Kingdom and United States) in the McKinsey’s report “The Future of Work after Covid 19”. If it is only taken into account the remote work which does not imply a loss of productivity, the report considers that about 20-25% of the workforce in advanced economies could work from home between three and five days a week. In addition, it is expected that on average, office space will be reduced by 30%.
Of course, all these changes will affect many areas of our society. From the working schedule to the reorganization of workspaces and cities, remote working will also affect business travel, thanks to the spread of video conferencing and virtual meetings. However, undoubtedly the greater impact will be suffered by the workforce.
Will working from home be permanent for workers around the world?
During the pandemic crisis, changes have been implemented as well as the situation has allowed and employers and employees have made a great effort to adapt to it. Digital literacy is now critically important for the vast majority of workers. However, if remote work is to be a lasting reality some features must be taken into consideration.
Ritam Gandhi explains on DCD, that first and foremost, employees must be at the heart of any business strategy and must have the skills and tools they need to thrive in the workplace. Employees must be confident that their digital knowledge is up to date with broader industry trends, and that their skills will remain competitive in the face of an evolving labour market. Therefore, employers must invest in upskilling employees and ensuring they have the skills they need to thrive in the digital landscape.
Nowadays, the ability to use productivity software such as Microsoft Office products is already a minimum requirement for most occupations, so companies need to ensure that their employees, from entry-level staff to executives, are comfortable using them. Moreover, many workers will also require additional skills and expertise that may relate to a key task in their job role. Tailoring digital training based on the specific requirements of different groups will give employees the knowledge, skills and tools they need to reach new career milestones.
However, increasing the digital intelligence of a workforce cannot be achieved through a single initiative. According to Deloitte, employees at all levels expect flexible and continuous learning opportunities from their employers. The increasing demand for specialised skills as the digital world becomes more complex means that organisations must provide ongoing training to employees that has a real impact.
Undoubtedly, an existing generational gap has become clear between the younger and the older workers in relation to digitalization of work. The latter have experienced more difficulties to adapt themselves to working from home as many of them lacked the digital skills needed to do their job remotely. Thus, all the future measures to be taken regarding working from home and employee training must take into consideration the special needs the older generation of workers might have.
Lastly, remote working in recent months has highlighted the importance of having the right tools in place to make employees feel engaged and supported. According to Studio Graphene research, 29 per cent of workers felt isolated and out of the loop from the rest of the organisation while working remotely. Hence, in order to make remote work a reality, good communication becomes a condition to start.