Post COVID: Looking to the changed landscape of work

As so many of us languish at home dreaming of a sunny crowded beer garden, we here at Sparktel have been wondering exactly how much of this will be permanent and what positive changes could come out of this worrying time. 

Troubling world events have, throughout history, brought enormous societal change – The Black Death brought about (or at least hastened) an end to feudalism, tempted peasants into revolts and began the notion of workers organising for fairer conditions. The Spanish Flu of 1918 gave us governmental public health innovations, and World War 2 cemented this thinking into the NHS in the UK. The consequences of Covid-19 will be undoubtedly similar in their world-altering “new normal”. But what are we sure of so far?

·         It’s obvious but worth examining….Remote Working is here to stay.

In a global study of senior finance leaders, 74% of companies plan to permanently shift to more remote work post COVID (Gartner, COVID-19 Bulletin: Executive Pulse, 3 April 2020)

·         Use of video-conferencing and online subscription platforms have soared – Zoom reached 200 million daily participants by the beginning of April (paid and free) up from just 10 million in December .

·         In a 2019 study of remote work by Gartner, it was shown to increase productivity levels by up to 40%Of course, add a pandemic into the mix and we see the true ups and downs to working from home. On a day when Twitter announced the possibility of staff working remotely permanently, it’s time to prepare for what lies ahead and what we can do to make this a seamless transition from office to home.

Lets think about the barriers and difficulties – it’s easy for us to identify these!

·        Childcare – any parents reading this right now with a teacher’s classroom dojo hanging over their heads or struggling with nappy-changing while waiting for a conference call, knows this all too well. Working two jobs, the paid one and the parent one, was what many had to do but sustainably, childcare needs are going to be of the utmost importance while we ride out the rest of this crisis and move onto the next phase.

·        Accessibility – Wifi, Equipment – how many of us have this? A lot less than we might have imagined. Across the country many go without broadband and many others, working in jobs traditionally not IT based, do not even have a laptop. A Gartner study of work in Asia / Pacific identified technology and infrastructure as the biggest barrier (54%) to efficient remote work. However, a staggering 91% of work deemed possible was moved remotely out of necessity. What is it about necessity and invention again?

·        The devil’s in the detail – a host of other difficulties present themselves as we move through this change. Communication, adequate living space, socialising, team-building, ergonomics… the list goes on. With correct surveys of workers and analysis though, we can make this work long-term and reap the benefits.

…and the positives?

·        Staff retention – This one’s simple right? If we can work online, we retain staff. SME’s are innovating and the retail market will change significantly. Digital learning has exploded, and many previous face-to-face meetings, deemed essential, have moved into the online sphere.

·        Less travel means less time spent on the roads in the morning, better air quality, and a massive reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

·        It also leads to the possibility of more people being afforded the chance to move away from city centres, and choose homes in less crowded, cheaper accommodations.

·        Less people in the city means less pressure on the housing market…

·        …and as companies look at the savings they will make on commercial rent, it makes simple financial sense to invest in telecoms on a national level.

Before Covid-19 hit the world, climate change, housing, health services and a desire for a better work-life balance occupied our thoughts.

Managed well, could this present an opportunity to work on all these problems cohesively and successfully?

(Still dying for that pint in a beer garden though)

Éadaoin Browne – Dublin – May 2020