The Future of Work: Changing Trends

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic completely disrupted labor markets on a global level. Short-term consequences were often severe and sudden, with millions losing jobs or being furloughed and others rapidly having to adjust to working from home as offices shut their doors in spades. A great many other workers, deemed essential personnel, continued to operate in grocery stores, hospitals, warehouses, and garbage trucks, albeit with new protocols to reduce the virus’s spread.

The Future of Work

Prior to the pandemic, the largest disruptions involved growing trade links and innovative new technologies. For the first time in history, COVID-19 has elevated the importance of work’s physical dimension. Research has found that jobs in arenas requiring high levels of proximity are expected to see the greatest transformation after the conclusion of the pandemic. This will inevitably trigger reactions in other industries as business models are forced to shift in response.

Disruptions may vary in both the short-term and long-term. During the main wave of the coronavirus, society was mostly injured in the fields of travel, leisure, on-site customer service, and health care. Over the long term, work areas with higher proximity are projected to be the most disrupted. Proximity alone does not represent the full explanation.Β 

For instance, on-site interaction with customers includes frontline workers who have to communicate in places like post offices, retail stores, and banks. Work in such an arena is noted by frequent interactions in physical spaces. Much of the work performed here is already being migrated to digital transactions and e-Commerce.

The arena of travel and leisure also includes customer-facing works in entertainment venues, airports, and restaurants. These workers interact on a daily basis with crowds of new customers. The pandemic forced immediate closure of such venues, with airlines and airports operating on an extremely limited basis. Of the longer team, society’s shift to working remotely in addition to the automation of many occupations, like roles in food services, are liable to curtail the demand for labor in this area.

Outdoor maintenance and production include farms, commercial and residential grounds, and construction sites. The pandemic had little impact in these regions as work in this general industry requires few interactions and low proximity to others due to activities taking place outdoors. This is the largest space for India and China, given that it occupies up to 55% of the general workforce.

Virtual Meetings and Remote Work Will Continue

The most obvious impact felt by the tremor of the pandemic in terms of the labor force includes the dramatic increase in remote workers. Determining the manner in which its extent will persist, researchers analyzed the potential across well over 2,000 used in over 800 types of occupations. Taking into consideration only the remote work that can be accomplished remotely, it has been discovered that nearly 25% of workers in advanced economies could work from home as much as 5 days per week.Β 

This figure represents 5 times the amount of remote work prior to the pandemic and could result in a radical change in the geography as individuals and companies shift into small cities. Some of the work done remotely can be best performed in person, including brainstorming sessions, new employee onboarding, feedback, and critical business decisions, to name several.

A number of companies are already beginning to offer flexible workspaces after the overwhelmingly positive experiences discovered with remote work during the course of the pandemic to reduce the overall space and bring fewer workers to the office each day. McKinsey surveyed 278 executives in 2020 and found that the average company is trying to reduce the space in offices by as much as 30 percent. Demand for retail workers and restaurant waiters in downtown regions with public transportation may reduce as a result.

Remote work has also put a substantial dent in travel for business due to its extensive video conferencing use that has ushered in the widespread acceptance of virtual meetings along with other aspects of work. This has a significant effect on employment in the services of food, aerospace, hospitality, and airports. Furthermore, virtual transactions made possible by eCommerce are booming.

Consumers have discovered a newfound appreciation for the convenience of online activities like eCommerce during the pandemic. For instance, the share of eCommerce businesses grew at a rate of two to five times in comparison to before COVID-19. Nearly 75% of individuals using these digital channels for the very first time have stated that they will continue to use them after things return to normal.

Other types of virtual transactions like telemedicine, streaming, and online banking have skyrocketed. Online consultations through telehealth companies grew at a rate of tenfold during 2020. These forms of virtual practices may see a decline as economies open back up, but they are likely to continue at levels well beyond what was seen prior to COVID-19. The change to digital transactions has skyrocketed growth in warehouse jobs, delivery, and transportation. In China, eCommerce, social media, and delivery jobs saw an increase of more than 5 million during the initial half of 2020.

COVID-19 and AI

The two ways in which businesses have historically mitigated uncertainty and controlled costs during recessions are through the redesign of work processes by automation which reduces the share of jobs that require routine tasks. In a global survey of 800 executives, almost 66% stated that they were increasing investment in AI and automation in some kind of way. The production of robotics in China exceeded levels seen prior to the pandemic by June 2020.Β 

Trends accelerated by the pandemic may result in greater changes in the body of jobs than was estimated prior to the event occurring. A different mix of jobs may emerge after the pandemic concludes, for in comparison to pre-pandemic estimations, the largest impact felt will be on warehousing, customer representatives, and food service workers. In the United States along, the fields of food and customer service are projected to fall by as much as 4 million, with transportation jobs growing by nearly 900,000.

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