Industry leaders speculate that COVID-19 will completely transform the world of work. In reality, it’s accelerating global shifts that were already in play.
As some US states go back to physical work, and manufacturing restarts across the globe, leaders are beginning to question what the future is going to look like for their business, their industry, and ultimately, work itself.
These questions were already on the table prior to the pandemic. Back in January 2020, before COVID-19 swept its way across the globe, we published an article in Forbes predicting what the future of work would look like in 2030. Looking back on that piece today reveals that many of the predictions we made then are being accelerated by COVID-19.
In this piece, we’ll build on our article from January to predict what we’re likely to see once the COVID-19 lockdown ends.
Large organizations will act like startups and challenger brands
While startups and challenger brands have revolutionized approaches to business over the past decade, big firms have often hunkered down to cement their long-held position.
Coming out of COVID-19, however, large organizations will follow the lead of startups and challenger brands. Decision-making has to speed up to meet an ever-changing economic landscape, technology must be universally embraced to smooth the transition to remote work, and every business on the planet will constantly react to change.
COVID-19 has taught us to expect the unexpected, and it’s unlikely businesses will want to return fully to their old, traditional ways after having experienced a different reality. We know that economic shocks will continue to come in the future—naturally, leaders now want to ensure that their business is agile enough to survive and thrive in challenging circumstances.
International business travel will plummet
Thanks to platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, sales teams and executives—used to traveling across the world for conferences and client meetings—are discovering that even restrictions on travel are no hindrance to creating and maintaining relationships. The transition to virtual meetings is also saving businesses a fortune in travel expenses. Can future business travel be justified now that we know it’s unnecessary for the most part? Most likely, it can’t, at least not on the same pre-pandemic level.
At the same time, industry events like Staffing Industry Analysts’ (SIA) 2020 CWS Summit in Europe and SIG’s Procurement Technology Summit have proved that going virtual doesn’t restrict insight gathering and collaboration. For many who attend these virtual events, such occasions have been a breath of fresh air.
Virtual technology is also playing its part within staffing companies. Across Guidant Global and Impellam Group, assessment centers are now organized virtually as part of the candidate selection process, while interactive roundtable discussions with clients seeking validation of their own strategies have proved to be incredibly effective.
As the business community comes to terms with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, the first significant cutback is very likely to be business travel.
Of course, this will have its benefits. First, it will allow people to spend less time traveling and thus improve efficiency at work. Second, it will save businesses money. Third, it will have a positive impact on our collective effort to tackle global climate change.
Remote work is the new norm
The global remote work transition has, for the most part, proved to be a success so far. Workers have, with a period of initial readjustment, learned that work can be done from their home office or kitchen table. In many cases, people have found that they are collaborating with colleagues more, are more productive, and can better balance their family and work lives. Of course, it should also be noted that what many are doing isn’t remote work in its truest form—imagine how much more effective and rewarding it will be once taken out of the context of a pandemic.
Many have asked for more remote, flexible work over the past decade, and today’s transition is a case in point that it can be done.
As lockdowns are lifted, people will be less willing to accept arguments against flexible work. This will, of course, radically alter the way work is done, managed, and remunerated, but businesses should have known this was coming. Flexible and remote work has consistently scored high on people’s work wish lists over the past few years. Not to mention the fact that flexible and remote work is beneficial for working moms, people with disabilities, and other disadvantaged groups.
For many workers, the flexible, remote work we see today is a final proving ground. Many now speculate that it will successfully become the new norm.
An increasingly remote workforce will be good for business
Although transitioning to remote work will inevitably lead to a period of mindset readjustment, particularly for more traditionally minded business leaders, a permanent transition to flexible and remote work is no bad thing.
Real estate costs will be reduced
Flexible, remote businesses spend far less on corporate real estate. With more people working from home, businesses can save a significant chunk of money by renting less office space for its people.
Let’s take a business headquartered in London as an example. According to Business Matters Magazine, the average cost to rent an office space in London per person per month is £650-£1,500. Taking a workforce of 200 people, at an average cost of £1,000 per month, that equates to £2.4 million a year. Every business on the planet—whose leaders now know that remote working works—will be looking at those figures with an inquisitive eye.
Moving to a remote workforce will allow businesses to attract better talent
As more work is performed remotely, businesses don’t need to rely solely on local talent pools. For those operating outside economic epicenters, accessing highly skilled workers will become easier as they tap into global talent pools and build high-performing remote teams composed of expert talent from around the world.
Not only will this facilitate rapid transformation, it will also foster greater innovation (through a diversity of thought) and ultimately lead to long-term growth.
A more distributed, remote workforce will, however, add to complexity
Even before the COVID-19 epidemic, workforces were becoming more complex, with contingent and temporary workers making up an increasing share of the workforce. Given that businesses will want to become more agile to ensure that they’re ready for future economic shocks, the percentage of such workers will no doubt continue to increase.
As every procurement or HR professional knows, complex workforces are difficult to manage, lead to organizational inefficiencies, and in many cases, increase risk.
One solution is to expand HR teams to deal with the increasingly complex organizational structure and more effectively manage their mixed workforce. Second, HR teams can build closer working relationships with compliance teams to potentially negate additional risk. Both of these approaches, however, lead to additional costs and add responsibility to teams already under pressure.
Given this, the safest option for businesses going forward will be to partner with an advanced Managed Service Provider (MSP) like Guidant Global to help manage this complexity and mitigate risk. Those not traveling this path may find the remote work future difficult to handle.For further insight into the global remote work transition, download Guidant Global’s latest report.