As lockdowns are slowly lifted and the threat of COVID-19 lessens, questions are being asked around what the work environment will look like post-COVID-19. For some, there’s no question about returning to the workplace. But the workplace is going to be very different in an environment of social distancing. For others, working from home was unexpectedly refreshing and enhanced productivity. In fact, Gallup found three in five U.S. workers who have been doing their jobs from home during the COVID-19 pandemic would prefer to continue to work remotely as much as possible, once restrictions have lifted.
The COVID-19 pandemic was able to accelerate the shift to remote working as the digital world is finally at a stage where it can support technology like virtual meetings. The digital revolution enabled telework and the upcoming roll out of 5G will drive telerobotics and augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR), leading to increased automation globally Improved virtual and telepresence could also shift the development path for emerging markets, away from a manufacturing-led growth model (like China) more to a service-led growth model (like India).
But the sudden shift to remote work has also highlighted inequalities in the workforce. Jobs which can be done remotely tend to be higher paying jobs and those that require physical presence tend to be lower paying/lower education jobs. This means the pandemic lockdowns have disproportionately affected incomes for those in lower paying jobs which couldn’t switch to remote work. The biggest takeaway from the report is we need to innovate to increase our resilience to further disruptions and avoid the societal disruptions caused by the recent lockdowns.
The report also focuses on trends we see accelerating due to the COVID-19 crisis. The adoption of education technology (edtech) should get a boost as the pandemic is likely to shift attitudes towards increasing edtech spend with schools needing to teach remotely. The value of connectivity has increased during the pandemic and telecom network infrastructure has enabled functions such as eHealth and Big Data & Monitoring. And the rapid shift to work from home has been a catalyst for next-generation software focused on productivity & collaboration.
Business travel is likely to decline as virtual meetings replace face-to-face ones and in turn adversely affect the airline and travel industry. As corporates rethink office space, we look at the debate over the role of cities and real estate. Finally, a silver lining from remote working — air pollution has declined and we look at the positive environmental effects of working from home one day a week.
Most importantly, we hope you and your families remain safe and healthy throughout this difficult time.