By Alok Bansal,
More than a year has passed since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization, and the working culture changed in our lives. There was an abrupt shift towards work from home while millions of others lost their jobs. Categorization of employment took place, and the hazards of the virus led to the creation of “essential workers,” and at present, our future looks uncertain. So it is pertinent to ask the question – how has Covid-19 changed our work culture, and how will the work culture look in the post-pandemic future?
Work from Home
Let’s point out the obvious. Following the pandemic, a large-scale workforce shifted their work to remote locations, and employees ditched their commutes and large office spaces and switched to working from their homes. The corporate culture faced casualty as companies lost their tangible aspect of the business. Starting from the perks that the companies offered (free coffee, restrooms, gyms) to socialized meetings, the corporate world lost it all. However, companies need to brace themselves, as post Covid era will be the new normal.
Then there is the gender divide; with the world struggling to stay on edge with the raging pandemic, the women were pushed off the edge. The soaring unemployment hit women the hardest as women were 1.8 times more likely to lose their jobs than men. The percentage of women in unpaid work was already high; during the pandemic, it has skyrocketed. The burden of demand for unpaid childcare, cooking, and cleaning fell on women more, becoming a barrier for socio-economic development. With women being employed in the corporate, the burden of housework fell on them, which led to a decrease in their overall productivity.
Gradual Change in Work Culture
Work culture is likely never going to be the same in the post-pandemic era. However, this gives us an ample opportunity to rethink how we run the companies. For decades, 9-to-5 has been the unofficial slogan of the work centered around offices. This rigid structure changed in the covid-19 era as companies gave up unnecessary meetings and office timings. Looking at this from an employee’s perspective, they are now allowed to make flexible choices about the working conditions, and they can get their work-life balance on track. Businesses who will be able to adapt to this new model of corporate culture will definitely gain a competitive advantage in the industry as they will be able to maintain agility in the organization along with the spirit of teamwork. New studies have found that less than 12% of employees want to return back to the full-time office job.
There was a surge of new technologies loaded on those who worked from home in the pandemic. There is development in the 5G spectrum, which enables workspaces at any place, and with Artificial Intelligence being powered through laptops and Virtual Reality headsets, meetings are being conducted with employees all across the world. In this Zoom era, organizations are hosting more meetings; however, employees, in general, are spending less time attending those meetings. Companies are pushing more and more to incorporate their employees’ needs in the meeting, and companies are acknowledging the vastly complex lives their employees have. We are now shifting to a hybrid workspace model post-pandemic where employees will prefer working from home for a large portion of the financial year. Approximately 40% of the workforce can afford to actually work from home, and for them, the change is already here. However, for the rest, 60%, who work in lowly paid jobs like transportation, retail, restaurants, run the risk of losing their income as the jobs disappear. This needs to be the main concern in our economic recovery – equitable growth for all.
Covid-19 had the most severe impact on jobs, and the pandemic has revealed that the current scenario is not sustainable in the long run. The Post-pandemic era could prove to be a boon in this sector. In India, financial institutions are focusing on financial inclusion across the country, and in western countries, the focus is on a diversified and inclusive workforce. This pandemic could prove to be a catalyst as companies will finally work on socio-economic upliftment. The new companies coming up after the pandemic are providing better access to their employees in terms of medical benefits, financial plans, wealth management, and insurance schemes. This could spur significant societal changes and paramount reforms.
We are looking at a modernized workplace to make sure that the transition of employees to a hybrid workstation is smooth and easy. Alternative work schedules are now being adopted and proactive companies will gobble this up as new normal, which will give them an advantage over the industry. Slowly but surely, companies will step up to embrace this messy situation and turn it into a new opportunity. The future is wide open for us.
(The author is MD & Country Head, Visionet India. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)