How COVID changed the world of work forever

How COVID changed the world of work forever Tips, Office Guide, Online advice

How COVID-19 changed the world of work forever guide

22 Apr 2021

2020 was most definitely a year unlike any other in our history. Since the emergence and discovery of a mystery virus in the district of Wuhan, China in late 2019, our lives have been shaped and transformed in ways never before thought possible. This virus would soon be identified as being a novel coronavirus, at first abbreviated as 2019-nCoV.

On February 11th, 2020 the World Health Organisation would officially rename the 2019 novel coronavirus as COVID-19:

CO – Corona
VI – Virus

D – Disease

19 – The year of origin

As we are all now well aware, many of those infected with COVID-19 show few to no signs of illness, however, the risks posed to certain parts of the population – including those with underlying conditions and the elderly – were viewed sufficiently serious for governments around the world to take immediate action. Consequently, leaders began virtually closing down society with enforced distancing and isolation measures.

Coronavirus and the dreaded R number

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of COVID-19 was how quickly it spread around the world and its ability for quick reproduction (the so-called R number). If left to its own devices with no action taken, COVID-19 has an estimated R number of 3 – meaning for every one person infected, the virus would subsequently infect another three. For reference, measles has an R number of approximately 15 in communities that have no immunity.

How coronavirus affected work

While nations globally struggled with rising case numbers – and, unfortunately, deaths – most countries were quick to impose full lockdowns. Almost overnight our lives were put on hold as we were forced to stay home with little social interaction or options to go out.

Of course, these limitations also applied equally to the workplace with staff forced to work remotely. As we spent more time working from home, there was a tangible link between property demand and remote working as people began to appreciate their personal space more.

The rise of remote-working, the cloud and e-commerce

Almost without exception, the companies that survived through the virus best (and in some cases even thrived), were those that already had a strong online presence, e-commerce facilities and had previously made moves to integrate their systems and operations with cloud networks. Each proved vital in the ongoing fight for firms to stay open and operating through the virus:

Strong online presence: As the world moved online through lockdowns, those companies that had already invested in having a strong online presence came out top. From firms that were adept at Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) so they feature high in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) to those that had paid due attention to their online branding and social media profiles, being active and findable online became a positive boon for firms. The big winners through lockdowns were those that placed high up in Google and facilitated online client contact.

E-commerce facilities: With real-world stores closed, we had little choice but to move online for our shopping needs. Those firms that had already embraced e-commerce benefitted most. For example, e-com titan Amazon reported a 37% increase in third-quarter revenue in 2020 while even smaller firms enjoyed record online sales as we globally embraced online shopping. Industry analysts confirm COVID-19 has accelerated the growth and take-up of e-commerce by around four years and, even as we slowly emerge from the worst of the virus, this trend is unlikely to stop. Online retailing is very much here to stay as the traditional high street continues to decline.

Cloud networking: Firms that had already moved their digital operations to the cloud found the transition to staff working from home relatively easy. Cloud tech allows employees to access company files and software remotely, from any location where they have an internet connection. Moreover, by integrating with online management platforms and installing collaboration software, businesses were able to continue operating despite staff being unable to attend the office. Indeed, cloud tech also makes firms more nimble and agile to adapt to changing circumstances by allowing instant upgrades (or downgrades) as demands change. It also helps firms employ freelancers – again, increasing a company’s profitability by slashing fixed overheads.

The workplace after coronavirus subsides

With companies enjoying reduced outgoings (for example lower rent, rates and utility bills afforded by staff working remotely) and the majority of employees reporting a better work/life balance from home-working, it seems highly unlikely firms will simply revert to the working practices of old. Indeed, Twitter has confirmed its staff will no longer work from its offices while Google has extended its remote working practices until at least summer 2021 – and is actively exploring ways to continue it longer.

With today’s modern tech and improved connection speeds, there’s a convincing argument that the traditional office-based, Monday-Friday, 9-5 is already dead in the water. Meanwhile, as our high streets continue to suffer in the face of e-commerce and cloud networking is adopted by more and more companies, it seems highly probable the post-COVID world of work will look markedly different to the one that endured through most of last century.

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