The Postpandemic Workforce – How we will work after COVID-19

Since COVID-19 the way we work has changed a lot. From home office to the increasing importance of automation, here are a few factors that came out of nowhere for the employees But according to a recent study by McKinsey, these disruptions will change the way we work in the long run.

The survey conducted by the management consultancy with 800 managers from various countries shows that many workplace trends have been accelerated by the pandemic and will now find their way into offices and factories in the long term. As a consequence, the study continues, these changes will in turn create greater demand for workers in areas such as health and hygiene, cyber security and data analysis.

Companies today like to talk about the new way of working. The title of the study could hardly be more appropriate: “What 800 executives envision for the postpandemic workforce”. What does our world look like after Corona? What industries will have changed? These are all questions that companies, consultants and politicians are probably asking themselves almost daily. McKinsey is now trying to give an overview of the current status quo.


Digitization and automation are on the advance

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the executives surveyed, the introduction of digitization and automation technologies has accelerated dramatically. Due to the restrictions on company travel and personal meetings, many companies have had to rethink and have been forced to fundamentally change the way they work. In contrast to the last few years, the digital transformation has been extremely accelerated and within a few weeks companies could look forward to a functioning digital infrastructure.

85% of respondents said that they now enabled digital interaction and collaboration among their employees, and video conferencing and file sharing became part of everyday business life. Digital supply chain management has also experienced growth, with 35% of respondents stating that they have digitalized their supply chains and connected their suppliers to supply chain platforms.

But innovation technologies have also been able to optimize processing procedures that were no longer possible in the traditional way. Robotics, autonomous vehicles and AI software have stepped in for the workers who dropped out and have proven what automated, contactless interaction is all about. Especially in times of social distancing a relevant solution to keep the economy running.

However, digitization has not been particularly strong in warehouses or factories, but in the finance and insurance sector; closely followed by the information and technology sector. However, the managers are not worried. Despite the rapid pace of change, the managers surveyed say that they believe their company is capable of adapting to and managing change. Particularly gratifying: during the pandemic, companies have found that they can introduce new technologies much faster than they previously thought and that it can take months rather than years.


home office – come to stay (in part anyway)

Something that affected almost all companies was the home office. Although virtual collaboration from different locations was already an issue before COVID-19, it has taken on a completely different meaning in recent months. Tens of millions of employees were equipped with laptops and other digital tools during Corona and sent to their own homes to carry out their daily work.

This should also be possible in the future, according to the managers surveyed. The managers say that they expect one-tenth of their employees to continue working from their home office two or more days a week in the future. However, the countries differ in this respect. While in Great Britain and Germany the described strategy is being pursued, employers in China are less enthusiastic about a sustained home office time.


New divisions for health and hygiene

Safety at work, hygiene and health have become the focus of employers during COVID-19. The McKinsey survey showed that 83% of the respondents would hire more employees for health and safety tasks. Robotics would also be used to clean floors, windows and ducts more frequently and more intensively and to kill bacteria using UV light, similar to the way it is already used in hospitals.

New office and workplace concepts will directly integrate new hygiene concepts. More space is planned between work areas and employees to better prevent the spread of diseases and new roles in occupational health management will be needed.

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way a lot of work is done, and managers around the world plan to retain much of this in the future. “The new ways to work” will therefore be characterized by automation, digitalization and a new focus on health. A detailed extract from the McKinsey study is available here.

Alexander Pinker
Alexander Pinker
Alexander Pinker is an innovation profiler, future strategist and media expert who helps companies understand the opportunities behind technologies such as artificial intelligence for the next five to ten years. He is the founder of the consulting firm "Alexander Pinker - Innovation Profiling", the innovation marketing agency "innovate! communication" and the news platform "Medialist Innovation". He is also the author of three books and a lecturer at the Technical University of Würzburg-Schweinfurt.

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