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How COVID-19 is Reshaping the Workforce

— September 15, 2021

Whilst the transition from the traditional work setup to WFH proved challenging, some companies showed resilience by recognising the above changes and putting their workers first.

One of the biggest, far-reaching consequences of COVID-19 that the world immediately felt was economic. The global lockdowns and stay-at-home orders during the height of the pandemic led to the shuttering of businesses and the closure of offices everywhere.

Trade, commerce and business were all at a standstill. And whilst there were already some companies operating with a remote workforce pre-COVID, the majority of businesses were still being run the traditional way. But when COVID-19 turned into a full-blown global health crisis, it resulted in the highly accelerated transformation of the workplace.

People working from home (WFH) became the norm, and this trend is likely to continue into the future. Moreover, technology has enabled companies to run mostly if not wholly online, and it will continue to play a key role in the new normal where social distancing remains a high priority.

COVID-19 has also reshaped the workforce — that is, how people regard employment, the work arrangements they prefer and other factors. Below are some insights on what has changed for employees because of the pandemic:

1. The Desirability of Working From Home

Even with the rollout of vaccines, many people no longer see themselves going back to their jobs the traditional way. Doing one’s work from home, although challenging at first for the uninitiated, continues to be an attractive alternative.

With WFH, people don’t need to wake up early, prepare and eat breakfast, and commute to and from the office. The option is also appealing to some companies because of its financial and recruitment benefits. There’s no need to buy or lease expensive commercial space, and they have a bigger pool of global candidates to choose from during recruitment.

Therefore, it’s not surprising to know that people would want the option to work from home to remain, even after offices and other businesses resume normal operations.

2. The Importance of Reskilling and Upskilling for Success

The unexpected and abrupt transformation in the way businesses are run has tested how well companies could cope with change. Companies had to depend on worker agility and resilience to be able to deal with the changing times, initiate rapid technological changes and remain profitable.

However, changes in the workload were inevitable during the pandemic, resulting in resource allocation imbalances. But when companies began reskilling and upskilling their employees, workers could more easily manage their changing roles.

3. The Need to Build a Culture of Trust, Transparency and Openness

Everyone knows that these are uncertain times — even with the number of vaccines being rolled out. Therefore, it’s important to be understanding and supportive of one another in the midst of this uncertainty.

Managers today know that micromanaging doesn’t work in a remote work environment. The focus now is on cultivating trust, self-discipline and ensuring efficient communication.

With less control and oversight, people have begun to master the art of working independently. There’s a learning curve and people are just finding out what works and what won’t in a home-based work setting.

4. Faster Adoption of Advanced Technology

To be able to adapt to the demands of remote working, workplaces have had to be reconfigured, including communications technology upgrades. This is reflected in the popularity of video conferencing apps like Zoom, Cisco Webex Meetings, GoToMeeting and Skype, as well as business collaboration and communication platforms like Slack, Dropbox,, Trello, Asana, Basecamp and so on.

Once offices reopen, they may still require facilities that are properly equipped for seamless networking, video conferencing and other advanced digital interaction tools. Similar tech upgrades are also required for remote workers to ensure efficiency and productivity.

5. The Emphasis on Personal and Social Wellbeing

The pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have put tremendous stress on everyone, including employees trying to separate and balance their work and private lives whilst working from home.

As a consequence, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions have become more common as people have to deal with the pressures of social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders. The constant threat of COVID, new variants of the virus, financial difficulties, and the need to balance family and work also add to the challenges people face today.

Work-life balance: relaxing at the beach and a laptop on a desk; image by Alexas_Fotos, via Pixabay, CC0.
Image by Alexas_Fotos, via Pixabay, CC0.

Now, more than ever, companies have begun to rebalance their priorities by taking into account the physical and mental health of their employees. Aside from regular check-ins, some companies have dedicated helplines, health services and team-building programs designed to ensure the total wellbeing of their workers.

6. The Availability of New Streams of Income

Today, it is no longer uncommon to find people with their own version of moonlighting or having a side gig apart from their main job. Although this was already happening pre-COVID, WFH and the internet has made acquiring additional streams of income so much easier.

There are people who work as accountants and graphic designers or as full-time marketing executives and part-time social media managers and chat support workers. And with reskilling becoming easier and more convenient with the availability of online courses (some of which are free), the possibility of having two or more entirely different careers increases.

7. The Value of Positive Employer Reviews

COVID-19 has somehow leveled the playing field when big companies can no longer lure employees with impressive corporate headquarters, substantial salaries and perks on the job.

Today, employer branding is mostly about getting positive company reviews. The brand name of the company is now secondary to its online reputation.

Jobseekers no longer prioritise lavish corporate campuses during their job hunt. What people are after is a healthy workplace culture — an environment where they can thrive and build a career.

Candidates usually find organisations with honest, transparent and empathic leaders ideal. Add to this the company’s noble goals (especially for the environment and other causes) and definite career paths for their employees to make a very attractive package.

The Lasting Impact of COVID-19

As everyone tries to move forward and away from the initial pressures brought on by COVID-19, one thing is certain: the global pandemic has had a lasting impact on people, companies and the concept of work.

Even as the so-called ‘new normal’ continues to be redefined, we already know there’s no going back completely to the old way of doing things.

Whilst the transition from the traditional work setup to WFH proved challenging, some companies showed resilience by recognising the above changes and putting their workers first.

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