How has COVID-19 changed the way we think of work?

How work has changed after the pandemic

For many of us, our day-to-day jobs have changed. 

No matter what you do for a living, you’re probably working a lot differently than you did at the beginning of 2020, before coronavirus changed all our lives. This is particularly true for anyone who now works from home. Inevitably, this dramatic change in the way we work is causing changes in the way we think about work. So how have we changed?

We’re connecting differently

The whole ‘Zoom bombing’ thing became an eye-rolling meme in the early months of the pandemic, but in Canada the use of video conferences in business has in fact skyrocketed this year, from an estimated 20% of businesses using it on a regular basis in 2019 to more like 60% in 2020.

Experts have noted that while this has reduced the opportunity for casual water-cooler conversations, in some ways it’s actually made it easier for co-workers to make personal connections: Video calls give them a little window in the home lives of their co-workers, they can bond over the inevitable interruptions from small children or barking dogs – there’s a shared ‘struggling in adversity’ experience that can be leveraged for more productive work.

We’re recognizing that ‘working from home’ doesn’t mean ‘slacking’

A year or two ago, plenty of business leaders were skeptical about the productivity of employees who worked from home: There was an assumption that without oversight from bosses or peer pressure, everyone would just sit on the couch in pyjamas all day, laughing all the way to the bank.

But then, suddenly, everyone had to work from home – and the skeptics realized that when you remove commuting, long boardroom meetings and the time-consuming pleasantries of the workday from your schedule, it turns out you can in fact get an awful lot done. 

(And now, of course, many organizations are realizing that if they let a large number of their employees work from home, they may no longer need as much high-priced downtown office space – which means they could end up with improved productivity for a significantly reduced cost.)

We expect to see the work-from-home movement to continue well after a COVID-19 vaccine is released.

The employer-employee relationships are changing

This is a more nascent trend than the ones above, and it will take time to determine exactly what the long-term effects will be. However, the combination of greater trust around working from home as well as a better appreciation for ‘essential’ workers and a recognition of some essential inequalities in the marketplace seems to be causing a shift in the way employers view their employees. 

We’re seeing a shift away from a strictly utilitarian, bottom-line-first and ‘everyone’s replaceable’ approach to employees in favour of a slightly more compassionate relationship where workers are considered valuable team members. It will take some time to see what effect this has on the long-term labour market, but we expect to see this trend continue for the next several years.

Before and after: What employees think now

How are views of work changing