The Future of Work After COVID-19

by | Dec 31, 2021

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, it changed every aspect of our work lives. Thousands of people working in retail, recreation, hospitality, real estate, and travel became unessential workers. These people sheltered safely at home and were no longer members of the everyday workforce.


Meanwhile, essential workers became the unsung heroes ensuring everyone could shop for groceries and receive emergency healthcare. People working in warehouses, store stockers, delivery drivers, healthcare workers, and other frontline jobs risked their safety daily.


As a result, companies adapted to lockdown restrictions by working remotely. Working from home became more than a pipe dream – it became an everyday reality. Discover how COVID-19 accelerated existing work trends and what it means for the future workforce.     


More Opportunities for Remote Work


One of the biggest things to change about the future of work after COVID-19 is the shift to remote work. Most companies hadn’t considered moving toward a work structure that supported off-site workers. 


But once the CDC recommended the six-feet-apart rule, many industries from restaurants to Wall Street had to close. Business leaders began using technology like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to stay connected to employees and clients to remain in business. 


After two years of managing virtual employees, many companies are considering implementing a remote or hybrid workforce. A Gartner poll revealed that 48% of workers will continue with part-time remote work and return to the office one to three days a week after COVID. Pre-pandemic, the number of people who worked from home was 30%. 


A balanced telecommuting life-work schedule is appealing for many workers. And in one survey, 26% of employees plan to change careers post-pandemic because their current position or workplace doesn’t offer telecommuting.


Research by Gartner shows that post-COVID, 32% of businesses plan to replace full-time employees with temporary, freelance, or contract workers. 




Rise in Popularity for eCommerce Business



eCommerce has been a steady industry for several years, but the pandemic was the catalyst for exponential growth. Most people started using online shopping to avoid crowds and germs. 2020 saw the eCommerce sector grow two to five times faster than pre-pandemic rates. 


For the future of post-COVID-19 work, this means a plethora of new retail job roles is opening up. For example, working as a shopper or delivery driver is an easy and convenient way to make money on a flexible work schedule or supplement your income. 


Other electronic services saw dramatic growth, including entertainment streaming, online banking, and telemedicine. Post-pandemic, virtual telehealth practices experienced up to 38 times more usage than the pre-pandemic baseline. 


This may increase non-clinical job positions that require a medical background, such as virtual assistant and remote nurse practitioners. 




Growth in the Use of Automation Technologies


The pandemic caused mass shutdowns across numerous industries. This left many businesses unable to operate for months, leading to significant supply chain disruptions. 


Many companies turned to automation to handle repetitive or manual work tasks to compensate for a reduced human workforce. The robot revolution proved to be highly successful, boosting productivity, increasing profits, and improving workplace safety. 


Following business reopenings, many companies plan to keep robot workers and machines. Other businesses are moving up their automation timeline to remain competitive. Before COVID by the World Economic Forum, a study stated that 43% of companies planned to use technology to reduce staffing


The highest predicted automation is roving machines, such as robots that clean supermarkets, warehouses, and hospitals. Predictions are that these devices displace lower-educated females. This subset of workers makes up a large percentage of the low and mid-wage positions. Some of the jobs that are most likely to experience displacement include:


  • Cashiers
  • Salesclerks
  • Hospital aides
  • Manufacturing and assembly line jobs
  • Food preparation
  • Aides to the elderly or sick
  • Administrative assistants


Currently, over 40% of jobs are at risk of being canceled due to automation. This means that in the future, many displaced workers may end up in lower-skill positions that pay less than the previous roles unless they can upskill.




Businesses Implementing Reskilling Programs




Oxford Economics estimates that up to 20 million workers could be displaced due to automation by 2030. Many people will require some form of reskilling to learn a new trade or retain their position. 


The World Economic Forum estimates that up to 50% of workers will require reskilling to remain in their roles over the next five years. Many companies will implement in-house reskilling or professional development and redeploy displaced workers within their organization to avoid mass job losses.




Equality Problems for Returning Female Workers


As the pandemic raged, millions of families had to change their work dynamic. A lack of child care became a serious concern as schools, daycares, and in-home babysitters closed.


This problem significantly affected the female population. Almost three million women resigned from their role in the workforce to become stay-at-home parents and support their children’s education. 


Once children returned to school and childcare centers reopened, many women were left without a job and at a severe disadvantage trying to reenter the workforce. A recent report by McKinsey and Oxford Economics states that the employment numbers for females will not return to pre-pandemic rates until 2024. That’s two years longer than predictions for men.




Reduced Leisure and Travel Predictions


While COVID-19 ran rampant, recreational activities became limited. Sporting events, music venues, airports, amusement parks, and cruises are activities people sacrificed to remain safe. 


Even foodservice and beverage industries faced struggles due to closures for dine-in meals. Servers depending on gratuities to supplement their wage saw a dramatic loss of income.


Two years into the pandemic, people are slowly starting to engage in leisure and recreational activities. However, the hospitality industry is set to face a major labor shortage


While the industry has always had a high staff turnover rate, many hospitality workers took advantage of restaurant closure to re-evaluate their career path and pursue less demanding, higher-paid positions in other industries. This may mean further hospitality closures due to a lack of staff. 


Fear of contracting the virus and disagreements over vaccines and mask mandates are other issues that cause a lower predicted rebound rate for the hospitality industry. It could be years before hospitality and recreational travel numbers rise to pre-COVID levels.




Adjusting to Changing Labor Markets Post-COVID


The global pandemic will continue to have long-term implications on the work environment. From a shift from office work to remote workers to higher job displacement rates due to automation, all areas of the labor market will be permanently affected by COVID.


If you’re ready to find out what careers are available in the post-pandemic world, explore the jobs listed on the JobFuels job board. Learn how to write a winning cover letter and rework your resume to prepare for your dream job.