Will Working Life Ever Be the Same After the Coronavirus?
How Employers Will Accommodate a Workforce that Demands Work-from-Home Options
As we all sit inside on our couches, working from home in our pajamas, wondering if we’re going to be laid off, fired, or unable to run our businesses once the smoke clears, we all have a similar question looming in the back of our brains: will working life ever be the same after the coronavirus?
The death toll has topped 10,000 in the United States as of April 7, 2020, with more than 357,000 infected across the nation. Beyond the fear, the death, and the heartbreak, this virus is also doing a number to our economy. Just last week, 6.5 million Americans filed for unemployment. That brings the total to 9.95 million unemployment filings in two weeks, which as you could guess, is an all-time record for our country and our economy.
In fact, the U.S. now faces the sharpest rise in unemployment in its history, a surge that is already highlighting income inequality across the nation. Millions of people working in restaurant and beverage, hospitality, and entertainment industries simply have had to close their doors for the remaining time. There is no way for them to operate their businesses right now, as their businesses are reliant on living, breathing human beings walking through their doors.
All 50 states have reported a rise in unemployment claims, with the sharpest in Pennsylvania up 362,012, Ohio up 189,263, and Massachusetts up 141,003. The layoffs have been widespread and part of every sector of the economy, which indicates that no particular industry is safe from what is occurring.
Therefore, people who still have jobs today are wondering if they are going to have them tomorrow. They are wondering if layoffs are in the future or if a forced shift from employee to independent contractor is on the horizon. Companies don’t want to pay for employee benefits as they struggle to keep their entire operation afloat. Gig economy workers, already saddled with no benefits, are trying to do their best right now as Uber, Airbnb, etc. are unable to operate at their normal capacity.
It’s hard to say if working life will ever be the same after the coronavirus. However, hardship breeds innovation and creativity, which many times, can create pivotal economic growth and development as time goes on. Just take Sir Isaac Newton who was confined to his home to during the Bubonic Plague. Typically, at the University of Cambridge, Newton returned to Woolsthorpe, his home town, for two years, where he developed some of his best inventions/concepts of all.
Legend has it while in isolation, Newton watched an apple fall from a tree in his backyard. As he watched it hit the ground, he started thinking about the forces of nature. Newton realized some force must be acting on falling objects like apples, otherwise they would not fall. During quarantine, he changed the entire world by presenting his Theory of Gravity, which we still use today.
Let’s look at some post-coronavirus job predictions below.
What Will Happen to Those Without Jobs?
As for the millions of people without jobs right now, what are they going to do once coronavirus is over?
They have three options:
They can file for unemployment, which most of them are doing at this time. There is nothing wrong with filing for unemployment – that is why our country created it. Unemployment can be a great cushion in helping people pivot their careers and hone in on the industries that are about to be more relevant in the coming years.
They can respond to the companies that are hiring hundreds of thousands of workers. That’s right, companies like Amazon.com are hiring 100,000 new warehouse and delivery workers to support an increased demand for their Prime delivery services, especially in the midst of a pandemic. Walmart, too is hiring 25,000 new workers, and companies like Home Depot are hiring 80,000 new associates. Despite the job losses in certain industries, others are still managing to flourish by the shift in consumer attention.
They can join the gig economy and start to work for themselves. There is a massive surge in online work right now as more people than ever before are taking to the internet to launch their online businesses. They can also freelance on sites like Fiverr.com, where they can offer expertise in writing, coding, website design, social media marketing etc. There is also affiliate marketing, email marketing, survey completion, etc. The world of the gig economy is still there and it’s still available to those who are looking.
Just look at the concept of energy. It is never created or destroyed, but rather, recycled throughout the history of time. That means the energy that was once in traditional and antiquated industries, like in-person banking or legal counsel, is now being transferred to other industries that are going to emerge from this stronger than when they came in. What are these industries exactly?
Mobile Food Trucks: The concept of sitting shoulder to shoulder in a restaurant with strangers doesn’t seem so appetizing right now. Therefore, restaurant owners are considering taking their businesses on the road, in their own food truck or mobile business camper, so they can still serve food without the health concerns. Many businesses are going to consider the value of hitting the road and relinquishing their retail spaces draining their bank accounts right now.
E-Learning: Many schools and colleges are learning that 100% of their curriculum can be taught over-line with the proper technology. Although we already knew this, coronavirus is forcing this kind of modernization in the education industry, which is probably for the better. Instead of traditional university staff that was sought out prior to this shift, more jobs are going to be available in ed-tech and the development of educational software that enhances learning experiences and collaborations from home.
Freight Uber: Yes, ride-sharing is down big time today. But, did you know that Uber has launched a Work Hub? This Work Hub is making it easy for drivers to connect with shippers and freight brokers that need materials and products delivered from Point A to Point B. Additionally, these drivers are working as delivery drivers for all of the restaurants and fast food places doing takeout still today. Uber has discovered they are highly relevant in a B2B sense, something they didn’t really take seriously before this. Post-coronavirus, it is likely we will see a massive disruption in the shipping industry that was charging big, lofty rates through middlemen.
Localizing Supply Chains: Manufacturing is coming back to America! Our country had a wakeup call when we realized over 80% of our medications are made in China. As the world shuts down and our most essential items are hardly within reach, it’s time to make our products right here on our soil. Localizing supply chains will create millions of new jobs for individuals in manufacturing – who arguably lost their jobs years ago when everyone started to take the production to China fro the cheaper costs.
Digital Commerce: Lastly, anything that was previously bought in a B2C sense is making its way online. Why pay for the expensive storefront at a local mall when you can just sell directly over the internet? As holographic technology develops with sophistication today, soon, we will be doing all of our shopping right at home, minimizing the need to congregate in stores and rack up rent payments.
These are just some examples of industries that are going to be hiring in droves now as well as while the coronavirus fears burn away.
The Permanence of WFH
Next, what about the employers who are now going to have to accommodate workers who want to work from home? The WFH example has proven to be valuable and productive, which means all of the pushback prior to this pandemic is no longer justified. Workers know they can do their jobs from home, and employers can’t hide that anymore.
It’s important that workers shift their mindset from opposing WFH or considering it temporary, to the benefits that largely come with this work arrangement:
Employees no longer have to commute. Commuting can be a problem for companies. When employees are late, it throws off meeting times, client satisfaction, and overall flow of work. Additionally, employees can be injured commuting to/from offices when they could just be staying at home.
Employees are more productive working from home. Countless studies have shown that employees are not only more productive working from home, they are also willing to take a pay cut if it means they have flexibility over their schedules. That’s right, a person would rather take a pay cut if it means they get to sit at home in their pajamas while they work every day!
Employee satisfaction. By being able to work from home, travel, or do whatever it is in your personal life that you always want to do, a typical employee will feel happier and more satisfied with their job if they get to work from home. This is huge today given the turnover problem so many companies are weathering. The cost of turnover can kill your business, and millennials have no problem leaving your company to go work at one they feel values their time more.
Employees are less stressed. Stress is a huge part of our culture today, and it comes with a slew of negative health benefits that can make you unhappy, overweight, and unable to sleep at night. Stress is our body’s worst nightmare, which is why minimizing stress for your employees will help them in their production ad overall well-being. Happier, healthier employees mean they will be more productive and positive in their communication, causing fewer problems.
Everyone saves money. You can save money by slightly lowering salary rates through offering WFH positions while your employees will save hundreds in commuting, as well as food costs for eating lunch or dinner out at work (in the event they did not pack their lunches that morning).
In short: companies have no choice. They must allow WFH even when this is over. If they don’t, their employees will leave them for the companies that are still offering it. Many companies try to avoid it because they don’t want to pay for additional computer monitors, software, and training to make the entire system flow. All signs point to embracing this WFH mentality and biting the cost now for productiveness in the future.
Will There Be Hardships Despite the Positive Findings?
Of course there are going to be some hard months following this pandemic. It’s never smooth as certain, classic industries are forced to pivot into something new. Employees need to go back to school, learn new skills, advance their proficiency in new software, and say goodbye to the career trajectory they once held dear. For those who are in ages 50 and over, it can be downright impossible. They will struggle to assimilate, and beloved American industries will disappear.
It’s never pretty when this happens, but rest assured, it has happened before – many times. Just take technology alone, from the telephone, to the television and radio set, to the ability to text our friends and send emails in 3-seconds spurts. Technology has continued to change our reality so rapidly and aggressively that we consider it commonplace today.
Will Working Life Ever Be the Same?
Back to that first pressing question. No one can say for sure unless they have a crystal ball. But it’s safe to say that no, working life won’t be the same as it was before coronavirus. Is that a good thing? In many respects, it sure is. In other ways, it can hurt our hearts to bid farewell to the past. But the pace of innovation will ensure that newer, better ways of doing things becomes part of our everyday routines.
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