Recently, management consultancy firm McKinsey & Company released their McKinsey Global Insight (MGI) report that examined various aspects of the post-pandemic economy and what the future of the workplace might be like. Due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, which led to lockdowns and stay at home orders one year ago, millions of people were furloughed or lost their jobs.
Essential workers, which ranged from those who worked in hospitals to those employed in grocery stores and warehouses, faced new protocols to reduce the spread of Covid-19. For many others, including a large segment of the white collar workforce, telework took the place of in-office interactions.
The MGI report suggested that remote work and virtual meetings will continue, and will become part of the “new normal,” albeit with less than at the pandemic’s peak. It is likely that going forward, many businesses may opt to have employees work from home upwards of three to a full five days a week. That in turn could prompt a change in the geography of work whereby individuals as well as companies shift out of large cities into the suburbs or to smaller cities.
Companies could then shift to more “flexible workspaces,” where fewer workers actually head to the office every day. This could then impact the business world in a slew of ways.
“Because technology has advanced so much to accommodate the ability to work remotely, we are going to see that post Covid-19 teleworking will continue,” explained Dr. Brian Marks, executive director of the entrepreneurship and innovation program at the University of New Haven.
“The current expectation is that we will have much more aggressive work from home policies post-pandemic than we did pre-pandemic,” added technology industry analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group.
“Employees have both moved away from their offices, and companies have hired many remote employees, so, even if they wanted employees to return to the office, it is no longer possible for many,” Enderle told ClearanceJobs.
The Office of the Future
It won’t be just the work that could change going forward, but even the offices and ancillary businesses. For one, if fewer employees do “come in to the office” each and every day, there could be a shift where the staff share a smaller number of cubicles and work stations and split the days they are in with the days they work remotely.
This could certainly provide a positive impact on those who spent long hours away from their families in the past. Already the tech sector, which has long provided ways to entice employees to stay at the office longer with pool tables and free snacks, has begun to embrace remote working. Other sectors could follow suit.
“Companies will still want to maintain a physical connection, but this could allow employees to maintain their relationship with their families, and a balance will be found,” Marks told ClearanceJobs.
“However, humans are social animals and there is only so much connection that can be made on a 2D screen,” he added.
As there is a shift to remote workforces, it will be the office buildings in large cities and the office parks in the ‘burbs that could be truly impacted.
“Those in real estate are going to have to figure out what this means,” said Marks. “As businesses realize they don’t need the same space for staffs they will downside, and that will impact not only the landlords but the ancillary businesses – notably food services near the office park.”
In other words, the line out the door at Chipotle and the wait for a table at Olive Garden could be a lunchtime thing of the past.
Business Travel And Flight From the Cities
Another sector that will likely feel the impact of Covid-19 for years to come will be the airlines. As trade shows and conferences have adapted and gone “virtual,” while everything from sales meetings to press tours can be handled over Skype and Zoom, companies may have realized that employees don’t need to be weary road warriors while racking up the frequent flier miles.
“Remote tools have improved significantly, and more importantly, employees have become comfortable with them, so business travel will likely not fully recover either as a result,” suggested Enderle.
“Airlines will counter with incentives that should mitigate some, but not all, of this,” he added.
“Even with a vaccine don’t expect everyone to run back to the offices and getting on planes this year,” said Marks.
What a shift to greater telecommuting could also result in is that companies don’t need to have a large presence in the largest – and most expensive – cities going forward. Already, as taxes have been on the rise in cities such as New York, residents have made the move to more attractive alternatives such as Florida.
New York City has tried to find the alleged “cheaters” who have their kids enrolled in New York area schools and who maintain a “second residence,” but as telework is an option the Big Apple and other expensive cities could find the market flooded with those apartments in the months to come.
“Some will gain and some will lose,” explained Marks. “What we could see is a tax battle between some states. Those who were working in New York are now working in Connecticut or even further afield.”
Future of Internships
Today’s students haven’t had it easy during the pandemic, and not just with spring break being all but canceled this year. In addition to having to adapt to virtual classes, the go-getters have had to adapt to how they can get a leg up via internships and such programs are likely to remain changed as more workers telecommute.
“The availability of internships has decreased sharply during the pandemic,” said Marks.
There is a mix of good and bad however. A lot of the busy work, from copying to sorting, isn’t being handed off to interns. Instead many are being given more responsibilities and greater freedom – but that comes at a cost.
“We’re witnessing that interns have to be self starters but they also have to be creative to make their presence acknowledged and appreciated,” Marks told ClearanceJobs. “Business will also have to determine how to best provide the hands on management that many require. In some cases, telework may not be as conducive to every intern, especially those that need some hand holding.”
Keeping Information Secure: Cyber Security and Clearances
The issue of security will continue to be something to be considered in the future of work in the post Covid-19 world. This includes the role that IT and cybersecurity play in ensuring that workers maintain due diligence in being safe – and not just social distancing during a future outbreak.
Rather, employees will have to be trained to practice safe computing that doesn’t put their devices – and with it sensitive data – at risk. The CESO – or certified expert security officer – could be the new C-suite position to rise in prominence.
“Cybersecurity experts will have their hands full in this new world as telework puts data at risk,” said Marks.
Security clearance will also be a consideration because going forward, it is likely that work that may have once “never left the office” could soon be done remotely. However, it is likely that government agencies and even contractors will adopt a “back to the office” strategy.
“Security clearance and remote work will continue to be problematic, but we could see some individuals actually opting to take on home renovations that can make their remote office more secure,” added Marks. “We may also see some innovations where secure information can be shared on special devices, but in general remote work for those with security clearance will be a problem unless the government changes the rules.”