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The COVID-19 outbreak has undeniably changed the standard methods of working for employers and employees worldwide. It challenged business leaders to do three things at once: stage the return to work, understand and leverage the challenges they had to adapt to during the crisis and most importantly - chart a new path forward with the new lessons learned in mind.

The few aspects of work that have experienced rapid change as companies hit the pause button on a lot of their activities were remote work, the need for appropriate technology, and the growth in demand for online goods and services. All three will have a monumental part to play in the future of work and are ones that, as an International PR Agency, we’re keeping a close eye on!

It’s time to rethink ‘traditional workspaces’

The current situation has proven that contrary to popular belief, remote working can actually help employees become more productive. In fact, a recent study by Gallup has shown that the optimal employee engagement boost occurs when employees spend 60% to 80% of their time working off-site. The additional flexibility has benefited companies too, often enhancing customer service, instilling trust and boosting motivation levels among staff.

Will the future of work see central city headquarters replaced with home workstations and hotdesking hubs across the country? A move like this won’t suit every business model, but the advantages it could bring are definitely prompting employers to rethink the idea of traditional work-spaces and open their minds up to new opportunities brought by remote work.

Poor technology isn’t just an inconvenience – it’s a deal breaker

Many companies had no other choice but to skill-up on technology over the course of the lockdown. For smaller businesses, this often made the difference between closing-down and maintaining operations. In an effort to reduce the damage on smaller enterprises, companies like Hootsuite, MailChimp or Microsoft made their online tools free for the duration of the pandemic.

Likewise, the lockdown has made businesses re-evaluate how they communicate. Whereas there was once great emphasis on being physically present at meetings or events, now companies have no choice but to host them virtually. As a result, platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have seen a significant spike in usage, with the former growing from 10 million users before the pandemic to 200 million now.

One thing is for sure - staying online and connected is more important now than ever, and the rise of software adoption driven by the COVID-19 pandemic will certainly promote a more tech-forward workplace in the future.

Online businesses for the win

Social distancing and isolation meant that people had to do everything online. From purchasing essentials, to stocking-up on entertainment options to keep busy, e-commerce platforms and online stores have proved their value once again.

The current increase in demand combined with convenience and flexibility that are so badly sought after by the modern consumer of today, are the two factors that will further influence the growth of online stores. In fact, according to Kantar’s Global COVID-19 Barometer conducted in March this year, 80% of respondents said that they will continue to shop non-essentials online post-pandemic.

From a work perspective, this might bring closures of physical shops and replace sales assistant jobs with office-based customer service roles. This is further supported by Kantar’s study above, with 20% of consumers globally stating that they shop less in physical stores and 32% expecting their share of online shopping to increase even more in the years ahead.

While the current approach has been borne out of necessity, it has taught businesses a vital lesson and offered them a unique opportunity to reimagine how things are being done. With these latest developments in mind, the future of work looks promising, and is one where innovation in how we work, collaborate and support employees in the workplace and beyond is strongly encouraged.

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