How Will the COVID-19 Pandemic Change the Way We Work? Predictions for 2021 and Beyond

The coronavirus pandemic turned the business world upside down when it forced entire companies to work remotely. With many businesses successfully moving work away from the office, they’re likely to continue embracing remote work once the pandemic is over. 

The longevity of remote work is just one of the inevitable legacies of COVID-19. The pandemic will have even more lasting impacts on how businesses will operate in the future. 

Here are some predictions for how companies will operate in 2021 and beyond, including:

  • Remote work for the long haul
  • Drastic changes to office spaces
  • Increased flexibility for employees
  • A more competitive job market

Remote Work Is Here to Stay

In July 2020, business leaders at Google announced that the company would be working remotely through at least July 2021. Following this announcement, many other companies followed suit. This date could be pushed back depending on how long it takes to make and distribute a coronavirus vaccine and how long schools continue distance learning.

Companies that were once hesitant about remote work will likely be more open to it after the pandemic ends. Work-from-home mandates were a necessary experiment that proved remote jobs work.

One study found that two-thirds of managers saw increased productivity from employees who worked remotely. Furthermore, research from Harvard Business School found a 4.4% increase in productivity from employees who were free to work from anywhere. This proven increase in productivity will mean that remote work is here to stay. 

But for how long? 

Chris Herd, the founder of FirstBaseHQ, predicts that the majority of the white-collar workforce will be working from home by 2030. 

Offices Will Change

With the flexibility to work from home, companies will no longer need premium office space in expensive cities. They’ll downsize and save significantly on real estate. 

According to a report by Flexjobs, companies can save $22,000 each year on office space per remote employee. A 100-person company that moves to entirely remote work will have $2.2 million in savings — which can be reinvested in the business and remote work tools.

The remaining office real estate may start to look more like coworking spaces than traditional workplaces, with dedicated desks and offices. Coworkers might share desks based on a rotating schedule. The office will be a place for collaboration rather than working in solitude, so there will be more conference rooms and fewer cubicles. 

Alternatively, Herd predicts that companies may pay for coworking space subscriptions for employees rather than paying for their own office spaces.

More Flexibility for Employees

As companies continue to work remotely, employees will have more flexibility in where they live and when they work. 

People will move to more affordable areas and away from expensive business centers like New York City and the Bay Area. Company headquarters may also move away from urban centers. Smaller cities with cheap rent will become attractive to both employers and employees.

With teams spread across time zones and countries, 9-5 will no longer be the norm. The focus will be on what work gets done rather than when, where, or how it gets done. 

Employees will experience a better work-life balance. Work will begin to fit around people’s lifestyles, rather than dictate it. Herd predicts, “a recognition that we no longer have to sacrifice work for living, [so] we can organize work around our lives.”

An Increasingly Competitive Job Market

A location-independent workforce will create “talent wars.” Applications won’t just be coming in from the area around a workplace — talent will come from all over the world.

An international job market will be much more competitive. Employees will need to sharpen their skills to land and keep jobs. Companies will have their pick of top talent from around the world.

COVID-19 has had a devastating effect on public health and the economy. However, it’s changing how businesses operate and how people work — for better or worse. 

Just based on the proven increase in productivity, remote work is here to stay. To remain competitive, companies will need to give employees flexibility regarding where and how they can work. 

These changes will be a win-win for companies and their employees. Companies will have their top pick of the best talent worldwide. Although this may make the job market more competitive,  employees will be able to achieve a better work-life balance thanks to the flexibility remote jobs provide.

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Machielle Thomas
Machielle Thomas | Content Manager
Machielle Thomas writes and curates web and email content for marketing professionals, small business owners, bloggers, and more.

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