What COVID-19 is teaching us about
the future of work

We’re six weeks into lockdown in the UK. At the Adecco Group more than 80% of our 34,000 colleagues globally are working from home. How are we making the most of this time? By using it as an opportunity to accelerate the reskilling of our people – on both ways of working and the tools we have to enable remote working.

The immediate issue is, of course, our people’s health and wellbeing, and that remains our priority. Beyond the immediate crisis however, we’re seeing the beginning of a fundamental transformation in the world of work.

So, what will be the medium-term impact of COVID-19 on jobs and work, and how can we prepare for the inevitable labour market evolution when the crisis has passed?

Alain Dehaze, CEO of the Adecco Group recently had a short chat on LinkedIn Live with Jean-Philippe Courtois, EVP and President, Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing & Operations at Microsoft. Here’s how they see the future of work shaping up as we plan how to help our customers back to work in the not-too-distant future.

  1. Remote working is here to stay

As businesses strive to maintain continuity, working from home is becoming the new normal. This will lead to a myriad of workplace changes impacting teamwork, productivity, collaboration, and communication. We will be challenged to ask ourselves some questions about how well we were really leveraging virtual technology before the coronavirus hit. The current crisis might well have proven to us how it can work.

Now is the time to reskill and upskill your people to operate more effectively in a more virtual world. We are already in the era of the reskilling revolution and the pandemic will only accelerate the need to upgrade the digital skills of our workforce in preparation for a major shift in how businesses operate.

  1. New leadership skills

The pandemic is amplifying the need for a new set of leadership skills and capabilities. Why? Because in the post-pandemic era we will work in a totally different way. In the post-pandemic world, remote working will become the new normal and we will question how much we need to commute. Leaders will need to learn how to lead remotely, instead of centrally and this will give rise to a new set of leadership capabilities.

The skills to invest in now are developing strong communication skills, and understanding the tools and technology needed to lead from a distance. The ability to motivate teams remotely, to keep on top of productivity and build engagement are also key leadership skills of the future. Empathy, care, and an agile mindset are behaviours that will set future leaders apart.

  1. The new social contract

The changing labour market has increased the number of flexible workers and the pandemic has exposed the vulnerability of these workers during a time of crisis. It’s encouraging to see some governments applying statutory sick pay to self-employed or gig economy workers, as well as those companies that are extending protection to their freelance or temporary staff.  However, these emergency measures highlight something we have been advocating for some time now. We need a new social contract to ensure that all workers, have the social safety net they need.

At this point, it is difficult to see an end to the current crisis. Nobody knows how long it will last or how many people will ultimately be affected. What is clear is that when the world comes out the other side, the way we work will be changed forever. Once you have created some sense of stability in your business, perhaps now is the time to accelerate some workforce innovations that have been in the background for some time.