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7 ways Covid-19 could change our attitudes to work

1 Jul 2020

While the workplace itself has gone through monumental change, Hays’ David Brown looks at how our attitudes to work could also change due to Covid-19.

As lockdown restrictions gradually loosen and we start to transition to the next era of work, which shifts could we see in how we perceive our professional lives and, by extension, how we work? On the basis of what I have observed so far, the following themes may dominate.

1. A desire to work for purpose-led organisations

The Covid-19 crisis has caused many of us to question our values and what we stand for as human beings. You may have found yourself revising long-held views, or the exceptional circumstances might have reinforced principles that you already had. It may have also led you to evaluate potential employers in different ways and from different perspectives.

The pandemic may, for example, have shed light for you on which organisations truly believe in the ethical treatment of their employees and sustainable environmental practices  and which don’t. Or perhaps which ones fully live behind their commitment to diversity and inclusion – and which may not.

Naturally, the situation could be very different from one person to the next. Nonetheless, it will be fascinating to see whether the post-pandemic recovery is characterised by a rise in professionals wanting to work for purpose-led organisations that live their values in an inclusive way, internally and externally, enabling them to find more meaning in their roles.

2. A renewed focus on balance and flexibility

While the coronavirus crisis has shaken a lot of people’s sense of security, it has also helped us to realise which aspects of our lives – both personal and professional – might have been taken for granted.

People may have presumed that they would always be in a particular job, for example, or overlooked the damage our focus on our careers may have caused to our personal lives.

Throughout this crisis we may have reordered our priorities, realising that we wish to devote more time to certain things such as family, friends and hobbies. The trauma brought by the pandemic may have also alerted us to just how short and precious life is.

Many people are hoping that this strange period will be the ‘reset’ moment they have needed for years, which may mean that they don’t want to go back to their old ways. Perhaps then, in the next era of work, we will demand more flexibility and balance in our professional lives.

3. A heightened emphasis on mental health

A lot of us have been more mindful of our mental health during this crisis and have started to understand what bad habits we have formed in the past.

Many people are enthusiastic for this renewed focus on the importance of mental wellbeing to continue – as indicated by the 60pc of respondents in a recent Accenture study who said they were spending more time on self-care and mental wellbeing in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

This may greatly influence your career decisions going forward, perhaps making you more likely to pursue roles with supportive employers who actively encourage their workers to maintain a healthy work-life balance and place a strong emphasis on wellbeing.

4. A thirst for learning

The Covid-19 crisis has awoken many professionals to the fact that even the things they most take for granted can change overnight. This, in turn, has caused them to recognise the importance of adaptability and lifelong learning in helping them thrive in times of uncertainty.

I expect many of these professionals to seek out employers who can give them the tools and autonomy they need to commit to lifelong learning, while ensuring continuous development is at the heart of company culture.

Professionals returning to the workplace from government restrictions may have already been using the time afforded to them by the crisis to upskill, perhaps by listening to podcasts, reading books, magazines and journals of relevance to their industry or enrolling in online courses.

Click here to check out more on the Hays Viewpoint blog.

Many will have adopted a growth mindset and see the post-Covid-19 changes in the workplace as a further opportunity to learn and develop. Consequently, they will be attracted to employers that promise to support them in catering to these aspects of their careers.

5. A demand for greater humanity in our workplaces

Interestingly, many employees are reporting having developed closer relationships with their colleagues via virtual means than they ever enjoyed pre-crisis, when they may have been just a few feet apart from each other in the office.

We’ve also seen an increase in empathy and compassion. This leads me to wonder whether we will see workers demanding greater humanity and human contact from their employers in the next era of work – albeit, perhaps more often via online communication platforms and other distanced means than was the case in the pre-Covid-19 world.

Professionals in the next era of work are likely to be attracted to leaders who realise and acknowledge this by taking steps to inject more ‘human’ into the organisations they lead.

6. A rise in side-projects

During this time of lockdown, many people have had more time to dedicate to their passions or to focus on what they really enjoy – perhaps something creative like art, photography or writing, catching up on their reading list, or teaching or enrolling in online fitness classes via Zoom.

Alongside this, the lingering economic uncertainty – amid fears that the post-pandemic recovery will be slower than initially hoped – may heighten a lot of employees’ fears about job security.

It wouldn’t surprise me, then, if the period immediately after this crisis sees a growth in side-projects as workers decide that they need to have a ‘plan B’. These projects are not as people often presume them to be – a second job that you do for another employer when you get home from your main job.

Instead, a side or passion-project tends to be a little more aspirational and entrepreneurial, with people being the master of their own destiny. They are often borne out of a passion for a subject that their primary job may not cover and can bring both economic empowerment and creative freedom.

7. An increase in complete career changes

The travails of the pandemic have also given us a new-found or enhanced appreciation for key workers and other people who provide value and contribute to society.

So, could this spark a trend of professionals rethinking their career paths entirely, perhaps embracing completely different lines of work that make them feel like they are making a bigger difference to their local community, the environment and the wider world?

By David Brown

David Brown is the CEO of Hays US. A version of this article originally appeared on Hays’ Viewpoint blog.

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