How Has COVID-19 Changed the Way We Work?

By: Jackie Lorch
Vice President of Global Knowledge Management
Alongside the dramatic changes in our daily lives brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic, our work lives have undergone a transformation as well. From where we “go to work” and how much we are getting done to how those unemployed during the pandemic plan to rejoin the workforce, we all have a “New Normal” when it comes to our working lives.
In our just-released report, Global Consumer Trends COVID-19 Edition: The New Normal, we looked at these work-life changes in detail across 11 countries. Whether you’re still employed but working from a different location, or have lost your job and find yourself considering a new career path, which of these changes might be temporary and which could become permanent?
Our report reveals that more of us are working from home than ever before. Considering lockdown restrictions and stay-at-home mandates, 75% of the people we heard from are working from home at least some of the time. But from our home offices, which could be a dedicated space, a kitchen table or the corner of a bedroom, do we feel productive or are we just hanging on?
Just under two thirds report they are just as, if not more, productive at home. And this feeling is leading 75% of those working from home to want to continue to do so permanently, at least some of the time, across all income levels (low, medium and high). Health and safety lockdowns are keeping us at home and many workers are feeling more productive… so, what does this mean for other facets of our work experience and environment?
A recent article in The New York Times explored one of the consequences of whether working from home is the new norm in Manhattan. With many global companies extending work-from-home policies throughout the year, and others considering whether commercial rent costs are worth all their employees eventually returning to the office, “New York City could face a real estate reckoning.”
At the same time, one of the unfortunate consequences of the pandemic has been the negative impacts on employment. While our results find that retail has the highest number of jobs lost since the crisis began, at 14%, this is part of a broader trend of job losses in this industry and the level of people losing retail jobs during the pandemic is only a bit higher than those who said they’d lost jobs in this sector before it began. It’s the leisure categories – restaurants and bars, hotels, entertainment and travel – which show the greatest increase in unemployment rates since the pandemic began. Our survey showed that, globally, one in four of those currently unemployed has lost their job as a result of the pandemic, with a high of 37% in the US.
But these newly-unemployed are acting, planning to return to school (1 in 5), learning a new skill (also 1 in 5), switching careers (32%), starting their own company (18%) or considering joining the gig economy (17%).
So, with so many of us feeling more productive working from home and wanting to continue this arrangement, and with many of the newly-unemployed “leaning in” and taking new steps to rejoin the workforce, is our former working world a thing of the past? And what do brands need to know to prepare to meet the wants and needs of this new age of consumers and employees?
Our new mini-report brief “Our Changing Work Lives,” focusing on the new normal of our work lives and examining these questions, among others, as well as the impending impacts raised in our New Normal report, including:

  • How might these trends affect the commercial real estate industry? Will companies reduce physical office space leasing and/or consider shared work hubs?
  • Will they impact urban planning? And with fewer office visits, public transportation?
  • Is there a need to redefine the concepts of collaboration, teamwork and the traditional “office” environment?
  • Could providers of online training and learning potentially see a boost in enrollment as more people learn new skills and explore new career paths?
  • Might the gig economy, already quite popular, become an even larger part of our working world? And with many people embracing new skills, careers and even thinking about starting their own businesses, could there be another start-up boom in the long-term future?

While it’s hard to say for sure, the trends taking shape around the globe suggest we may never return to our old way of life, at least when it comes to how we work. And as businesses and economies start to cautiously reopen, understanding these trends, and their potential long-term impacts, will be critical to ensure the ability to effectively support employees and customers in the future.
Visit the COVID-19 Insights hub to download Dynata’s Global Consumer Trends COVID-19 Edition: The New Normal – Our Changing Work Lives.