How is COVID-19 changing the nature of work?
COVID-19 is permanently reshaping the nature of how work is done in a number of ways, according to Iva Durakovic, Associate Lecturer at UNSW Built Environment, and Frederik Anseel, Associate Dean of Research and Professor of Management at UNSW Business School
Iva Durakovic: I think what it has forced us to do is rapidly upskill, which is a great thing in terms of emerging technologies and how we deal with the online space.
The other great thing that I think it's done has also forced leadership and management to shift their perspectives, particularly archaic beliefs around presenteeism, because everybody has been forced to work from home, and we're suddenly a global remote workforce. And we've proved that it can work.
So the trust levels, particularly that we're seeing coming out of our research in asking people about their experiences, is that they feel incredibly trusted. So that is core to the success of any productive workforce if you like. So it's a great thing that we need to focus on and foster.
I think, moving forward, it's increased our empathy and understanding and inclusivity. So the fact that we are now fully flexible across time zones, across geographies, across mediums in which we communicate means that a lot more opportunities are accessible to people. So, whether that be tapping into a global workforce, whether that be just finding new knowledge, and tapping into things online.
"The other great thing that I think it's done has also forced leadership and management to shift their perspectives, particularly archaic beliefs around presenteeism"Iva Durakovic, Associate Lecturer at UNSW Built Environment
But also, the downside, obviously, is that people need to put a boundary down. So I think we have seen an increase in working hours, there's been reported recently. And again, that's just going to be a behavioural adjustment that people will have to do if this is to continue. But the newfound flexibility that we have discovered in terms of organising our lives, how we do our most productive work and when, and the freedom to do that is a great thing. That's really emerged out of COVID-19.
Frederik Anseel: How we're working is accelerating. So what has happened in the past is that we already had some sort of applications, we were already working online, this is not entirely new.
But what you see is this sort of change has accelerated over the past few months. And suddenly, for a lot of people who cannot imagine that they would be working online and having virtual meetings, everything has changed and is happening now online and virtual.
And people who were very critical are now very accepting. And suddenly we run meetings for 300 people all online, people can ask questions, we have town halls, and we find it normal. And we've never seen such a quick shift, I think.
The second thing is what work means to us. So a lot of people have lost a job or are at risk of losing their job. And so suddenly, we start considering how valuable that job still is, and the identity that we get from the job.
"People who were very critical are now very accepting. And suddenly we run meetings for 300 people all online, people can ask questions, we have town halls, and we find it normal"Frederik Anseel, Associate Dean of Research and Professor of Management at UNSW Business School
But at the same time, people that are not losing their jobs, they're reflecting that this was a major crisis, a health crisis and economic crisis. And they're reflecting: is this what I want from my job? How will the future look like? And so people are thinking about the purpose, the identity they get from their jobs, and about their future work selves.
I think then, the third thing is, is how we manage work. We used to have ways of managing people like they were resources, and that meant that we are treating everyone the same. We have structured policies. And what is happening now is that we discovered that actually, people have different preferences, work in different ways and productivity – there's no uniform recipe for productivity. And so, what we see is we're treating people more as individuals, giving them more autonomy and more flexibility.
So the way organisations are structured, that is quickly changing now, and we give more autonomy to people, they become more entrepreneurial, the themes are more self-steering, and so that is another way how work is changing.
For more information on how COVID-19 is changing the nature of work read How COVID-19 could accelerate the rise of smart cities.