How Covid-19 is shaping the future of work

Research from Harmonics shows how the workplace is responding to the changes caused by Covid-19 and signals what this means for the future of work.

More than 40pc of global business and human resources (HR) leaders believe Covid-19 has had a positive impact on productivity, with the number rising to 69pc among Irish leaders.

The research, which was carried out by Irish firm Harmonics and OI Global Partners among 600 leaders from 16 countries, focused on the future of work and the challenges brought forward by the pandemic.

“Only 16pc Irish employers stated they are currently investing in reskilling, while 66pc said they would do so in the future”

In Ireland, 46pc of respondents believe Covid-19 has negatively impacted collaboration in the workplace, however, this is largely down to the lack of interaction between coleagues while working remotely. 

Hybrid working

The impact of remote working has led to seven in 10 (71pc) anticipating a hybrid form of work in the future with some division to time spent between home and the workplace.

“Hybrid working is here to stay so we need to continue to find ways to stay connected and to collaborate effectively in virtual environments,” said John Fitzgerald, managing director of Harmonics.  

“The big question for employers now is how do we create greater teamwork, better conversations and wellbeing in a very scheduled online meeting led world of work.

Fitzgerald added that virtual workforce mobility is a new trend emerging in a tight global labour market for specific skills.

“Organisations can now hire someone from anywhere in the virtual world. We will start to see more examples of a person living in Japan working for a company in Dublin for instance, or someone living in Kerry working for a company headquartered in Berlin,” he said.

This year’s most valued skills are perhaps reflected by the changes to the workplace as a result of Covid-19, with leadership agility, embracing change, collaboration, clear communication and critical thinking making up the top five most desired skills.

The research found that the transition to a remote working environment has increased responsibility for each employee to self-direct their own career development. Self-directed learning portals garner support from 45pc of survey participants this year. 

“Digital transformation has accelerated apace because of Covid-19 and this has increased the need for an agile mindset to embrace change and learn new ways of work. Career success is very much mindset led and skillset enabled,” Fitzgerald noted.

Almost half (46pc) of respondents said that adapting to change is the biggest people challenge facing organisations in this era of Covid-19, followed by managing remote workers (43pc) and keeping employees engaged (42pc).

Looking at the impact of new technology, 56pc predict that new technology (artificial intelligence, big data, machine learning) will have no impact on jobs, representing an increase from 2019, when 38pc of respondents felt it would have no impact on jobs.

“The impact of digital transformation and ongoing technology advancements are increasing the need to reskill to meet changing work demands,” Fitzgerald continued.  

“In Ireland, there appears to be a significant gap in businesses committing to investing in upskilling their people. Only 16pc Irish employers stated they are currently investing in reskilling, while 66pc said they would do so in the future. This may impact the ability of people to quickly transition to new jobs that require an increasing hybrid of digital and social skills,” he concluded.

This was the fifth annual survey that Harmonics has conducted in association with OI Global Partners on the future of work. The Global Future of Work survey results can be downloaded here.

By Stephen Larkin

Published: 24 November, 2020