How coronavirus will change the way we work


Are we set for a permanent shift in how we work as a result of the coronavirus pandemic? If so, what will the changes mean in practical terms? Are startups best placed to handle it and what internal systems need to be strengthened? These five articles have the answers and much more.

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The impact of home working

While he prefers the atmosphere and interaction of the office, Sam Brodbeck in the Telegraph lays out the business advantages of a long-term shift to home working. He says that bosses will probably find that day-to-day operations run more smoothly, “perhaps even more smoothly without the interruptions of office life”. In addition, FDs will be enjoying the huge overhead savings on desk space, while “HR directors will also be keen – it’s much easier to convince anyone with young children to work for you if regular working from home is an option”.

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The new normal

We are likely never going back to what we considered “normal” working, says Gideon Lichfield, editor-in-chief of the MIT Technology Review.  He predicts that to stop coronavirus we will need to radically change almost everything we do, including how we work. “We all want things to go back to normal quickly. But what most of us have probably not yet realised—yet will soon—is that things won’t go back to normal after a few weeks, or even a few months. Some things never will,” writes Lichfield. One change for the workplace could be temperature scanners installed everywhere and your employer asks you wear a monitor that tracks vital signs.

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What you need to make it work

A piece in the Wall Street Journal argues that there can be significant benefits for organisations from the migration to at-home working but only if intelligent and strong structure is put in place. “In a world we anticipate, a world where work never really returns to the office, the most important factors for success will be ample trust, mutually agreed-upon norms, good communication and a strong and validating work culture.”

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Coronavirus is shaping the future of how we work

Miriam Pawel reports from San Francisco where she finds a sense that the coronavirus will create an inflection point for work similar to World War II. Pawel predicts that the pandemic and the recession certain to follow will “threaten to pre-empt and overwhelm efforts to shape the future of work, and thus the future of California — how to create good jobs, reduce poverty and redefine relationships and structures to narrow the enormous income inequality that overshadows the state’s wealth and success.”

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The best of both worlds?

German publication DW looks at a case study from China, where a travel agency allowed some of its call centre staff work from home. Economists measured the impact and found they were happier, more productive and saved the company money by reducing the need for office space. However, it’s not that simple. Some staff were lonely. Depending on social distancing rules, a balanced approach is best. That means workers could tackle individual tasks that require a lot of focus from home in the future, and go into the office when they need to work on projects together. 

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