Virus crisis has dramatically changed the world of work

Alan Jones, PA Industrial Correspondent
·3-min read

The world of work has changed dramatically because of the virus crisis, with millions of people showing how possible it is to do their job from home.

The trend had started before the pandemic, but became the norm at the height of the health emergency last year, fuelled by the closure of schools.

Debate will now turn to how widespread working from home will become as offices and other workplaces reopen for the first time in months.

Surveys have suggested that many people will want to split their working week between home and office, enjoying the best of both worlds and maintaining a decent level of work-life balance.

Many people have not missed the daily commute on overcrowded trains and roads, while missing the buzz of a busy office.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady told the PA news agency: “Work after the pandemic can be fairer, safer and more flexible, but working people need Government and employers to commit to this, or we will slip back to old problems.

“Employers should support staff who wish to continue to spend time working from home, and those who have to go to workplaces need stronger rights to flexible working, such as flexi-time or the right to more predictable shift patterns.

“This year has shown us that health and safety at work is crucial. The Government should immediately guarantee sick pay for all workers, at the equivalent to the real living wage, so people can stay at home when they are ill.”

Locations across Wales are being made available for remote working, giving people an alternative to working from home or working in a traditional office.

The Welsh Government is encouraging an increase in remote working and has set a long-term ambition for 30% of the Welsh workforce to work away from a traditional office.

Lee Waters, deputy economy and transport minister, said: “One of the lessons we’ve learned from the pandemic is that many people don’t want or need to be in a traditional office environment.

“Remote working can help people escape the commute and develop a better work-life balance. For businesses there’s a real opportunity to maintain and increase productivity while making their staff happier.”

Sarah Jackson, a workplace consultant and visiting professor at Cranfield University School of Management, said the lockdown had also highlighted the importance of childcare.

“It is arguably more important that public transport and decent roads, given that we now know that at least 40% of jobs can, when push comes to shove, be done from home.

“Without reliable, affordable, quality childcare, the burden of care falls mostly on women, who are being forced to give up or scale back their paid employment,” she said.

A survey of 2,000 adults by O2 suggested that workers are divided between those who want to return to the office full time (10%) and those who do not want to go back at all (32%).

Around one in four of those polled said they wanted to move to a model of fully flexible working hours after Covid-19.