There’s no doubt about it, we are experiencing unbelievably trying times. Many of us have lost our jobs, experienced a significant reduction in pay, or are constantly worried about how the future is going to look regarding our careers. For those who have been fortunate enough to be able to maintain their career path by working from home, the impact of COVID-19 may not be as great as for those who do not have this option.
Many people who are involved in industries that require “hands-on” work are experiencing a different type of hardship. Not only have “stay at home” orders affected their ability to leave their houses to do jobs, but the wide-spread economic impact of Coronavirus has left them without any jobs to go to in the first place. There’s been a dramatic decrease in discretionary spending, with small businesses and those who are self-employed as laborers feeling the impact the most and so struggling to make ends meet.
With so many people unable to find work again as quarantines begin to lift, there’s immense pressure on millions of people to get back into the swing of their job. But will things go back to “normal”? Or have some aspects of people’s careers permanently changed (or at least for the foreseeable future)?
Many people are speculating that the way we worked prior to lockdown is a thing of the past and that the outbreak of Coronavirus may permanently change the post-pandemic workplace. But while this may sound scary and intimidating, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, quite the opposite, in many ways it may have changed things for the better.
For those of us who are slowly starting to return to a work environment, prepare for things to be a little different. Firstly, physical layouts of buildings will be changing, as workspaces must be able to accommodate people working at a safe distance. Some companies are even regulating “health” checks at the beginning of the workday (which may involve, for example, taking employees temperatures).
Perhaps the most significant change will be the number of people transitioning to remote or at-home work more long-term. Those who can do their jobs from the safety of their own homes may be asked to continue to do so, or in many cases, they may choose this as the safest and easiest option.
While many companies are slowly bringing people back into the workplace, others see this as undue risk-taking, since working remotely has been so successful. Childcare is also a major consideration, with schools now out for summer and daycares still closed, it’s significantly more difficult for parents to return to a work environment. Large corporate companies such as Facebook have announced that they will allow employees to work remotely until the end of 2020. And they’re not alone, businesses all over the nation are stating that they will wait until things become more stable, or even until a vaccine has been created before they consider letting people come back to work.
All in all, despite quarantine lifting in so many parts of the country, it seems that returning to work will be a much more staggered process than we originally thought.
This may all seem simple and easy enough to navigate if you have a career that encompasses these changes, but what about those of us who undertake more “hands-on” or physical labor-related work? In the majority of these instances, there isn’t an option to work remotely, so what does the future look like in these cases?
For many people, the lockdown was an opportunity to rethink career paths or participate in what is known as “reskilling” or “upskilling”. Coronavirus has accelerated digitalization and automation in the labor market. We may see a significant rise in the number of both interhuman and digital jobs that are undertaken in a more automated manner. Less in-person work, an increase in those working online, and more people changing career paths or tweaking the way that they do their current jobs to allow them to work remotely.
Coronavirus has prompted many people to learn new skill sets, and even dramatically change their career paths in order to be able to work remotely. Remote work tools, such as Zoom, are experiencing a massive increase in usage. And if you’re able to be productive at home or find a way to do your job online and be successful, then why not stay there?
However, there are still a massive number of jobs that require interpersonal and physical connections with others, such as different types of manual labor (like plumbing, electrical work, and construction). It may take a while for these industries to ramp up to full speed again, mostly because people are still being cautious about who they let into their homes. The most obvious difference will be heightened safety precautions. All workers should be expected to wear face-masks and practice high levels of sanitation in order to protect themselves and others from getting sick.
Furthermore, there’s good news in that a good amount of hands-on labor work is considered essential. People will still need plumbers, electricians, and mechanics, and there will always be a demand for construction. So while there will undoubtedly be a significant dip in the labor market in the near future, the chances are high that as the year wears on, jobs will steadily begin to climb once again.
Beyond taking the appropriate precautions, there isn’t much left to do for many of us but wait for the storm to pass. As people in all industries begin to return to work, the labor market will consequently begin to rise. People will be eager to return back to normal, and as their incomes steady once again, we will also see an incline in non-essential spending. If proper precautions are taken, there’s no reason why returning to work needs to be an unsafe experience, no matter what your career.
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