A leading academic says the seismic shift in the way companies operate as a result of the coronavirus crisis will see many more staff working from home in future rather in an office.
According to economics expert Dr Edward Jones, from Bangor University’s Business School, the world of work is very unlikely to be the same again when the pandemic is over.
But it’s not all doom and gloom for a workforce which is getting to grips with working from home or has used their time on furlough to upskill themselves.
Dr Jones also reckons that bosses will see the advantages to be gained from a more flexible workforce able to put in a shift at home or in the coffee shop.
He said: “While there are considerable health concerns now, it’s interesting that we are already seeing many more people using technology to work away from the office.
“We’ve heard a lot about home working but we’ve never had so many people doing it and one of the positives is that so many who said they couldn’t work from home now find they can.
“It will have a knock-on effect for employers who may find that in the future they don’t need to accommodate 100 people in an office but can get by with desk space for 50 or even fewer which will mean big savings for the company.
“Those sorts of economies are likely to be crucial in a world which will face a very tough time when it comes to paying for the shutdown caused by the pandemic.”
Dr Jones, an expert advisor to the National Assembly of Wales, spent nine years at the sharp end of business in Dublin’s financial sector after completing his PhD in Economics at Bangor University.
He returned to Wales to take up a job as a lecturer at Bangor University’s acclaimed Business School five years ago and since then has worked with the public and private sector on various economic and finance related projects, and he sees opportunities in the current crisis.
Dr Jones said: “The people who have been furloughed should see this not as a paid break from work but as an opportunity to develop themselves so they’re match-fit for when work resumes.
“A great way to utilise this time when furloughed is finding ways to undertake some form of personal development which is allowed under the terms of the Job Retention scheme.
“People should upskill themselves, whether it’s entirely relevant to their day job or not – catch-up on processes and procedures they have fallen behind with, or learn about changes in their sector. Upskilling may even move their career in a new direction.
“They should develop habits that will impact them positively when they return to work.
“If their job consists of high stress, high volume work and they typically find themselves juggling a precarious work/life balance, now is the time to hit the reset button.
“This is an opportunity because it’s not often that we have the chance to step away from day to day work and start thinking about the bigger picture and ask ourselves the big questions about what we want from life. Now is the time when you actually have time to do something about it.
“It is too early to confidently predict the course of the economic downturn facing us due to the coronavirus but a recession is inevitable. The Welsh economy was already shaky in 2019.
“Now governments around the world are deliberately shutting down their economies for at least several months in an attempt to halt the spread of the coronavirus disease.
“These actions will have an impact on the Welsh economy and the more people can do to prepare themselves the better the position they will be in.”
Dr Jones has even prepared a guide for surviving the pandemic with four simple steps for the new homeworker:
- Don’t start working on your laptop in your pyjamas. It’s just another day at the office, minus the office part.
- Have a dedicated work space where work happens. That makes it more likely that you’ll actually get things done when you’re there.
- Sitting is terrible for your health, and mind-numbing when you’re staring at the same wall or window all day. Move from your desk often and get some fresh air when possible.
- Don’t have the TV on. If you wouldn’t do it at the office, don’t do it at home when you’re working.
Dr Jones added: “The coronavirus outbreak will have a significant impact on the Welsh economy and it’s likely that the threat of this disease, its devastating impact on health and insidious undermining of our society, is here to stay until there is a vaccine developed for public use.
“Things are unlikely to be normal again for a very long time. There is a long, painful process ahead but this coronavirus pandemic will come to an end.
“The hope is that society and the economy can get back up to speed as quickly as possible because of the actions taken now.”