Having experienced two years of a worldwide pandemic resulting in lockdowns, bankrupt businesses, widespread unemployment and personal isolation, people often ask: “When will things return to normal?” The truth is, there is no normal! The economy constantly shifts across sectors, with some advancing and others fading. Particular types of jobs grow in demand, while others decline. There’s always been a need to adapt, change and/or reframe the definition of work and how we make our living. The COVID-19 pandemic simply accelerated the process. How are working practices, behaviours and attitudes evolving? What is the future of labour, post-pandemic? What does the future world of employment and job opportunities look like for workers? The following are some insights into the post-pandemic job market.
- Continuation of remote work and/or virtual meetings: Even with the removal of restrictions, many Canadians continue to work off-site and many businesses continue to rely on virtual meetings to connect with clients/suppliers. 70% of workers cite increases in productivity and well-being as the impetus to continue working from home while others mention time and money savings. As an estimated 40% of all Canadian jobs can be effectively completed off-site, this style of work is likely here to stay. Some companies are shifting to flexible workspaces after positive experiences with remote work during the pandemic. In fact, 8% of businesses are strongly considering consolidating their physical office spaces (reducing the overall space needed) due to remote working options. While a full transition to teleworking is not realistic, there is an increased interest. Remote work has put a dent in business travel as the extensive use of videoconferencing during the pandemic has created a new acceptance of virtual meetings. Meaningful consultation and negotiation regarding the future of off-site work are important to shaping how remote work practices evolve in the future.
- The continued importance of e-commerce/online activities: Many consumers discovered the convenience and effectiveness of online activities during the pandemic. Telemedicine, online banking, entertainment streaming and online purchasing took off! This created jobs in delivery, transportation and warehouse positions. Though these virtual practices may decline somewhat now that restrictions are lifted, they are likely to continue well above levels seen before the pandemic. This means that related jobs will continue to be available to workers.
- Increased adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI): To mitigate costs and uncertainty during the pandemic, many businesses adopted automation, digitized and/or redesigned work processes. These changes occurred particularly in warehouses, grocery stores, call centers and manufacturing plants. This created a disruptive period of changes in the workforce. The acceleration of the adoption of automation and AI will likely continue, shifting the type of workers needed and the skills required in the workforce.
- Changing mix of occupations: A different mix of occupations is emerging after the pandemic. Jobs in warehousing and transportation will increase as a result of the growth of e-commerce and the need for delivery. There will likely be a reduction in the need for workers in food service, customer sales/service and less skilled office support roles. With an increase in attention to health, occupations in the healthcare field may increase. There is a growing need for people who can create, deploy and maintain new technologies. It’s estimated that almost all growth in labour demand will occur in high-wage jobs. Displaced low-wage workers may need to shift occupations, requiring training in different skills to remain employed.
- Increased switching of occupations: With an expected growth in high-wage occupations, workforce transitions will be challenging. Many workers will need to find a new occupation. A large share of workers will need to move out of the bottom wage brackets, with roughly half of them needing more advanced skills to move to occupations in higher brackets. Time devoted to technological skills will rise, while the need for physical and manual skills will decline. Workers with less than a college degree, members of ethnic minority groups and women are more likely to need to change occupations. The need for occupational changes will hit younger workers more than older workers.
- Expansion of part-time work: Part-time workers were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with approximately twice as many part-time workers losing jobs than full-time employees. However, when returning to the workplace was permitted, most Canadian workers returned to part-time positions. Many employees have expressed wanting to work fewer hours and/or fewer days, reducing the average actual hours worked. Some employers are expressing a preference for part-time workers instead of full-time workers and are only offering part-time hours.
- Heightened concerns regarding mental health: The mental health of many workers were affected by the stresses of the pandemic (social isolation, job loss, changes in relationships, etc.), resulting in an increased need for mental health and substance use health services. In fact, 25% of Canadians aged 18 and older screened positive for symptoms of depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in spring of 2021. Employers scrambled to support mental health and well-being. The problem has not diminished with the return to the workplace. Employers are called to identify the signs of worker stress and burnout and find ways to address the situation. Flexibility and autonomy in the worker’s schedule have proved helpful for many. It’s recommended that employees be encouraged to take the annual leave to which they’re entitled and sick days when they feel mentally (not just physically) unwell. Supporting employee mental health and well-being is an ongoing challenge for employers.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated several trends that have reshaped work and the workplace. It’s become necessary for many workers to develop new skills in order to remain relevant and employable. Businesses and policymakers must take steps to support additional training and education programs for workers. Companies need to be flexible and adaptable when responding to employee needs (scheduling, mental health supports, part-time work, etc.). Remote work offers companies the opportunity to enrich their diversity by tapping workers not previously available for on-site employment and provides workers with new and interesting opportunities. Businesses and policymakers need to collaborate to support workers migrating between occupations. These efforts can help create a more resilient, more talented and better-paid workforce, resulting in an increase in satisfied employees.
Experiencing difficulty with post-pandemic job hunting? Looking for a remote job? More interested in on-site work? Need guidance regarding the development of new skills? Interested in some expert advice and assistance? Call the Calgary recruiting agency, Equation Staffing Solutions at 1-844-367-9618. We are a reliable, innovative, collaborative agency here to support you in your search for a position and/or personnel. Our experience will assist you! Contact us today.