The impact of coronavirus has already surpassed the effect of the 2020 oil price plummet, and is compared by many to the post-war state of the world, as seen in 1945.
Governments are taking measures to dampen the economical effects on the population and the businesses, striving to keep the economies afloat. The White House has announced a $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package, an unprecedented measure on the American soil.
With the travel restrictions and work-from-home measures taken by governments and companies worldwide, many are taking comfort in the home-based working environment, familiar from before. For others, the newly imposed recommendations and measures bring a sudden change to the daily routine, disrupting their usual communication patterns with colleagues and clients.
With this, companies and the employees start to see the zero-time commute to their workplace, and ease of net-based meetings. The meetings are not face-to-face, but still get people together. This way, many are starting to see the benefits of this way of working – and this applies to both employees and employers.
But what would be the impact going forward? To answer this question, let’s take a brief look at the history of working from home.
Working From Home Before 2020
Following a 2018 study, around 5% of employees in Europe used to work from home, with a slight variance from country to country. Some countries show percentage as high as 13% or 14, with the majority still showing the similar patterns, where 1 in 20 people works from home.
Similarly, around 5% of the Americans were known to work from home, based on the 2019 estimate.
Many businesses have traditionally questioned the effectiveness of working from home. Back in 2013, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer banned 12,000 employees from working from home, in the widely discussed “work from office, or don’t work here” move.
Still, the US have beeing showing a gradual increase in the number of people working remotely, and that is in fact quite natural, considering the growing availability of remote communication tools.
The Reversal of Office and Home
We’ve conducted our own survey in the PaleBlue social media audience, asking a single question: do you work from home? The question was asked at the end of March 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic. That explains much higher numbers.
This shows 83% of people who work from home. An extraordinary number, that otherwise would not be achievable in prior years. This percentage shows that the recommendations and regulations of minimizing social contacts have been adhered to.
The surge from 5% to 83% displays a complete reversal of work-vs-home placement, that individuals and companies choose.
It’s fair to note that not all kinds of jobs can be carried out at homes. With this, one can anticipate a strong increase in the amount of home workers, even as the Covid-19 peak passes.
Video Chat and Video Meetings on the Rise
Video calls apps have shown a rapid increase in downloads. Zoom video conferencing app was downloaded 26.9 million times in March, up from just 2.1 million times in January.
While the amount of downloads shows one side of the picture, actual usage is significantly higher with Skype, that shows 59.1 million active users in March, compared to 4.3 million users of Zoom.
The data includes not just the home users that need to communicate with friends and family, but also companies, who suddenly faced the need to communicate remotely, and had to scale up their capabilities in remote communication.
Social and Work Impacts
The above changes will not vanish without leaving a trace. They will persist to a high degree, and will be cross-pollinated with a number of other predicted social impacts.
Politico asked 30 big thinkers of their forecasts on what repercussions will follow the Coronavirus outbreak in the years to come. The principal factors can be summarized as follows:
- Less face-to-face interactions, as personal contact can be potentially dangerous
- Regulatory barriers to online tools will fall, allowing for industrial and healthcare interactions over the internet
- Healthier online population, where there is place for useful advice, empathy and human generosity
- VR to surge in helping people to socialize and communicate
- Rise of telemedicine, transitioning from a cost-controlling measure to an everyday tool
- Governments can finally go virtual
- Electronic voting to go mainstream
Let us expand on this list of predictions, focusing on the working environment. We can foresee the following changes in months and years following the pandemic.
More flexibility: Family folk who need to attend to their kids at home, will have tools to have a productive home office while being around the family.
Minimized meetings: The time span of personal meetings in gatherings will be minimized. If a meeting can be taken remotely, it will be.
Limited travel: Whether it’s project kickoff meetings, on-site training, or remote equipment familiarization, there will be less of that. Digital means will come in place.
Avoiding larger gatherings: Large project gatherings, worksite-based project discussions, inspections, or acceptance tests, will be done with only 1 or 2 persons on-site, and the others taking part remotely.
Assisted work: When technicians on-site cannot perform the operation, a support specialist will connect remotely, rather travelling to the work site.
Personal hygiene: Avoiding sharing tools or equipment. More tools will have to be in place, or tools need to be replaced with digital copies, so that several can use digital tools at the same time.
Accelerated digital transformation: Whether that’s video calls, Augmented Reality assistance, or VR-based equipment training, there will be more of that.
We have looked only at a fraction of factors that are being radically transformed today, due to the pandemic. There are many more sides of our lives that will be changed. The changes will have a long-lasting impact on how we socialize, work, and communicate. But have no fear: all this will help us to be more productive, safer, and most importantly, healthier.