Covid-19: The future of work has changed

This could affect custodial jobs in offices, public transportation, and restaurants and retail in urban areas, if fewer workers commute to office jobs.

A new report states that the pandemic has accelerated three broad changes in consumer behaviour and business models that will persist: the rise of remote work, the increased embrace of e-commerce and virtual interactions, and the more rapid deployment of automation and AI technologies.

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“These trends will further exacerbate the reshuffling of jobs in the economy over the next decade. As a result, more than 100 million workers, or one in 16, may need to find jobs in new occupations by 2030,” noted the ‘The Future of Work After COVID-19’ by McKinsey Global Institute (MGI).

“Jobs with higher proximity, such as cashiers in stores, servers and line cooks in restaurants, and receptionists in hotels, may experience the greatest disruption after the pandemic because of changes in customer and business behaviour that will stick.”

It added that up to 25% more workers may need to find jobs in new occupations compared to estimates before the pandemic in advanced economies; in India, 18 million workers may need to switch occupations by 2030; and impact may fall disproportionately on low-wage workers in retail, food services, hospitality, and office administration.

Other findings
—Remote work is here to stay: Companies are already devising hybrid remote work models, and MGI estimates that 20-25% of workers in advanced economies could do their jobs most of the time from home. This could affect custodial jobs in offices, public transportation, and restaurants and retail in urban areas, if fewer workers commute to office jobs. In India, about 5% of the workforce could potentially work remotely for more than three days a week, though this share is as high as 70% for key sectors like financial services and IT.
—Business travel may decline: Virtual meetings could replace 20% of business travel, on average across the eight countries MGI studied, and that will have knock-on effects for restaurants, hotels, and airlines.
—The geography of work could shift: Before the pandemic, highly-skilled workers were drawn to the world’s biggest cities. Now remote work facilitated by digital tools opens opportunities for workers to live anywhere and companies to recruit more broadly.
—E-commerce and virtual transactions follow a new trajectory: Covid-19 forced consumers and businesses to rapidly migrate to the digitally-enabled ‘delivery economy’ and this is shifting low-wage jobs from retail shops and restaurants to warehouses and transportation.
—Independent and gig work is likely to expand: Roughly 70% of 800 global executives surveyed by McKinsey in July 2020 said they expected to hire more independent workers for projects over the next two years.
—Automation and AI could see an uptick: Companies have started adopting automation and AI to reduce workplace density and cope with demand surges, and this may accelerate as the economy recovers. Already, meat processors have installed robotics to reduce density in processing plants, and call centres have deployed chatbots. The greatest growth in automation may occur in indoor production and warehousing, as companies seek to increase space between workers and yet keep pace with surges in demand.

(The full report is available at

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