Eight drivers of change

Eight drivers of change: Covid-19

COVID-19 COVID-19

Covid-19 arrived suddenly at the beginning of 2020, with dramatic implications for both personal health and the economic health of nations across the globe – and also major consequences for the workplace.

Nearly two years later, as we emerge from Covid restrictions (at least in the UK), it seems clearer by the day that the virus is endemic. Society and employers will need to adapt to a different world from now on and the threats to health and the short and long-term economic outlook remain unpredictable.

Covid-19 has changed behaviours and will continue to do so. It will also demonstrate potential new ways of living and working and act as a catalyst for other drivers of change. At the same time, it will operate as a major economic disruptor, placing continued burdens on health and social care and increasing personal, business and government debt.

Economies appear to have escaped the worst fears about catastrophic job losses, not least on account of rapid and unprecedented government intervention such as the UK’s furlough scheme (see role of the state – state intervention; and emerging themes – labour market). Economies have bounced back but further waves of infection have created more uncertainty. Severe shortages of certain workers have caused serious issues for the UK economy, partly as a result of workers being quarantined, on furlough or voluntarily changing careers because of Covid-19. This has combined with other drivers of change, such as an absence of skilled EU migrants who fulfilled many important jobs (see migration – EU migration), globalisation (see globalisation - supply issues both from and beyond the EU) and demographics (see demographics - less students working), to create significant gaps between supply and demand in sectors such as hospitality and logistics.

Agile working

Working from home

Working from home

While many office-based employers will move to hybrid working, some will become entirely home-based. Working from home during the pandemic has shown the possible benefits but also challenges for both employer and employee.

Hybrid working

Perhaps the most significant permanent consequence of the pandemic will be the move to hybrid working. Hybrid working promises reduced commuting and more time at home but with the benefits of connecting in person and collaborating with colleagues.

Offices

Offices

Agile working will require a re-think about offices with many organisations requiring less and more flexible space structured to: facilitate different occupants on different days; promote collaboration; and enable home and office workers to work together effectively.

Commuting

Unsurprisingly reductions in commuting have followed the peaks and troughs in infection rates during the pandemic. Other than in the early weeks of the first lockdown, numbers decreased between about a quarter and a half throughout this period. 

Covid security

Vaccinations

Vaccinations

As richer nations come out of lockdowns and assuming vaccinations continue to prove effective against variants, many employers are encouraging or even mandating vaccinations with the complex legal issues which follow.

Testing

Testing

In addition to vaccinations, another important tool in combatting the virus both within society and within workplaces will be testing. As the pandemic becomes endemic, workplace testing is likely to continue with consequent data privacy issues for employers.

Masks

Masks

An endemic virus with which we learn to live eventually supressed but not eradicated by vaccinations, coupled with public caution, will entail a greater emphasis in the future on covid-security at work including, in some environments, mask wearing and mandatory jabs whatever protections the law demands.

Future pandemics

Future pandemics

Often referred to as a once in a century event, nonetheless, employers, as well as governments will include recurring outbreaks of Covid-19, as well as other future pandemics, in their crisis management strategies in the future.

Growth and prosperity

Debt

Around the World governments have borrowed at unprecedented levels to provide State support to businesses and workers. With interest rates low this has been affordable but the strategy relies on rates remaining low. 

Growth

Despite initial gloomy forecasts, the economies of the richer nations are forecast to bounce back vigorously this year and next. This growth will create jobs but, in the UK, we are already experiencing skill shortages caused by a variety of factors including the lack of EU migrant labour.

Unemployment

Initial fears of mass unemployment in the rich G7 nations look to have been unfounded. As government support through furloughing and other schemes ends, fears of mass job losses also look wide of the mark as sectors badly affected by lockdowns spring back.

Rising inequality

Some of the data about Covid-19 and global inequality is startling. Many faced economic hardship, whilst others were big winners. In the last ten months of 2020 global workers’ combined income declined $3.7 trillion whereas the global billionaire wealth increased by $3.9 trillion.

Health and wellbeing

Medical professionals

Relative to other G7 countries, the UK has relatively few doctors and nurses per capita. Pressure to increase these numbers will only grow with the huge contribution and burden on these professionals over the last two years well-recognised.

Mental health

Mental health awareness has increased as the impact of the pandemic has become clearer. Research shows that, whilst anxiety about the pandemic has reduced, feelings of loneliness and not coping have increased.

Long-Covid

Long-Covid

As of 2 October, the ONS estimated 1.2 million people were suffering from Long-Covid. Symptoms include fatigue, muscle-pain and difficulty concentrating. Managing workers with Long-Covid will present employers with new challenges. 

Investment in health and social care

Pre-pandemic the UK spent 10% of its GDP on health, less than many other wealthy countries. With advances in medical technology, new drugs and an ageing population this will need to increase. The UK government has taken steps in this direction with a new Health and Social Care levy.

COVID-19 - INTERCONNECTING DRIVERS

Technology

SEE MORE
Technology

Role of the State

SEE MORE
Role of the State

Sustainability

SEE MORE
Sustainability

Migration

SEE MORE
Migration

Globalisation

SEE MORE
Globalisation

Covid-19

SEE MORE
Covid-19

Demographics

SEE MORE
Demographics

Part 1 

DRIVERS OF CHANGE

Read more

Part 2 

EMERGING THEMES

Read more

Part 3 

PREDICTIONS

Read more