The impact of COVID on the world of work

What does the COVID-19 pandemic mean for the way we’ll work from now on? Let our expert clue you in.

It’s obvious to say that the world has changed since the pandemic. That means the world of work has changed too. I recently heard someone say, ‘we are all in the same storm, but we are not all in the same boat’. That’s important for me to acknowledge: that certain people or groups have been affected very differently. The impact of covid has been monumental.

As someone who works with young people to help them find work, I’d like to answer some of the common questions they come to me with:

  • Will I still be able to work in my chosen industry or sector?
  • How has Covid changed office life and expectations?
  • What can I do to make sure I’m employable?

Will I still be able to work in my chosen industry or sector?

Initially, when many countries went into lockdown, it looked as if certain industries would be hit hardest. In particular, retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism. These are sectors where many young people start their careers. There was a lot of concern that young people would face mass unemployment.

However, as countries have opened up, the employment picture changed completely. Now there are not enough people to fill all the vacancies within the hospitality sector! So things may not be as gloomy as all that.

So what does this mean? Well, it means don’t panic! The best thing to do is remember, even if the industry or area you’ve been training in offers fewer new jobs, your skillset could actually be transferable and fit across many industries. Plus, things change quickly. So, as long as you stay positive and continue to develop your skills and learn from experiences, you’ll be fine.

How has covid changed office life and expectations?

Again, the process of entering national lockdown meant that some sectors saw massive change to the day-to-day running of their businesses. Office workers began to work remotely. You may find that office-based jobs now offer you ‘flexible’ or ‘hybrid’ work - meaning you may be able to work from home some days, if you wish.

For a lot of companies, covid actually meant bringing forward plans they already had for new ways of working.

I spoke to Erin, 23, who started her first job in January 2020 — just months before the pandemic sent her whole office home.

“I was so excited when I got the job… little did I know what was coming! Luckily, I did have an induction period in the office, getting used to the software we use, and learning the ropes. I live in a shared house with flatmates which meant that when the pandemic hit, and we were sent home to work, it was really hard. Fortunately, I was given a really good laptop to take home and use. Some of my flatmates were relying on very creaky old ones! Talking of creaky, our internet couldn’t always take the strain of four different people all on video calls and would often drop out. Pretty annoying in an important meeting!

It was hard being in my bedroom all day. It felt like there was no ‘line’ between work and home.

In the end, I isolated for ten days before heading back to my parents’ house — they had more room for me to work, plus I could eat all their food! As soon as the guidelines meant that we could head back into the office, I went back. Remote working definitely wasn’t for me. However, lots of my older and more established colleagues are still working at home, or flexibly. It suits them really well. I think any good company will offer what’s best for everyone, and I think that’s the future of work.”

What can I do to make sure I’m employable?

Whatever happens next, we are certain to need a new generation of skilled workers. I’m not just talking about technical skills, though your status as ‘digital natives’ does put you ahead there! I mean ‘soft’ skills such as problem-solving. In the future we’re going to need imaginative solutions to new problems — and emotional intelligence. So think about the skills you have, and the experiences you’ve had so far. Whether that’s working, internships, apprenticeships or studying, how have you built and developed a rich bank of transferable skills?

Want help figuring out what skills you have already and where you might be able to use them? Identify your skills and attributes with our handy quiz.