Days after Britain went into full lockdown, adverts for thousands of new pandemic-proof jobs landed on recruitment sites. Listings for the likes of supermarket delivery drivers, warehouse workers, cleaners and nurses rocketed even as overall adverts slumped. Many jobs were lost to the Covid-19 economic crisis but new roles were being created by emerging demands.
The labour market’s transition to the “new normal” had begun in a matter of days and is set to accelerate when the furlough scheme ends this autumn. The post-pandemic world of work presents new opportunities but also the risk of a disruptive transition.
“I would categorise it as the biggest change in a generation,” says James Reed, chairman of online recruitment giant Reed. “Transition can be painful but it can also be very liberating. People might be worried or nervous but often when you look at periods of great change you think ‘I’m glad that happened’.”
Experts believe the world of work is undergoing tectonic shifts. The remote work revolution will not only transform office life but open up local jobs markets to workers further afield and turbocharge trends already well under way, such as e-commerce and delivery. However, the Covid disruption is also causing many sectors to shrink and with it a need for workers either temporarily or forever.
The UK economy was ripe for such a workplace revolution. Not only does it lean more heavily towards professional services based in offices than many other major economies but demand for home working appears to be strong. The Centre for Economics and Business Research found that a third want to make a permanent shift towards remote working.
At the height of lockdown just under half of Britons were working remotely but Morgan Stanley data suggests only 34pc of office workers have returned – far lower than the rest of Europe. The case for workers and employers for embracing the shift is compelling. Employees spend less time commuting and have far more flexibility with their roles and their location. Employers could be able to slash costly office space if a proportion is out of the office permanently.