What 800 executives envision for the postpandemic workforce

Viewed in McKinsey

When the pandemic first emerged earlier this year, businesses largely prepared for what was thought to be, at first, a multi-week disruption. That quickly became a multi-month disruption.

And then finally as summer arrived, it was clear that predictions that rising temperatures would bring it to an end were inaccurate. The precise date of this pandemic’s end is still—to this very day—largely unknown.

Permanent and enduring changes

Simultaneously, as the pandemic endured and even escalated as 2020 progressed, businesses slowly began predicting that temporary changes in their workforce practices and policies were more likely to endure even once the pandemic ultimately does end.

Today, this thesis is broadly embraced. While some companies will be able to return to their traditional workforce practices (and some have no other option because of logistical and other challenges), many won’t.

This conclusion has fairly significant ramifications: The workforce as we know it is almost certain to change in permanent and enduring ways.

In June, global management consulting giant McKinsey surveyed 800 executives about these changes—and their findings are instructive:

More automation

First, the pandemic has driven many companies to increased levels of automation. When the pandemic ultimately does end, increased utilization of these technologies like videoconferencing and file sharing will almost certainly endure, McKinsey found.

More remote work

Second, some level of remote work, originally necessitated by the pandemic, is likely to endure even after the pandemic’s end. But the number of respondents intending to rely more extensively on remote employees varies considerably by both industry sector and country.

On the high end, the United Kingdom and Germany are countries most inclined to say they envision continuing remote work at some level. On the low end, China-based companies anticipate the least.

Among industries, information and technology companies indicate that they are most inclined to continue some level of remote work for their employees after the pandemic’s end.

More workplace safety

Third, companies report that the pandemic has necessitated more focus on their respective sanitation and workplace safety policies.

An extraordinary 83 percent of respondents indicate they envision hiring additional employees in health and safety roles and 73 percent say they intend to hire more employees to manage physical distancing and sanitation.

More contractors

Finally, the pandemic shows indications of giving rise to a growing utilization of contractors and temporary workers. Seventy percent of respondents told McKinsey that they envision utilizing a greater number of contractors and temporary workers two years from now.

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