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Would Disruptions Caused by Covid-19 Change the World of Work for Good?

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic which is much averse to large gatherings, one of the intriguing questions for most  corporate  institutions is whether the disruptions presented  by the  pandemic would ignite a change in work culture for good.

While some analysts contend that the disruptions presented by the virus to  the world of work may be short lived, others maintain that the changes may be here for the long haul. It’s therefore critical that we prepare for, respond to, and ultimately emerge stronger during and post the COVID-19 pandemic. To do this, companies need to structure responses that are sustainable not just for the present, but for the challenging months ahead.

The Ghana Investment Promotion Centre whose mandate is to promote and facilitate investments in all sectors of the economy has a vested interest in the sustainability of businesses in Ghana. This article is therefore aimed at stimulating discussions on the temporary and long term changes that the COVID-19 pandemic may present to the world of work and how businesses could strategize to accommodate and manage the changes.

It is estimated that around half of the world’s population went on lockdown to  contain the spread of the COVID-19, pandemic that plagued the world and  claimed thousands of lives.  This  sparked fears of the worst global recession since the Great Depression and  had a profound impact on the world of work, as well as our mental and physical well-being.

It must  be established that the COVID-19 pandemic is both a health and economic crisis. Although other crisis situations must have plagued some parts or all the world in the past, the current pandemic is unique on several fronts.

One of the unique features of COVID-19 is its global character. Unlike Hurricane Katrina and the September 11, twin tower crash in the United States, they did not pose  a threat to all of America let alone other countries of the world. COVID-19 in another character is  pervasively disruptive by changing the way we live and work.

In all the above crisis some of the changes in policy and work introduced at the time have since ceased to be effective whiles others still linger on and have obviously come to stay.

Almost two decades ago, September /11 made an impact on how we live and behave. In that period of fear and panic in 2001, companies stopped  their staff to  travel, . Those policies faded, just as we no longer feel a surge of fear on the jet bridge, glancing at each other while trying to determine if the passengers around us in the aircraft are a threat.

But the high security processes  that were introduced at the airports have stayed on.

Similarly, despite the size, scope and intensity of the coronavirus pandemic, some work activities will go back to normalcy —at least for a while. But there will be permanent changes, which will forever alter the way we think about—and behave at—work.

The global response to COVID-19 has also caused many businesses to turn their attention to employees working from home and other remote locations causing a disruption to our routine work schedules .

Work schedules have changed dramatically in Ghana since the outbreak of the pandemic as a result of some restrictions and directives issued by government. Tall among these restrictions are social distancing, closure of boarders and good hygienic practices.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in Ghana several businesses have implemented various changes in their work policies and schedules. While some offices had to partially shut down operations, others had to resort to other forms of work schedules including the popular rotational work scheduling and working from home etc.

Academic institutions, corporate entities have all resorted to video/call conferencing and other virtual meeting arrangement, using internet applications like the ZOOM App. and others, as a result of the social distancing restrictions imposed by the government.

One of the changes COVID-19 is going to introduce into the world of work  and for that matter Ghanaian routine work schedule is corporate flexibility. Workers are likely to quickly figured out how to work from home. When the pandemic subsides, working from home will remain popular with professionals, and that will force companies—even those that were not the biggest proponents of having a virtual workforce—to become more flexible. Now that more people have had a taste of it and proven their productivity, it will be hard for companies to take it away from Ghanaian work culture.

Also, when workers return to work, temperature checks and social distancing will likely be implemented. And that will persist for a while. But once there are medical breakthroughs like treatments and vaccines, offices will be more  communal . Conference rooms, meeting spaces and video studios will take up a lot of office space. The workplace will become a far more social environment, not a “all-by-myself” scenario.

What is more interesting of the changes to work is that many professionals found working from home a challenge not because of isolation, but because they didn’t have the ideal space or a dedicated home office. For example, having a a ‘Zoom-ready spot for video meetings along with the relevant infrastructure.   With the current changes in work scheduling, homes are likely to experience permanent home offices with accompanying  information technology infrastructure at home. Internet in homes is likely to  improve, drastically and quickly in terms of cost, speed and access.

Academic institutions have become big businesses over the decades . Now, with COVID-19 pandemic, , e-learning will become a bigger part of ongoing learning. Although in-person learning programs will be reduced and likely reserved for use when necessary,  there will be a need for a revamp of the e-learning space with accompanying infrastructure to embrace the changes in the industry.  As supervisors and staffers have gotten used to seeing each other in their natural habitats, the line that separates work life and personal life has faded. Ironically, technology has made this transition possible, but it has also led to a decidedly low-tech reality: this new corporate world has made us value our organic, non-robotic humanity more than ever before.

One of the least considered changes that is likely to occur due to the working from home and virtual working changes is the fading away of uniformed work groups. Uniforms are surely an important element in corporate identity but the trend toward casual attire will accelerate quickly.

In view of the possible short term and long term impact the COVID-19 is likely to introduce to the corporate work environment, it is important that corporate leaders begin to strategize to incorporate these changes into the future work schedules of their organizations. The GIPC shares a strong interest in the development and sustenance of your businesses.

Source: GIPC

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