How Coronavirus has left a mark on the working world that will not be erased

28 Jul 2020

How Coronavirus has left a mark on the working world that will not be erased

Our research shows the three major long-term impacts of COVID-19 on companies and organisations across Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Odgers Berndtson’s “Manager-Barometer Sonderbefragung Corona” surveyed nearly 1,500 executives from companies in a variety of industries and sizes from Germany, Austria and Switzerland about the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses.

The results point to a few post-outbreak trends. These mirror trends playing out to varying degrees in companies around the world.

First, companies will be more accepting of working from home arrangements. Second, virtual meetings and conferences will be favoured over business travel. And third, both companies and individuals will be more flexible and ambitious.

Working from anywhere is here to stay

Telecommuting used to be a niche activity mainly pursued by freelancers and programmers. Coronavirus has certainly changed that.

Nearly 9 out of 10 managers surveyed predict that acceptance of working from home will increase significantly in the next 12 months.

Managers expect their teams will work from home twice as often as they did before the crisis. On average, 1.5 days per week.

From both an environmental and work-life balance perspective, this is good news. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, almost half of people in Germany were commuting an hour or more each day to and from work, according to the Statista Global Consumer Survey. That time can now be spent with family or recharging.

Of course, working from home is not possible in all roles and industries. In the US, for example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017-2018, only 29% of workers could work from home, whilst only 25% did work from home.

However, according to Silvia Eggenweiler, a Partner in Odgers Berndtson’s Frankfurt office, “The pandemic has made working from home anywhere an imperative, rather than a choice. For many, this has shown companies what can be achieved with a location flexible workforce.”

Video conferencing’s big break

As the working world adjusted to lockdown, 83% of managers reported communicating with their employees through virtual meetings, conferences and workshops. These tools were favoured over virtual team social events and employee surveys.

At the same time, business travel has been grounded. According to the Global Business Travel Association, 97% of European business travel has been cancelled or suspended during the coronavirus outbreak, and it’s a similar picture in other parts of the world.

Looking ahead, over 86% of the managers surveyed predict that video conference meetings will replace business trips to some extent after the crisis.

Daniel Nerlich, Managing Partner at Odgers Berndtson Germany, observes, “Now that teams are more comfortable attending virtual staff meetings and conferences, there are good reasons, including accessibility and environmental sustainability, to continue working this way.”

Indeed, over 45% of managers expect the crisis will intensify companies’ sustainability efforts generally.

Flexing and stretching in response to crisis

Throughout this crisis, companies have demonstrated significant flexibility and agility in difficult circumstances, and this has not gone unnoticed. Over 90% of the managers surveyed felt that they, and their teams, were supported well by their companies during the crisis.

This doesn’t mean every company was well-prepared to respond to the crisis, but on the whole, companies responded quickly to the needs of their employees. This included implementing flexible working hours, communicating with employees transparently and promptly, and providing the IT equipment needed to work remotely.

Finally, on a personal level, the survey results indicate that while the crisis has taken an emotional toll, it has also made individuals more resilient.

52% of the managers surveyed reported that the primary feeling the corona crisis triggered for them was concern for the health of their family and friends. The toll this worry has taken on workers’ productivity and mental health during the crisis should not be underestimated.

On the bright side, 45% of the managers surveyed report that they are now more motivated to seize entrepreneurial opportunities.

42% of managers feel more confident in their personal abilities and resilience than before the crisis.

Some noted that they are now better able to work under pressure and are ready to take on a higher level of responsibility. Over 40% even indicated a willingness to consider a career move in the short-term.

Still ambitious, despite risks and volatility

Interestingly, Odgers Berndtson’s 2019 Manager Barometer survey revealed that 41% of managers considered a career move to be likely within the next few months. This hasn’t changed in 2020, despite all the latent risks and market volatility.

An optimistic conclusion can be drawn from the survey results: companies and executives in the DACH region will emerge from this crisis stronger and more ambitious than they were before.

From an employer’s perspective, this could translate to a large number of highly-motivated candidates who are hungry for new opportunities.

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