Workers’ attitudinal changes and the pandemic

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By Dr Eric Shiu, Lecturer in Marketing and Innovation Management
Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham

It is beyond doubt that the pandemic is a major event to all the people who experienced it because it has had profound effects on many aspects of their life, now and in the long-term future. For example, it has radically changed the economic landscape for the worse. It has also significantly affected the mental wellbeing of many people and the full effect of this is yet to be known. It could even have drastically altered many people’s worldviews in response to sustainability, religion and value in life.

After closely monitoring potential effects of the pandemic on workers, with many workers having to do their job remotely at home, I have identified key stress factors caused by this new way of working. Recently, I spoke with People Management, member magazine of Chartered Institute of Professional Development, about some of the findings found from a study conducted by Aviva on 4,000 workers.

One of the findings of the study is that more people, especially young people, wanted to change their career or retrain, which may be related to these workers having more quiet time to reflect on what they do and what they want during the pandemic. Another interesting finding from Aviva is that significantly more people (12%) wanted to turn their hobby into a career compared to last July (6%). This attitudinal change should be viewed positively because it is good for both the economy and the individual workers involved.

There is one other finding from Aviva which has not been analysed but is potentially pivotal. Based on Aviva’s survey, it has been found that there has been literally no change in the proportion of workers (10% last July, same percentage in March/April this year) who wanted to adjust the roles in their jobs so that they could continue to work from home even after the pandemic. This finding is important because for all the discussion about remote working as a result of the pandemic, only 10% of workers explicitly want this way of working to be the norm in future, and this percentage had not increased since last summer during which we experienced more lockdowns and more days of remote working.

This finding is not particularly surprising. This is because human beings are intrinsically social animals. Remote working and its concomitant meetings offer the benefit of convenience, which is a very big advantage, and I expect remote working and meetings to continue to be an important way of working and socialising for many workers, even after the pandemic. However, I predict that it will not be the only way or mainstream way of working in the long-term future due to the fact that we, as social animals, often want to interact with people, see people in their real life rather than like an avatar on a computer screen, hug them, and have coffee with them in real and not virtual settings!

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