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    • COVID-19

HSBC Navigator: Forecasting the Future of Work

  • Article

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly changed the way Canadians work and how businesses are managing their employees.

Countless workers across a wide range of industries have been working from home since the onset of the pandemic, while others have been doing their jobs while adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols.

As economies around the world slowly reopen, companies are considering what the future of work will look like — with many considering whether their employees will primarily work remotely going forward.

Our recent Navigator Resilience: Building back better study, conducted globally at the height of the COVID-19 crisis, found that seven in 10 (70%) of the 200 Canadian businesses surveyed expect some form of flexible working arrangements to become standard for their operations in the next two years. More than half (56%) say they expect to continue using virtual meetings after the pandemic. In fact, video conferencing and high-speed internet have become critical technological tools for Canadian companies, according to those polled.

Canadian businesses told us that there are significant barriers to overcome in the next six months. Chief among them are employee morale (36%), maintaining sufficient cash flow (28%), access to advanced technology (25%) and bringing employees up to speed on new ways of working (25%).

Technology and innovation have been a boon across various elements of their operations since the onset of the pandemic, especially for their workforce (52%) and their customers (46%). Technology has also helped companies remain agile (44%) and innovative (39%), which have been key factors in helping those businesses remain resilient in the face of the many challenges the first half of 2020 has brought forth.

High-speed internet (49% in the past and 47% over the past six months) and video conferencing tools (44% in the past and 42% since the onset of the pandemic) have been especially vital for business continuity, the study found.

The same two technologies are expected to become further embedded as standard ways of working in the next two years (high-speed internet 43%, video conferencing tools 47%). And video conferencing/collaboration tools will be the top priority for development in the next year or two for almost 30% of Canadian businesses.

In the next two years, Canadian companies said they believe technology will fuel more flexible working arrangements (70%) and virtual meetings (56%), albeit many believe that a full move away from shared offices in the long term is not in the best interest for every business. And with some employers signalling that a shift to employees working from home may result in a decrease in base salaries, employees may have some fear (or financial incentive) to return to the office1.

While there may be no unanimous consensus on whether workplaces in the “new normal” will look much like they did before the beginning of 2020, what is certain is that the past six months have shown clearly that there are viable alternative approaches to previously well-established processes. And it’s certain that technology has played a central role in this. Ninety three per cent said that times of adversity showcase how businesses can leverage technology to enhance or improve how they work.

COVID-19 may have permanently changed how Canadian companies operate. And if Navigator Resilience: Building back better is any indication businesses in Canada are prepared for the sea change.

1 GlobalNews, June 23, 2020, Can your employer really cut your pay for working from home?

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