Here’s how they can thrive in a post-pandemic workplace.
When asked about the Government’s position on remote working in the long term, UK chancellor Rishi Sunak recently said that young people in particular would benefit from physically being in the office. “It was really beneficial to me,” he said in the interview with LinkedIn News, “when I was starting out in my career.” Referring to mentors he met then, to whom he still talks now, he said he doubted he would have met them had he done his first internship over chat and Zoom. This was widely reported as a warning that remote working may hurt nascent careers.
Young people, as Sunak rightly points out, have been the hardest hit by the pandemic, with 88% of job losses affecting employees under 35 years old. Their experiences of remote working have borne important differences to workers older than them too.
Since July 2020, we have been collecting survey and case-study data from UK-based individuals, law firms and local authorities, to gauge the impact of lockdown on white-collar jobs. These represent one in seven of all UK jobs. In the first stage of our research in late 2020, our analysis was based on 1,085 survey responses and 38 qualitative interviews.
We have found that lockdown has, in many ways, built more mature workforces. It has challenged the logic of why workplaces are organised in particular ways and accelerated conversations about how to improve them that could otherwise have taken decades. Businesses need to take heed of these lessons – and listen to their employees, young and old, alike – if their Covid-recovery plans are to be successful.