The Workplace has Changed. But Is it for Better or Worse?

Firms in the UK are on their knees to get people to re-enter the workforce. The Labour Market Statistics announced as of October 2021 the UK is experiencing the lowest level of unemployed people per vacancy, with a labour gap of nearly one million workers. While some of the current high levels of vacancies can be explained by current economic factors, such as Brexit and the pandemic, clearly the nature of work is shifting.

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This labour market shortage is not only an issue within the UK with the situation similar in the US and the Eurozone. Despite all US states ceasing their pandemic unemployment benefits people still are not returning to the workplace. Furthermore, the number of people leaving their stable jobs in the US has shot up in the midst of the pandemic. This indicates that deeper structural changes are taking place across the world beyond the short-term impact of the pandemic.

Workers are beginning to prioritise their time over employment. The rigid timetabling of pre-pandemic jobs simply does not work with people’s schedules, with many having other commitments outside of work such as childcare. Many firms are beginning to listen to these demands and incorporating ‘hybrid work’ models that give people increasing flexibility.

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Indeed, Microsoft has given up on attempting to set a return date to the office as they see little benefit of all employees returning. These changes are beneficial for highly sought-after workers who are experiencing both an increase in pay and flexibility.

However, arguably these changes are leaving workers who lack the required skills behind. With the pandemic, many of the jobs on offer place a heavy focus on digital skills, which a large proportion of blue-collar workers do not possess.
Sectors that previously would have been dominated by these workers are shifting towards automation, with the pandemic serving as a ‘clean slate’ for firms to restructure particularly in the US.

While the Global Economic Forum has pledged to reskill over one billion workers globally by 2030, the immediate future of these workers is uncertain.

The pandemic has accelerated the future of work to now. Positively for some, gone are the days of a rigid 9-5 job that requires every employee to be in the office at all times. Taking its place will be a hybrid model that allows increased flexibility in the workplace.

However, where does this leave those detached from the world of Zoom meetings and social media? As the future of work changes, it is necessary for government policy to reflect this change, with a higher priority being placed on retraining workers and focusing on employees’ mental health.


Article by Joseph Kilcoyne, Feature Writer- British Thoughts UK