For Fast Company’s Shape of Tomorrow series, we’re asking business leaders to share their inside perspective on how the COVID-19 era is transforming their industries. Here’s what’s been lost—and what could be gained—in the new world order.
Andrew Chamberlain, chief economist at Glassdoor
In February, employers were hiring [during] a roaring job market. It was really the strongest job market in any of our lifetimes. Today, probably about one-third of the workforce is working from home under COVID-19 in the US, and I don’t expect that is going to last. Taken that only 5% of the workforce was full-remote or work-from-home before COVID-19, I don’t expect it will even reach 20% in the long-term. There are just too many disadvantages, still, to working from home. Also notable is that “working from home” is not the same as “remote work.” Working from home is literally in your residential space, having a desk and a productive environment. Working remotely can mean, like, small pods of employees away from a home office in a shared office space. For the most part, people’s residential homes don’t have the infrastructure for productive work of any kind.
I think that you’re going to see a de-emphasis on physical offices and perks, not just in tech but in finance and every other sector, such as having beautiful open floor plans, with in-office gyms and onsite yoga. Employers are going to be emphasizing flexible work, health insurance, and more practical benefits—maybe 401k match, especially if people change their savings habits.
Glassdoor's chief economist, Andrew Chamberlain
Any place there’s a good university with a STEM program, there are pools of young tech workers ”
You’re also going to see more hiring outside the big metro [cities], in the short-term. There are lots of pools of affordable workers. Any place there’s a good university with a STEM program, there are pools of young tech workers that could be accessed if companies have more willingness to hire remotely.
And, like a whole generation changed after the Great Depression, the behavior of young workers in regards to savings and risk-taking is going to change forever. You’re going to see, long after this coronavirus is gone, people being much more conservative and careful about savings and looking for stability and work.
With 30 to 40 million people unemployed, there will be more competition for jobs, no question. If you want to freshen up your skills by taking courses, there are all sorts of courses in public speaking, negotiation, and personal and business marketing. These are skills that will always be valuable and never automated. Now is the time to make sure you’ve got a strong personal brand, a decent website, and a portfolio to demonstrate what you can do.
When we look at job postings on Glassdoor, across the board, almost every sector is down. It’s hard to find totally insulated businesses. Most economists expect manufacturing to pop back really fast, because goods can be put into inventory and resold; they expect tech and finance to mostly coast through a recession reasonably well; but they expect leisure, hospitality, and nonessential retail to fall and stay down for a long time. So it’s probably going to be a relatively slow recovery, probably for the next year to year and a half.
Kiran Prasad, vice president of product for the consumer experience on LinkedIn
Before COVID-19, unemployment numbers were at an all-time low, and we were seeing a really, really strong job market. The way we look at the job market is through a combination of looking at job postings, how many new jobs are being posted, as well as how many people are coming to the platform actively looking and applying for jobs.
We’re definitely seeing that the number of people who are coming to look for jobs, as well as the number of people trying to hire for jobs, has declined. There are some companies still hiring and industries that are doing well, such as hardware, networking, public safety, and education—the essential services that are so critical for the country to run. Because we’re an international company, we can actually look at trends across countries. We can see in our hiring data that China continues to trend upward and is now very similar to the pre-COVID-19 level in terms of both job postings, as well as applications.
I think the idea of virtual work is here to stay. We were probably slowly moving in that direction, and the COVID-19 situation has created an acceleration. Interest in remote jobs in the U.S. has skyrocketed. The share of remote job postings compared to all postings on LinkedIn has grown about 91% from the first week of March to the last week of April. A lot of businesses are now considering, What if this remote working thing just works? Job seekers are starting to recognize, I’m working from home, and this seems to be working well.
The LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index shows that 55% of respondents now think that their industry can be effective when people are working remotely. In the past, that number was materially lower. There’s a really strong optimism in intensely digital fields, such as software, finance, and media, where more than 75% of people endorse the idea that remote work and effective operation can go hand in hand. In other sectors, remote work is a little bit more polarizing: the healthcare industry, where optimists are only at around 48%, or manufacturing, which is only at 41%. The most resistance to going virtual was actually in retail, where only 29% of insiders think that the industry could thrive with remote work.
LinkedIn's Kiran Prasad
The stigma around being laid off [is gone].”
One of the things that we’re excited about is that [remote work] can redistribute opportunity. There are a lot of people who in the past would’ve had to move to [be] near the business. Now, with a lot more businesses actually hiring remote, the access to opportunity across the U.S. might expand.
The amount of community support that’s coming out for people is amazing. We’re seeing companies publish lists of people that they’ve laid off and said, “We’re trying to help these people get new jobs. So if your business is doing well in this environment and you’re willing to hire, we can vouch for them.” The stigma around being laid off [is gone].
Fred Goff, CEO of Jobcase
I’ve been in the labor market space for 11 years, and I’ve never [had] this type of experience.
Normally when you see unemployment rates go up, even in a spike, you see a lot of consumer and candidate activity looking for more jobs. In this moment, we saw activity drop really strongly, across the board. The presumption is, because you’re in your house and you can’t go out for an interview, companies aren’t hiring as much. But also that you have decent subsidies from the government, so the anxiousness might not be as high as normal.
The trends that will accelerate will be more [independent contractor] labor instead of W2, and frequent job changes. I think there’ll be more [risk] of automation. We advocate at Jobcase [for companies to] replace tasks, not jobs, but I fear jobs will be replaced as well. All of these kinds of trends unfortunately have the potential of harming the people who are usually dealing with the most adversity.
But there are also going to be opportunities. I’m not the only CEO of a company that six months ago said, I need my whole team together to really be productive, and who now is realizing, Oh, that’s not really true.
Jobcase CEO Fred Goff
It’s the same storm, but we have different boats. ”
When you look at today’s unemployment rates, which I think undercount [the reality], it’s around 14.7%. But if you look at the African American community, the Hispanic community, it’s pushing closer to 20%. Those who already face barriers in our society—that’s who’s taking the brunt of this. It’s the same storm, but we have different boats.
But the idea that there is attention on frontline workers, on hourly workers and people facing this adversity, and that we have things like upskilling, outskilling, and reskilling focused on that, I think that [feels] optimistic. Because the problem was there before. It’s bigger now, but it’s big enough that it’s getting resources and attention. And usually, when we all focus on something, we can make it better.
More from Fast Company’s Shape of Tomorrow series:
- What restaurants will actually be like in a post-COVID world, according to Chipotle, Panera, street food vendors, and others
- The leaders of the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, Doctors Without Borders, and more tell us how healthcare is being transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Is advertising really dead? Here’s how the leaders of Droga5, TBWA, Wieden+Kennedy, and more are inching forward.
- The retail Armageddon may have finally arrived. Here’s what top executives at Nike, Athleta, and more think it will take for stores and brands to make it through.