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Virtual Café Panel Predict Labour Market Changes in Post-Pandemic World

This week’s ‘People and Organisation Virtual Café’ brought an engaging group of students, peers and organisations together to discuss the changes organisations can expect post COVID-19 crisis. Facilitated by Dr Na Fu, the discussion was led by Professor Andrew Burke, Dean of Trinity Business School, Kevin Mulcahy from Babson College, Joanna Kearney from Accenture and Peter FitzPatrick, from National Standards Authority of Ireland.

Professor Andrew Burke discussed the changes organisations can expect in the short and long-term, drawing our attention to the effects of flexible working on the evolution of the employee. “People have had the opportunity to detach from their work, re-engage with themselves and reprioritise their work-life balance, but there are many dimensions to remote working. Working in an office, people tend to focus on their inputs but when you’re working remotely there’s more pressure to justify your productivity and find ways of demonstrating it. This is where the mindset switches from an input mindset to an output mindset; so to work better in a remote setting, organisations need to configure themselves around that.”

Output driven management should put the focus primarily on what employees produce rather than how they approach it, where it’s done or when. Shifting the focus can ease the pressure on employees but the panel agreed that clear communication and employer-employee trust are key elements in the absence of face-to-face interactions.

‘More remote working’, ‘increased flexibility’ and ‘further redundancies’ were the most popular phrases shared as participants were polled on what changes they were expecting at work, with ‘the way we work’ expected to be the aspect of working life that will be impacted the most.

With significant economic impacts expected, companies should anticipate problems such as cash flow shortages, increased operational costs, navigating supply chains in new environments and an overall decreased demand from consumers. “There’s a danger that once this is over we could move into what I like to call the ‘Frankenstein economy,’ where we try to bring back to life what we had before by badly patching it back up. I think for firms to come back it’s going to take renewal and with that; rebirth.”

On the long-term positive changes, Andrew believes that the pandemic may have helped to reinforce the environmental agenda with more firms operating in an environmentally friendly way, which could in turn help to attract more customers and put pressure on competitors. He also predicted a change in the labour market with increased competition in the workforce. “If firms start to use more remote workers, they’ll be much greater international competition and equalisation of incomes globally. If you can have remote workers in Bunclody, you can also have them in Bangalore or Beijing.”

Guest speaker Jo Kearney advised that in order to prepare for such changes, companies should really invest in how they listen to employees as two-way communication is vital and those demonstrating shared values during this crisis will thrive in the future. Peter FitzPatrick added his thoughts from a HR standpoint, noting that employers should be empathetic and the employee voice should not only be listened to but heard and valued.

Kevin Mulcahy from Babson College summarised the virtual meetup with his thoughts on the future of work. “The dimensions of work will remain but the colour of dimensions will change. Employees need to be given time and be empowered to adapt emotionally; physically; technologically; intellectually and culturally. If we don’t make these five adaptations, we will continue to be in chaos.”

Watch back the recorded session here. The next ‘People and Organization Virtual Café’ will take place at 11am on Monday 18th May and will continue the discussion on change with speakers Professor Brian Lucey from Trinity Business School, Niamh McNamara from Novartis, and Bank of Ireland’s Eimear Harty. Sign up here.

Media Contact:

Jessica Chandok, Communications Officer | jpratt@tcd.ie | +353 1 896 2731