Whitman Voices

Introduction

Future of the Workplace: Innovation, Flexibility Dominate Post-COVID-19 Environment

Future of the Workplace: Innovation, Flexibility Dominate Post-COVID-19 Environment

Future of the Workplace: Innovation, Flexibility Dominate Post-COVID-19 Environment

Management

Future of the Workplace: Innovation, Flexibility Dominate Post-COVID-19 Environment

Though the initial frenzy of COVID-19 in the workplace may be over, the pandemic is having a lasting impact on offices around the world and changing the way many are discussing work-life balance and what the application and hiring process now looks like for recent graduates. As part of a recent webinar sponsored by the Financial Times titled “Future of the Workplace Post-Covid,” career center professionals and reporters discussed what they see as the near future in the workplace.

A key point of focus for students looking to enter the workforce is transferrable skills, says Kara Primrose, director of career services at the Whitman School. “Students and employers have had to be innovative and creative with how they’re approaching roles, with how they’re approaching their own skillsets. I think a lot of people reevaluated priorities in the pandemic.”

While recent graduates may struggle a bit more than previously expected, economists predict that in a few years, these classes of students will be back on track when it comes to employment and hiring. “Fast forward five years, and that cohort has largely caught up,” Karin Kimbrough, global chief economist for LinkedIn, says. “For the U.S., the recovery has proceeded faster than many would have expected. We’ve brought back as many jobs in the last year as it took us to get six years’ worth in the last recession.”

Many students may be broadening their horizons to better find the jobs that are out there right now, but COVID-19 has also played a part in focusing the priorities of new graduates, changing what many think of as necessities when considering a job offer. For many job seekers, “must-haves” now include job stability, flexible hours and benefits. “For young people, the difficulty is that a lot of the positions they were offered before the pandemic were contract positions, freelance positions. It was gig work where there were no health care benefits, no 401(k)s,” says Taylor Nicole Rogers, U.S. labor and equality correspondent for the Financial Times. “If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that stable employment, full-time employment, being designated as an employee, is really important to your financial stability and how you can weather a crisis like the one we’ve been in.”

Location also continues to be an issue, as both companies and their employees adjust to the idea that a hybrid model of work may be here to stay. Because of this, a well-established component of many new graduates’ salaries may be called into question: compensation for cost of living. Because so many employees are fully remote, some expensive cities like New York and Los Angeles have seen an increase in young workers fleeing for more affordable areas.

“If you’re making six figures in New York [City], and then you end up moving to Iowa, I can’t imagine that the company is not going to adjust your salary,” says Kim Lewis-Collins, director of the career development center at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business. However, so far there doesn’t appear to be a need for employees to panic. “I haven’t seen much movement in that direction yet,” says Primrose. “But certainly [there is] conversation.” 

Though we’ve come a long way from the initial shock of COVID-19, we’re also far from living and working in a world without it. That being said, new entrants to the workforce have proven to be resilient and resourceful amid an uncertain and unprecedented time. “Stick with it,” Primrose says of the job hunt. “Don’t lose hope, but be flexible and be able to show them what you’ve got.” 

Mallory Carlson