How COVID-19 changes worker expectations

Nearly a year after governments first imposed lockdowns to contain the virus, there is a growing consensus that more staff will in future be hired remotely, work from home and have an entirely different set of expectations of their managers.

Yet such changes are also likely to be the preserve of white-collar workers, with new labor market entrants and the less well-educated set to face post-COVID-19 economies where most jobs growth is in low-wage sectors.

Hospitality and tourism are among those sectors worst-hit by stringent social-distancing rules and travel bans, while sectors that support the work-from-home economy are adding jobs, albeit often in low-wage roles.

"Driving, warehouse, construction - they're actually ahead of where they were last year," Chris Hyams, CEO of the global jobs listings website Indeed, said in an interview aired at the virtual forum on Tuesday.

Hyams said job searches on Indeed last year showed that office workers - who before the pandemic would typically flood the website on Monday mornings looking for a change in job - were now more interested in stability in their working life.

"What we saw for the first six months of pandemic was that employees were much less likely to be looking for something new," he said, adding those workers had now got used to home-working and were above all keen on retaining such flexibility.

But while he said there were already signs that some sectors were now ready to allow up to 70% of their workforces to operate remotely all the time, such benefits would often be reserved for better-educated white-collar workers.

"We believe equity and inclusion will be the next frontier," he warned. "Disparities that already exist in society are going to be heightened and exposed."

Video Transcript

CHRIS HYAMS: If we look where things are right now, there's clearly significant pain in specific sectors. So, hospitality and tourism, still down about half from where they were this time last year. Where there is strength is in the areas that are supporting the stay at home economy. So, areas like driving, warehouse, construction.

Those are actually ahead of where they were last year. The peak time for job searches at Indeed historically, prior to the pandemic, was Monday morning between 9:00 AM and 11:00 AM local time. Because, people basically had the weekend off, they just got back to work and they sit down at their desk and they say, I don't know if I can do this again. And they start looking around for another job.

So, a huge amount, especially in the last five years, of people looking for work were people that had jobs who were looking for something maybe better. What we saw that certainly, for the first six months of the pandemic, was that people who were currently employed were much less likely to be out looking for something new. People are really interested in stability at times of uncertainty. We did a survey recently at the end of last year of 14,000 workers from around the world and asked them about their different attitudes about work and what they're thinking about the future.

One of the things that was really interesting was that the number one reason that someone said they might actually look for a new job is for higher wage. The number two was for greater stability. And number three was for better benefits. So those are the kinds of things that people would be looking for right now, but they are again, much less likely than a year ago to be looking around if they have something that is stable.