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Updated: Sep 14, 2022

Here’s how the COVID-19 pandemic has and will permanently change how we work.

A year ago, few of us had any understanding of how a global pandemic would drastically alter our lives — from curfews and lockdowns to an increase in remote work and an evolving workforce. What we’re seeing is an acceleration of the future of work.

Here’s how the COVID-19 pandemic has and will permanently change how we work.

Soft skills enable adaptability in the future of work.

This year has upended almost everything. It’s become increasingly clear that you can’t just hire for knowledge, content, and hard skills. Hiring adaptable, self-motivated people with soft skills such as mindfulness and emotional intelligence is paying off as these kinds of employees are more adept at adapting to changing circumstances, and learning new skills as necessary.

I’ve found this holds true for employees as well as independent contractors. While some circumstances are well suited for hiring a freelancer to do exactly what he or she has done for another client, I’ve found that looking for soft skills in freelancers results in more successful outcomes, too. This shift has been on the horizon for some time, but the pandemic has accelerated the importance of hiring for soft skills. This should also result in more diverse workplaces, as hiring for soft skills is more equitable across racial, socioeconomic, and gender inequities.

Remote work is here to stay.

With all its benefits and downsides, remote work and telepresence are here to stay. Companies will need to continue to offer remote work as an option to retain top talent, but offices aren’t going away. Working from home has shown us how efficient remote work can be while also highlighting how important face-to-face meetings are for more creative and collaborative work.

What we’ll see post-pandemic is a reexamination of when telepresence is sufficient and when in-person meetings are needed. Companies will choose to reduce office space’s size (and expense), but we’re likely to see most employers land on some hybrid work schedule. Many employees will be able to work from home while being expected to come in from time to time — but executives may be expected to mostly work from the office.

More workers are switching to freelancing; companies are increasingly engaging a global, liquid workforce.

Now that most companies have gone remote, leaders have been forced to focus on outcomes rather than time in the office. This puts freelancers on an ever more equal footing with traditional employees.

Moreover, many of those laid off during this pandemic are choosing to join the gig economy instead of looking for traditional full-time employment during challenging times. People are reevaluating whether employment provides “job security” and more people are concluding that self-employment — with multiple sources of income — may be more secure than a traditional job.

Your company’s workforce of the future will include a greater percentage of 1099 workers. More workers will choose to freelance and work with multiple clients on clearly defined projects — to work only on interesting, challenging projects that suit them. Working in this way allows these freelancers to keep their skills sharper than traditional employees. And so the shift from a blended workforce toward a liquid workforce will accelerate faster.

Also, companies using a liquid workforce can more quickly adjust to changing trends. As executives come to see the advantages of working with a liquid workforce, the gap between companies that activate a liquid workforce and those that choose to rely on a traditional workforce will widen. Agile companies will see greater economic gains and be better positioned for post-pandemic recovery and success.

The expansion of benefits will further accelerate the shift to a liquid workforce.

Moreover, the pandemic has led to freelancers finally gaining eligibility for unemployment benefits due to the CARES Act. With millions left uninsured due to pandemic-induced layoffs, the pressure to disassociate health benefits from the employer-employee relationship has increased. As freelancers’ benefits expand and as health insurance becomes portable, we can expect to see even greater shifts to a liquid workforce.

Software innovation will serve an interconnected workforce.

As work continues to change, so too will the software we use. While the pandemic led to a dramatic increase in video meetings, we are seeing a gradual shift toward a combination of video meetings, memos in lieu of meetings (or as preparation for meetings), and asynchronous video communication via software such as Loom, mmhmm, and Vimeo.

In addition, working remotely has deprived us of serendipitous conversations at the water cooler or break room. Expect to see software innovation to help facilitate these unplanned conversations that often lead to new ideas (and new lines of revenue) — particularly when those conversations are between employees in different teams or departments.

As reliance on freelance workers increases, companies are finding they need software specifically built for contracting, managing, and paying their global liquid workforce. Working with freelancers is very different from hiring employees or managing inventory; companies shouldn’t be managing and paying freelancers via payroll or ERP software. We created Liquid to solve this growing demand.

We need to prepare for the future.

The pandemic has accelerated the progression of trends that were already underway, including shifting skill sets, more remote work, a growing freelance workforce, and collaboration through innovative software. Now it’s time to prepare for a resilient post-pandemic future. Start by thinking about how the nature of work, work styles, skills, and the workplace have changed over the last year. Focus on the areas that have positively impacted your business and workforce and use this to reevaluate your hiring processes and software solutions. It’s time to embrace a modern business strategy that includes the liquid workforce as an integral part of your talent management. Get ready — the future of work is now.

Ready to get started? Liquid is the fastest and easiest way to contract and pay your global, liquid workfroce. Click here to try Liquid!

Note, this article was originally published on Forbes and appears here under license by the author (Liquid’s CXO Yolanda Lau).



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