For years now, several associations have been advocating for a change in our habits to reduce pollution rates in big cities, for example. Companies and governments have frowned at this plea or did little to it. The Covid-19 pandemic led to a significant review of our habits, and companies were called to make unpreceded adjustments. The measures taken by companies to face this global pandemic may last long after the pandemic. They are mostly related to remote work, real estate, and immigration. We consider each area separately.
Remote work is a form of work organization that enables employees to carry out their activities outside the workplace. It can be carried out from home, from a center, or on a nomadic basis. When it comes to working from home or on a flexible schedule, companies would rather have their workers operate within the company’s premises. This comes from a feeling that if the employee is in his working space, he will perform better, knowing that he is watched. However, some companies started developing flexible working spaces and schedules for their employees even though the rates remained low. The need to keep companies afloat amidst the Covid-19 pandemic revealed that companies had the means to organize remote work on greater proportions than expected. Today, virtual meetings hosted on platforms like Zoom are becoming common.
The advantages of remote work are so rampant that some companies consider keeping this setting for employees who express that need . Furthermore, the possibility of working from home gives more room to companies to choose who they want to hire without geographical restrictions. Thus, a company can easily have employees working on the same project from different locations.
Covid-19 also has an impact on real estate. The effects of Covid-19 on the office market have been limited so far, and some experts firmly believe this is not going to change. However, questions arise as to the need of renting or paying a mortgage for business premises if 50% of the workforce can work from home and 50% downtown to maintain social distancing. A recent JP Morgan’s analysis suggests that: “ With COVID-19 forcing many employees to work from home, corporations will likely continue to gravitate away from traditional office space and embrace more flexible options.”  Many companies and business owners will, indeed, need to review their business’ settings and practices. Many countries have asked landlords not to claim rent for the past couple of months, but this may still not be enough to save some businesses. The rise of e-commerce to the detriment of local stores is also a phenomenon that increased due to the Covid-19. All these reasons make the real estate era a main concern for the post-covid-19 period.
Last but not least is immigration. Travel bans have been issued by almost all the countries affected by the pandemic for various period lengths. Canada has announced special immigration, visa, and border measures in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19). Despite special immigration measures in place, Canada continues to accept applications for immigration, to hold Express Exit rounds and to issue invitations to apply for permanent residence. But this is not the case for many countries. The travel and immigration restrictions and travel bans applicable in some states are so strict that all travel, immigration for work, study, asylum-seeking, etc. are suspended for an undetermined period. It is believed by some experts that the return to regular flight traffic will not be achieved before some years if ever it is achieved .
But this can serve as an eye-opener for companies who still need to hire new staff members. The question is to know why a company would need to use an H1-B visa or work permits when the employee can work from his home country? A person in another country could easily work remotely for a tech firm in the silicon valley provided there is a working internet connection.
In a nutshell, there will be a before and after Covid-19. After managing the emergency, securing its staff, or taking part in solidarity actions, companies will need to take advantage of this health crisis to bring about tremendous change in their structure. This will be an opportunity to build an increasingly agile organization revolving around remote work, collaborative work, collective intelligence, where autonomy is based on trust and accountability. They will not only need to be creative to protect the jobs and incomes of workers who are indirectly affected (factories closures, disruption of supply chains, travel bans, cancellation of public events, etc.) but at the same time, they will have to make sure that the interests of the company are safeguarded. The challenge is a major one, but when companies need to learn how to make lemonade out of limes life throws at them.