Coronavirus

Covid Will Change the Way We Work – but Only Some Will Benefit

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This article is part of a series exploring job-hunting in the pandemic and the difficulties that face young people in particular. The views expressed in this article are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect Backbench’s stance as a whole. To find out more about the campaign and how you can contribute, click here.


Our generation has been disproportionally impacted by events beyond our control before. The recession in 2008, paved the way for austerity conducted throughout the 2010s and beyond. Although our generation was not of working age at that point, the severe cuts to education, welfare, and public services, had a definitive snowball effect on our lives. And now, with the pandemic which is expected to result in another financial crash and mass unemployment, you could say as the generation that grew up with uncertainty, we are pretty used to it.

The pandemic, although far from being over, has already changed the world of work. The focus on working from home and the appearance of “remote” positions on the job boards is signalling a monumental shift towards how we work. For the class of 2020, like myself, it seems more of a prospect that we could be starting our careers by meeting new teams online, rather than in person. If we are lucky enough to even get that far, of course.

As a graduate in 2020, the world is an anxiety-inducing place. The most recent unemployment rate – for July to September – was 4.8% according to the ONS, that’s an increase of over 0.7%, totalling 1.62 million people currently out of work. And by the look of Rishi Sunak’s latest spending review, it’s only going to get worse. Every job we apply for – whether that be in retail, graduate schemes or corporate roles – are going to be that bit more competitive. When we finally chase down those opportunities, there is no guarantee that we will be at the top of the list to get them. But it’s not all doom and gloom.

The world of work is set to change. In the next few years, we’re going to see the gradual decline of traditional 9-5’s – that we were always told were so reliable – office jobs and the commute. Covid has taught as that nothing is set in stone, and that goes for the way we work too. These changes, that will take place over a decade, will make our working lives easier. But only for the generations that are technology literature, have access to it, and are privileged enough to work in sectors that can adapt.

These benefits will primarily be seen in industries that can adapt well to online work like marketing, journalism, publishing and communications – which are more occupied by university-educated people. Additionally, they are saturated by a certain demographic. The British Journalism industry is currently 94% white, 86% university-educated and 55% male – according to a survey by City University, London. Additionally, a survey of more than 1,000 people working in the publishing industry found that more than 90% of those classify themselves as white British.

Therefore, because it is these very industries that will find the transfer to remote working easier – those that benefit will be a minority – at first. Change overall will come for every industry, but it could take decades. For people who work in construction, public sector jobs, retail, and hospitality – Covid has obliterated profits due to the inability to trade as usual. However, with this increased focus on the online world and remote working, new niches have opened up.

Having been on furlough for nearly 10 months, to prevent myself from going insane, I started writing online, rather religiously. My intent was never to make money, but during the process, I have been able to find paid opportunities in copywriting and have built up a reasonable portfolio on Medium – the online publishing platform. I always thought that making money online as a writer was a myth, and it was only within the realm of the already established – however, I have been surprised.

During these months, I’ve learnt a lot about what kind of work is out there, if you are willing (and privileged) enough to spend the time looking. But again – this type of work will primarily benefit those who have the time to seek the work out and have the technology to work from home.

To end on a positive note – for people in their 20s and younger – although this is a time of uncertainty and despair in terms of getting careers started, we should realise that we are at an age lucky enough to be able to adapt to it. Your twenties should be used as an opportunity for growth and experimentation anyway; the world of work may be changing before our eyes, but we will find opportunities in these new developments.  

So, what’s my prediction for the decade? A radical change in the world of work, that is slow at first and only benefits a select few industries, but by the end of the decade, we will see a complete overhaul of the way we all make a living. Expect quieter cities, empty public transport networks and more people silently typing away in their living rooms.

It’s a worrying time – but we should take comfort in this – our generation has been through upheaval before, and we have the time and ability to move with the tides as the job market inevitably fluctuates.

23, aspiring writer/journo and history graduate. My interests include national politics, areas of social inequality, culture, and anything literature related. Tweet me: @vdaniels_

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