In the year since we started dealing with the pandemic our working lives have changed beyond all recognition. We’ve spent so much time working remotely, spending endless hours on videocalls and whilst we have recognised that there are some benefits to be had from this it has also made our working lives considerably more complex. From dealing with poor connectivity issues to the ubiquitous ‘you’re on mute’ we have ridden the storm of frustrations but cannot wait for the end.

Working life though, will never be the same again and there will be significant changes to how we work in the future. Talk at the moment makes the assumption that the shape of the workforce will remain the same, that things will ‘bounce back’ and that soon we will all be back in the office.

But working from home for so long has proved to businesses that many roles can be done remotely on a permanent basis. We’ve seen workers in some industries operating from locations around the world. By implication this means that there is no barrier to outsourcing roles outside the UK into the global marketplace where labour is cheaper and less regulated.

The rapidly shifting economic climate means that business will need to be more responsive to changing markets and economic factors. Businesses may look to maintain a smaller core of key employees and supplement this with independent, flexible knowledge workers for specific, time bound projects. Even with the restrictions of IR35 we may see a rise in genuine consultancy roles where knowledge workers are engaged with multiple businesses at any one time.

The 9-5 working day is dead. Over the past year our working hours have in many cases been extended. Our starting times and finishing times have had to flex due to caring responsibilities and home schooling. We’ve developed different ways of working with colleagues who have different working patterns to ourselves. This is likely to continue in the post pandemic world but we need to appreciate that there will be mismatches between ourselves and others who chose different working patterns.

Our use of technology has changes beyond all recognition. Different teleconference platforms (all those logins!!), cloud-based collaboration tools and rapidly advancing technology can accelerate the use of artificial intelligence in job roles that have been traditionally thought to need human characteristics. AI platforms once developed are cheap and available 24/7 and don’t require the management of employee relations issues.

We know that we are entering a period where the level of unemployment is likely to hit what we saw in the 1980s with those from retail and hospitality and particularly young people being disproportionately affected. We need to consider how to remove bottlenecks in the workforce to create good quality job opportunities.

We also need to consider how we reward and retain in the new world. Recently we have seen both Tesla and Damien Hurst take an early adopter position in relation to payment by Bitcoin. You might think that this is a long way from affecting employees’ but this is a clear indication of early moves to mainstream alternate currencies.

So work will, inevitably, look very different in the new ‘normal’. Leaders, HR Professionals and employees will need to work together to make sure that everyone adapts to the changes effectively and remain patient – this is not an overnight fix, it is one that is likely to take some time.