Only one in 10 people who started working remotely because of the Covid-19 pandemic are willing to return to a traditional commute-to-work lifestyle full time.
This is according to a new survey by accounting firm PwC conducted in 19 countries with 32 500 workers.
The survey concludes that remote working will persist after lockdown.
Of those who can work remotely, 72% say they prefer a mixture of in-person and remote working, with only 9% stating they would like to go back to their traditional work environment full time.
Although this is particularly true of professionals, office workers, business-owners and the self-employed, all of whom can perform their jobs remotely using technology, 43% of manual workers and 45% of semiskilled workers say there are many elements of their jobs that they, too, are able to do remotely.
“The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of work, forcing many employees into a fully remote work environment and challenging employers to rethink how they support and engage their workforce,” says PwC’s HR technology and culture leader, Barry Vorster.
“As companies accelerate their automation plans and many jobs continue to be remote, employees across every sector will need to acquire new skills that enable them to think and work in different ways. The future isn’t a fixed destination. We need to plan for dynamic, rather than static, tomorrows.”
The survey found that 40% of workers believe their digital skills improved during the lockdown, but data shows unequal access to career and training opportunities.
The study indicates that:
- Two in five workers believe their job will be obsolete within five years.
- Half of the global workforce report missing out on career opportunities due to bias.
- Training opportunities focus on those who already have high levels of skills.
- Younger people report being more focused on maximising income than “making a difference” – the 18- to 34-year-old age group is more likely than other generations to prioritise income over purpose in their jobs.
The study found that people are taking their future into their own hands, with 77% ready to learn new skills or completely retrain and 49% wanting to set up their own businesses.
However, there is a feeling among 61% of employees globally (73% in South Africa) that their governments should take action to protect jobs from automation.
“Reflecting the fact that the pandemic has accelerated a number of workforce trends, 60% of workers globally (compared with 72% in South Africa) are worried that automation is putting many jobs at risk; 48% believe that ‘traditional employment won’t be around in the future’ and 39% think it likely that their jobs will be obsolete within five years. In South Africa, 59% agree that ‘traditional employment won’t be around in the future’ and 67% believe few people will have stable, long-term employment in the future,” the survey found.
However, 40% of workers globally say their digital skills have been improved through the prolonged period of lockdown and that they will continue embracing training and skills development.
Since the pandemic began, 37% of South African workers say they have adequate digital skills to enable them to cope in their current working environment.
PwC says the majority of respondents globally (80%) are confident that they can adapt to new technologies being introduced in their workplace, with a majority of those interviewed in India (69%) and South Africa (66%) saying they are very confident.
Forty-nine percent of respondents globally (77% in South Africa) are focused on building entrepreneurial skills to set up their own businesses.
Workers, the study found, are torn between privacy and technology, with 40% of them globally agreeing to have technology monitor their performance at work (including sensors and wearable devices) and 31% against it.
“However, 41% of respondents said they were unwilling to give their employers access to their personal data, including social media profiles, with only 35% willing,” the study found.