5 ways Covid-19 has changed how we work

A new survey reveals astonishing shifts in working culture, but can businesses grab the resulting opportunities?

Last Updated: 08 Jun 2021

Nothing about the past year has been normal – employers and staff have seen working practices upturned, sometimes overnight. However, in a new survey by the ADP Research Institute, five key workplace themes emerged, presenting both opportunities and challenges for businesses. 

Researchers spoke to 32,741 employees and gig workers in 17 countries between 17 November and 11 December 2020. What emerges is a complex, nuanced picture. Attitudes differed according to the pandemic’s regional impact, but some overarching trends are apparent.

1. Worker confidence is shaken but persistent

The majority (86 percent) of workers still feel optimistic about the next five years, down from 92 per cent last year. This is understandable, given the bigger picture – over a quarter (28 percent) report having been laid off, furloughed or temporarily let go by employers. 

Almost one in four (23 percent) received a pay cut. The impact on job security and optimism is uneven, with younger workers the hardest hit. Despite the difficulties, many staff were optimistic about the possibilities the pandemic has brought, notably flexible working and developing new skills.

2. There's more unpaid overtime and flexible working

Unpaid overtime has risen sharply to 9.2 hours per week on average, up from 7.3 a year ago. Hybrid workers (those dividing their time between home and office) gave the highest amount of ‘free time’ to employers. 

More positively, two thirds (67 percent) of employees report feeling empowered to work flexibly, up from just over a quarter (26 percent) before the pandemic. Nearly half (47 percent) say their managers allow more flexibility than company policy provides.

3. Late payments are rising

The pandemic exerted great pressure on payroll, and the results are concerning. Underpayments have affected more than three in five workers this year (63 percent), and late payments are rising. Plus, a lack of alignment between pay schedules and bill due dates cause cashflow troubles for 24 percent of staff.

New opportunities also emerged. More than one in four workers (28 percent) report having taken on a new role or changing roles due to job losses in their organisation. Most (68 percent) received a pay rise or bonus. 

4. Employees are on the move

The pandemic has driven a shift in both where and how people work and live. The pandemic started less than a year before the survey was carried out, but its impact meant that three quarters (75 percent) of respondents had already made changes to, or planned to change, their living arrangements. 

This rises to 85 percent of Generation Z (18-24 year olds). One in seven workers (15 percent) are trying to move into a new industry they consider more ‘future proof’. 

5.Women feel the strain while pay gaps hold

The research points to concerns for women and working parents specifically. Two thirds (67 per cent) of the surveyed workforce say they have been forced to compromise between their work and personal life due to the pandemic.

Against this backdrop, women are more likely to report that stress management is a challenge, and feel less assured about job prospects compared to men. Women are also less likely to receive a pay raise or bonus for additional work or changing roles.

Opportunities in uncertainty

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on businesses and workers globally, and some aspects of working life will never return. 

Employers and workers will need to adapt and collaborate on what works well and needs changing forever; and what needs resolving asap.

The sudden shift to remote working, interrupted childcare, or job losses has led many to rethink their living and working arrangements. This could prompt new career choices. 

While grappling with commercial headwinds, employers need to consider how best to attract and keep top talent. Fostering a dynamic culture will help; one that listens and responds to these monumental changes in staff attitudes. Even when the pandemic is a distant memory, this ripple effect will play out for years to come.

Find out more about ADP’s payroll and HR services here.


Image credit: Marcela Vieira/Getty Images 

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