The Future of Work (pt1)
Acknowledging the disruption COVID-19 has caused to work is no understatement. McKinsey & Company attempts to define and hypothesize what this means after the pandemic. This multi-part series highlights parts of their report found in full here.
“Jobs with the highest physical proximity are likely to be most disrupted.”
Some jobs, especially frontline services, cannot be worked remotely. According to McKinsey, “The short- and potential long-term disruptions to these arenas from COVID-19 vary. During the pandemic, the virus most severely disturbed arenas with the highest overall physical proximity scores: medical care, personal care, on-site customer service, and leisure and travel. In the longer term, work arenas with higher physical proximity scores are also likely to be more unsettled, although proximity is not the only explanation.” This includes “…on-site customer interaction arena includes frontline workers who interact with customers in retail stores, banks, and post offices, among other places.”
“Remote work and virtual meetings are likely to continue, albeit less intensely than at the pandemic’s peak.”
When was the last time you used your Zoom lighting? Among work that can be done remotely, McKinsey & Company offers, “Considering only remote work that can be done without a loss of productivity, we find that about 20 to 25 percent of the workforces in advanced economies could work from home between three and five days a week. This represents four to five times more remote work than before the pandemic and could prompt a large change in the geography of work, as individuals and companies shift out of large cities into suburbs and small cities. We found that some work that technically can be done remotely is best done in person. Negotiations, critical business decisions, brainstorming sessions, providing sensitive feedback, and onboarding new employees are examples of activities that may lose some effectiveness when done remotely.”
“COVID-19 may propel faster adoption of automation and AI, especially in work arenas with high physical proximity.”
Using the self-checkout at Costco is different from trusting your elective surgery to an AI robot, but it’s coming. According to McKinsey & Company, “Many companies deployed automation and AI in warehouses, grocery stores, call centers, and manufacturing plants to reduce workplace density and cope with surges in demand. The common feature of these automation use cases is their correlation with high scores on physical proximity, and our research finds the work arenas with high levels of human interaction are likely to see the greatest acceleration in adoption of automation and AI.” Automation has unintended consequences, like “…a shift in the mix of occupations…” according to McKinsey, covered in the next segment.
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