How COVID-19 changes worker expectations

Nearly a year after governments first imposed lockdowns to contain the virus, there is a growing consensus that more staff will in future be hired remotely, work from home and have an entirely different set of expectations of their managers.

Yet such changes are also likely to be the preserve of white-collar workers, with new labor market entrants and the less well-educated set to face post-COVID-19 economies where most jobs growth is in low-wage sectors.

Hospitality and tourism are among those sectors worst-hit by stringent social-distancing rules and travel bans, while sectors that support the work-from-home economy are adding jobs, albeit often in low-wage roles.

"Driving, warehouse, construction - they're actually ahead of where they were last year," Chris Hyams, CEO of the global jobs listings website Indeed, said in an interview aired at the virtual forum on Tuesday.

Hyams said job searches on Indeed last year showed that office workers - who before the pandemic would typically flood the website on Monday mornings looking for a change in job - were now more interested in stability in their working life.

"What we saw for the first six months of pandemic was that employees were much less likely to be looking for something new," he said, adding those workers had now got used to home-working and were above all keen on retaining such flexibility.

But while he said there were already signs that some sectors were now ready to allow up to 70% of their workforces to operate remotely all the time, such benefits would often be reserved for better-educated white-collar workers.

"We believe equity and inclusion will be the next frontier," he warned. "Disparities that already exist in society are going to be heightened and exposed."