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Impact of COVID-19 on the Nature of Work: Effects Still Being Felt

Updated: May 14

By: George Waggott, founder and Roberto Fonseca-Velazquez, summer law student,

George Waggott Law


Would you believe us if we told you that during the global COVID-19 pandemic workers logged more hours? What about attended more meetings? Sent more emails?

A July 2020 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research (the “Bureau”) confirmed all the above. This study looked at data from 3.1 million people during lockdown in 16 metropolitan cities in North America, Europe and the Middle East. The study determined that since the start of the pandemic on average a workday lasted 48.5 minutes longer, workers attended 13% more meetings, and sent 1.4 more emails per day.  However, this was balanced by a decrease in the average length of meetings by 21.1%.

The obvious reasons for these changes were the adjusted working environments and patterns that were thrust onto workers around the world mid-March when the country went into lockdown. So, are these changes here to stay in a post-pandemic world?

               ‘Flexibility’ became a buzz word for employers during the pandemic. The standard nine to five workweek had to be thrown out the window as workers were faced with other responsibilities while working from home such as childcare or caring for ill relatives. Employers have had to accept a new flexibility to the workday as workers were no longer attached to their desk or available at any point throughout the day. Yet, this flexibility showed employers that employees can be even more productive than they previously were while sitting at the office every day. If employers change their focus to business outcomes instead of logged hours, the increase in flexibility will be a non-issue.


               For the Global Good Fund, the move towards a more flexible working environment has placed the focus on outcomes instead of hours in order to measure productivity. As reported by Business Insider, once the Fund combined this focus on outcomes and a complete virtual workforce, their total revenue increased 342%. Further, workers are encouraged to use the flexibility they are given to work as little as necessary but still to complete the job or reach necessary business goals. Regular breaks, days off, week vacations, and extended lunch hours are all encouraged. The overall vision is to have employees get their jobs done efficiently while respecting their full lives and other commitments.


Other changes happened with organizations around the world looking to eliminate the five-day workweek all together. Charlotte Lockhart, the CEO of 4 Day Week Global, was quoted in a Euronews article, and said that “[w]hat we advocate for is that if you encourage your staff to find those gaps in their day and then get rid of them so they can have time off, you find that your company will get a minimum of 20% more productive." New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern floated the idea of a four-day work week about two months into the pandemic. This was initially tabled to combat the decrease in the country’s tourism and to improve work-life balance for employees. Ultimately, Ardern mentioned this is to be determined by employers and employees and for now would not be part of a national strategy. However, a subsidiary of Microsoft in Japan launched a four-day workweek and reported a 40% increase in productivity in 2019.


Overall, the Bureau’s study has shed light that employees are in fact working more while working remotely. This should build confidence in employers worldwide that in a post-pandemic world characterized by hybrid working arrangements, employees can be trusted to balance their work with other responsibilities such as family life. If employers spend less time focusing on the hours logged and more time on the productivity of their workers, there is no need to revert to the classic nine-to-five workday. On the flip side, employees should remain conscious of the amount of time they are spending in their at home office and know that so long as business objectives and tasks are being met, there is no need to work unnecessarily long hours.

For more information about George Waggott Law, please see: www.georgewaggott.com, or contact: george@georgewaggott.com



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