The “future of work”

January 27th, 2021


““It was said that a new revolution was upon us, referred to by the World Economic Forum as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The 4IR, defined by the convergence of biology and the physical world with the digital world, was expected to disrupt our way of life and fundamentally shift how we produce, consume and relate, much like revolutions of the past.”


Professional Services, Public and Private Sector Associations

Who’s Who in Trinidad & Tobago Business 2020-2021. Published August 2020.

COVID-19 forced many workplaces to quickly adapt to severe unexpected challenges, fundamentally changing how we work, manage our people and deliver products and services. This “business un-usual”, may very well be the “future of work”.

Prior to January 2020, the professional world was rife with discussions about the “future of work”. It was said that a new revolution was upon us, referred to by the World Economic Forum as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). The 4IR, defined by the convergence of biology and the physical world with the digital world, was expected to disrupt our way of life and fundamentally shift how we produce, consume and relate, much like revolutions of the past.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be just as disruptive, if not more so. This unexpected health crisis, whose body count is approximately 3.5% of total infections, also mushroomed into one of the biggest socioeconomic crises in the last decade, if not the century, forcing our “future of work” to arrive much sooner than anticipated.


Embracing the Unusual 

According to an employers’ survey taken in early 2020, conducted by the ECA, COVID-19 has significantly affected the lives of individuals and the operations of businesses. During the period of lockdown, only 19% of businesses were able to continue fully operating on site, while 68% were able to continue some form of operation partially on site or remotely and 17% would have stopped operating completely.
An encouraging 73% of respondents indicated that they did not dismiss, nor did they plan to dismiss workers due to the impact of COVID-19. However, as restrictive measures continue in some sectors, it can be expected that this situation will change. In terms of the financial impact of COVID-19 on revenue or sales, 56% of enterprises reported high impact and 26% of enterprises reported medium impact. Financial impact was particularly high among small businesses and large enterprises in retails/sales, real estate, and the food and beverage sectors.

“This new normal is now characterised by reduced physical face-to-face interactions, a heightened sense of safety and personal hygiene, the adoption of new technologies, remote work capabilities and leaner organisational structures.”

The survey also revealed some telling data on the resilience of the business sector, with 91% of enterprises indicating a change in their business operations or service delivery to protect their enterprise and workers against COVID-19, and embrace the new normal. This new normal is now characterised by reduced physical face-to-face interactions, a heightened sense of safety and personal hygiene, the adoption of new technologies, remote work capabilities and leaner organisational structures.

In all of this, we must consider the psychological impact of the continuing difficult realities of many individuals and ensure that even as organisational restructuring is taking place, emphasis is also placed on support for impacted workers, through access to social support, employee assistance programmes (EAP) and mental health awareness initiatives.

Our reality is one where challenges abound, but where businesses, including those in professional services, are required to adapt and overcome in order to survive…and overcome we shall. Who knows? We may even see the continued emergence of new and innovative services, driven by current challenges and even designed to be “pandemic proof” in the new normal!

By the Employers’ Consultative Association of Trinidad & Tobago

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