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From home working to the retreat of globalisation: what will stay?

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What ways of working during the pandemic will stick when it's all over? From the opportunities and risks of remote working to return of stocks and reshoring. Or will we just all work for Amazon?

One day soon we’ll again be able to browse in the shops or sit in cafes, have a real-life waiter take our order, enjoy a pint in the local, or even watch the Eurovision Song Contest once more. All that will come back to a lesser or greater degree but the lockdowns around the world will have lasting effects – from minor lifestyle changes to deep, large-scale economic ones.

I daren’t even add up how many billions the government is spending to keep business going and keep employees in work. We still don’t know how long these measures will have to last but they are bound to affect the economy, with depression a real possibility. 

Some changes we can see all around us and some of them are welcome, albeit temporary. I’ve enjoyed cycling in empty London streets reminiscent of 1950s film scenes. After nightfall you’ll see more foxes than people. I’ve heard birds singing in the City of London for the first time. A plane in the sky is something to be remarked upon. 

Some changes we’re all part of. Many of us are working remotely. The kids are learning to work more independently. We’ve even had the first virtual graduation ceremony. We’re getting used to video conferencing as a natural way to meet. Chris Edwards looks at how the telecoms industry will manage this lasting trend, along with the higher cyber-security risks it brings. This growing acceptance, together with social distancing, should boost distance learning too, especially when combined with VR technology.

Working habits are changing but so is the work for some. It’s amazing how much engineers have already been doing in this crisis: ventilators, PPE, tracing apps and much more. We meet engineers working under lockdown, finding new meaning in what they do already or finding more meaningful new roles. These endeavours, as well as being challenging and worthwhile, can raise new ethical and professional issues – witness the recent debates over the privacy or lack of it in track-and-trace apps.

Industry will change too. Globalisation was already under pressure from populist and nationalist leaders pushing more protectionist positions, as well as from environmental concerns about the transport of people and things. Now the pandemic is disrupting supply chains, and just-in-time production has struggled with demand. We examine what all this means for the future of the manufacturing industry.

Despite some high-profile staff issues, Amazon has bucked the stock market fall as it delivers to customers stuck at home all over the world. With more automation and fewer staff, could it be the enterprise model to follow post-pandemic?

Jobs at risk worldwide from pandemic

Image credit: Graphic News

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