A new study by Accenture has suggested that businesses may never go back to traditional ways of working once COVID-19 subsides, while major firms such as Unilever and Tesco are already anticipating changes to post-pandemic working patterns.
Oliver Wright, consumer goods industry lead, Accenture, said that "shifts in how work is done have given business leaders a chance to throw away the old employment rulebook".
Wright added that employers will take the opportunity presented by COVID-19 to reevaluate "the fundamental purpose of work, where work gets done; and how work gets done".
Accenture’s COVID-19 Consumer Research, carried out between 26 November and 10 December, tracked the changing attitudes and habits of consumers worldwide during the COVID-19 outbreak.
It found that 43% of people who had never worked from home prior to the pandemic now say their preferred working pattern in the future (once the pandemic subsides) involves working from home at least once a week.
At the end of March 2020, just under half of those (49%) that had never worked from home said that they planned to do so in the future, a figure that rose to 58% in July and now stands at 65%, according to Accenture.
Elsewhere, lifestyles are also changing to reflect new routines, with two thirds stating that their normal working hours have changed, and 65% noting that they have 'greater flexibility' in their daily routines.
Last week, Unilever said that expects its office workers will never return to working in the office five days a week.
Chief executive Alan Jope said the company is observing different working patterns that have been implemented as a result of COVID-19, with Unilever's New Zealand offices trialling a four-day workweek.
Unilever, the maker of brands including Dove soap, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and Marmite, has seen its office employees work from home since the beginning of lockdown, with factory workers being exempt from stay-at-home orders in most economies.
Jope said he did not expect office workers across Europe and North America to return to work until at least April, and added that Unilever anticipate "never going back to five days a week in the office".
Elsewhere, Tesco is also anticipating long-term changes to working habits, with CEO Ken Murphy admitting that increased working from home has led to a negative impact on city centre stores.
"The city centre stores have been impacted, there's absolutely no doubt about it," he commented. "In some city centres, there's quite a decent residential population, and they see our convenience stores as a lifeline, and continue to shop in them, but there's definitely a drop in trade in relative terms. Whereas, in our neighbourhood stores, we're seeing strong growth.
"As more and more people work from home – and we believe that working from home will be institutionalised in our society, not on a five day week, but certainly on a two- to three-day week – we believe that this trend will somewhat persist. So we're looking all the time at how we adapt our offer to that."
© 2021 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Conor Farrelly. Click subscribe to sign up to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine.