Long before the pandemic forced everyone into working from their kitchens, home offices, or bedrooms, the world was very much on its way to eliminating the need for conventional workspaces. Today's younger generations have grown up in digital environments and already feel pretty comfortable doing much of their work online. But even though those digital natives probably find the prospect of working from home less intimidating than many members of older generations, in 2020 people of all ages are facing the same challenge: familiarizing themselves with the digital workplace.
Leverage Free Learning
Fortunately, there has never been a better time for workers (of all ages) to enter the digital workplace. Free online resources, such as YouTube and e-libraries, provide easy access to an immeasurable amount of information. The number of jobs with digital- or technology-related components is surging, putting those without the requisite skills at an immediate disadvantage, and those free online resources can help them catch up. (For example, an Internet search for "how to code tutorial" yields 302 million hits for videos alone!) Adding an array of new digital skills to their resume could put someone right at the front of the queue of candidates.
Be Willing to Learn
Many people find acquiring new digital skills a daunting task, because it can feel like learning an entirely new language. It's important that they be able-and willing-to learn these skills, though, because the demands of 21st-century economies will require the workforce to be versatile and quick to adapt and technological innovation isn't going to stop anytime soon. Some people will take longer than others to fully adapt to such changes, so employers must accommodate their workers' different learning styles and paces (ideally through employee training).
Embrace the Benefits of Working from Home
Employees of all ages can benefit from working remotely, and with no specific end date in sight for the pandemic, the business world should be prepared to embrace this type of work arrangement for a while. Those who believe that working from home is nothing but a brief inconvenience may want to reassess that position. With the increasing need to reduce travel for environmental reasons, as well as the ever-soaring cost of housing in major cities, the "work from home" model is likely to stick around for some time. After the pandemic-related lockdowns and closures end, some people will need to return to commuting to their offices, but many who are capable of doing their jobs from home may be asked to do so on a more permanent basis.
Shaped by technological advances and accelerated by a global crisis, how people work is undergoing a profound transformation. But as old work models slowly begin to fade away, people who are ready for the digital workplace of the future can begin to reap its rewards today.
Jessica Miller-Merrell is a workplace change agent focused on human resources and talent acquisition. She's also the founder of Workology (formerly Blogging4Jobs) and can be contacted on Twitter at @jmillermerrell.