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Potential Shifts in the Workforce Due to COVID-19

Temporary shifts to remote working may become permanent and more reshoring of critical manufacturing jobs may also be in the offing as companies look to become more resilient to crises.

Q2 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic is already causing shifts in the economy and workforce. Other than the obvious loss of employment, some of which will hopefully be temporary, another significant shift in the workforce involves employees in the professional services sector and others forced to work remotely from home. Although companies allowing employees to work remotely was already a growing trend in the United States, the question will be whether this trend continues after COVID-19 is under control. And, if the trend does continue, which is likely, consideration for incentives for home-based or remote employees will also have to be considered from the policy side at the state and local level.

Another shift will be the effect of a more remote workforce on corporate real estate long-term. The most likely answer is companies will shift to smaller office footprints with more remote workers or workers who only come to the office on an alternating schedule. The good news is that more employees working remotely leads to less commuting, which means better air quality and a healthier environment for all.

Incentives for home-based or remote employees will have to be considered from the policy side at the state and local level. Other potential shifts in the market caused by COVID-19 will affect the manufacturing workforce. The use of automation and artificial intelligence (AI), which was already on the rise, may accelerate faster as companies seek ways to ensure future survival during times of crises. Increased automation and use of AI will likely cause a decrease in the number and types of manufacturing workers needed. However, another critical and most likely shift that may help offset this loss of manufacturing jobs is reshoring of critical industries identified by this crisis such as pharmaceuticals, medical devices and supplies, and many consumer products from China and other countries. U.S. manufacturers and policymakers have also now recognized that reliance on foreign suppliers is an absolute issue. This will lead to more manufacturers sourcing their materials domestically in the very near future, which will also boost the manufacturing sector.

Although this is a time of great uncertainty, we are already seeing some of these shifts in the workforce and will continue to see change as companies look for ways to remain resilient long-term as we live with COVID-19.

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