TRYING to anticipate which industries will flourish in the future is never easy, but now the global pandemic is adding extra uncertainty.
Yet even as the world grapples with the new economic realities caused by lockdowns which have changed the way we work over the course of the last year, clear trends are emerging that allow businesses to gain an insight into which industries could flourish as others sadly flounder.
From online retail and cloud computing, to industries built around health and wellbeing, the world is undergoing a sea change that is creating new opportunities businesses are increasingly ready and able to grasp.
Cloud and Information Technology
Undoubtedly the biggest seismic shift to livelihoods the world over during 2020 has been the rapid move to remote working. Quite literally overnight, people who’d been working in offices for years if not decades found themselves at home, having to do their day jobs without much of the usual infrastructure and procedures to which they would have become so accustomed.
Research by the University of Cardiff found homeworking in the UK had rocketed since the start of lockdown, from 6% to 43% in April.
It also found that 88% of employees who worked at home during lockdown would like to continue to do so in some capacity even when the pandemic was over.
Professor Alan Felstead based at Cardiff University and the Wales Institute of Social & Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD), said that the genie was now well and truly out of the bottle.
He said: “Our analysis suggests there will be a major shift away from the traditional workplace, even when social distancing is no longer a requirement.”
The implications of such a move mean industries that facilitate remote working such as IT support, cyber security and cloud technology could boom over the next few years.
Indeed, the growth of cloud computing is something Claire Bartlett has witnessed in recent years. Her company Arden Bookkeeping offers cloud-based accountancy and she thinks the pandemic will only see the use of the tech expand still further in a variety of sectors.
“I think now more than ever, business owners are looking for cloud-based solutions for their data as staff are all working remotely and the need for cloud stored data is imperative to this way of working.” She said.
While many employees say they are happy to be working away from an office building, the practicalities of not having access to any physical storage areas for paper files, or having all of the company’s digital assets stored on a central server that’s not remotely accessible beyond the office itself is a challenge.
That’s where the cloud comes in.
Bartlett added: “Not having everything stored and easily accessible online is a huge plus for the cloud-based market and therefore they will see huge growth during these next few months and years.”
Online E-learning Training and Courses
The closure of schools has had a significant impact as countries have grappled with lockdowns, and one industry which has come to the fore during that time is e-learning.
Although it had been gaining traction in recent years as many parents sought to supplement their children’s learning at home, the need for home schooling during the lockdown itself – as well as the resulting lag in attainment some children will inevitably encounter – has led to e-learning now being seen as a highly valuable tool for mainstream education.
A report by Technavio found that the market will grow by $492.66 million between 2020-2024.
And it’s not just in children’s education either, but with companies looking to mitigate the risk of having lots of employees in one place. E-learning will also continue to be a tried and trusted way to deliver corporate training courses.
The Freelance Lifestyle
Less of an industry and more a way of life, the freelance lifestyle could be set to benefit from the changing face of the workplace. Already adept at working remotely and often with their own equipment and software already to hand, companies looking to trim costs over the next two years will be relying heavily on a workforce they can employ on an ‘as needed’ basis.
Shib Mathew created freelance platform YunoJuno in 2012 during the last recession, matching top executives to FTSE 100 companies – like Google, BBC, Sky, WeWork, Virgin, Accenture, and Ogilvy.
According to his company’s own research which gathered qualitative data from over 6,000 clients, some areas have seen increases in day rates over the last few months while others have declined. These results provide some indication of which professions are in demand now, and which are less so.
Skills in demand included social media managers who are averaging £422 per day in the crisis (an increase of 27%) with project managers seeing their day rates up by 15% as companies ‘write blank cheques’ in order to get through the crisis.
Roles where day rates declined included:
- strategy (-24%),
- data (-19%),
- and market research freelance professionals.(-14%)
Mathew said: “The world was already moving freelance.”
“The way in which many professionals choose to work was already set to be very different in just a few years’ time, and almost unrecognisable in a few more, and the current pandemic has further compounded this.”
He feels the future of work belongs to both freelancers and hirers, with workers embracing the freedom and self-determination it can afford, while companies mindful of spending and the need to stay flexible are increasingly making them a central part of their teams.
“This unprecedented period has demonstrated what we have always known to be true here, that freelancers are fast becoming the single most valuable workforce in the labour market.” He added.
Health and Wellbeing
While the pandemic may have necessitated some systemic changes to the way we work which will see the expansion of new industries, there’s also the suggestion that some changes are more about desire, than necessity. Covid has prompted many people to re-examine their current careers, with an increase in introspection and desire for personal growth.
Meg Nunn is chief executive at the National Counselling Society and says she’s seen an increase in interest from people wanting a career in mental health provision.
She said: “Anecdotally, we’re hearing from the training providers that we work with that many of them have filled their courses where maybe they wouldn’t have before at a time where many people are cutting back on spending.” She said there’s a number of reasons for the increase, from more people suffering mental distress and requiring support, to the population simply becoming more mindful of their own mortality and wellbeing, causing them to embrace changes that they may previously have put off.”
Nunn continues: “The Royal family have been doing some major campaigns on it (mental health), and I see the Scottish Parliament particularly but also on occasion the UK Government in general do both highlight the importance of mental health in their debates and written questions.”
“So that will be making people more aware of how important it is to take care of themselves and each other.”
While the next two years are difficult to predict, it’s clear already that there are emerging trends around health and wellbeing, freelancing and all forms of tech that enable remote working and e-learning. Businesses that flourish in the new post Covid world will be the ones that take advantage of these growing trends, adapting their offering accordingly or evolving to service whole new markets.