The Nature of Work

August 28, 2020 • Volume 30, Issue 30
Will the pandemic permanently alter the workplace?
By Susan Ladika


The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the world of work, accelerating trends that have been percolating for years, such as remote work and increased use of automation and artificial intelligence. As offices and workplaces closed due to the pandemic this spring, working from home became the new normal for many white-collar workers. Some employers have said remote work will be a big part of the future for their employees. Others, such as those working at grocery stores, meatpacking plants or Amazon warehouses, are considered essential workers and continue to go into workplaces, often at considerable risk, although many companies have implemented measures aimed at keeping them safe. However, the pandemic has left millions of Americans unemployed, especially those in occupations that do not accommodate remote work or whose companies cut staff or went out of business. After peaking at a modern high of 14.7 percent in April, the unemployment rate has gradually declined. But it is unclear when — or if — all of those who have lost their jobs will find new ones.

Photo of an empty bar on normally crowded Bourbon Street in New Orleans. (Getty Images/Chris Graythen)
On normally crowded Bourbon Street in New Orleans, a bar sits empty in March. Restaurant and bar workers were especially hard-hit by the shutdowns caused by the coronavirus, which led to massive job losses. (Getty Images/Chris Graythen)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Jobs and Skills
Feb. 04, 2022  The New Labor Market
Sep. 17, 2021  Career Change
Aug. 28, 2020  The Nature of Work
Sep. 21, 2018  Labor Shortage Debate
Mar. 30, 2018  U.S. Trade Policy
Oct. 04, 2013  Worker Safety
Mar. 02, 2012  Attracting Jobs
Jul. 22, 2011  Reviving Manufacturing
Jun. 04, 2010  Jobs Outlook
Feb. 20, 2004  Exporting Jobs
Jan. 11, 2002  Future Job Market
Apr. 24, 1998  High-Tech Labor Shortage
Oct. 24, 1997  Contingent Work Force
Feb. 28, 1992  Jobs in the '90s
Jun. 27, 1986  America's Service Economy
Jul. 22, 1983  Technology and Employment
Dec. 10, 1969  Jobs for the Future
Jun. 21, 1967  World Competition for Skilled Labor
Sep. 03, 1965  Shortage of Skills
Oct. 31, 1962  Retraining for New Jobs
Nov. 28, 1956  Shortage of Critical Skills
Congress Actions
Consumer Protection and Product Liability
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
General Employment and Labor
Infectious Diseases
Unemployment and Employment Programs
Work and the Family
Workplace Safety and Worker's Compensation