10 Mar 2021 19:18 IST

Digital skills and gig work: What the pandemic brought on

How work and workforce has changed because of the Covid-19 pandemic

Apart from growing gardens and baking bread, the pandemic brought on a lot of significant, life-altering changes. Especially in the area of work. The Deloitte report titled, “Future of Work accelerated: Learnings from the Covid-19 Pandemic” speaks of three dimensions of work, which I think is important to list out. We have ‘work’ (what can be automated), ‘workforce’ (who can do the work), and ‘workplace’ (where is the work done). All three dimensions faced turbulent changes.

In the first column, I spoke about the workplace dimension, and how companies are considering moving into a more hybrid form of work and leveraging virtual systems that make such collaborations conducive. Effort was put into minimising the dependence on physical assets of not just space, but also equipment, IT infrastructure, and so on.

But let’s focus for a bit on ‘work’ and ‘workforce’. What we do and who does it.

What can be automated

While technological advancements in the spaces of automation and virtualisation have been going on for years now, the pandemic made them the need of the hour. Businesses started investing in skills that make their employees savvy in the digital world. From signing and sharing contracts digitally to setting up all lead management and making sales virtually to having large project management systems built online — we’ve had to come a long way in the span of 6-12 months.

This shows that some of the top-most companies (print media houses, automotive companies, eye care businesses) — that were as traditional as they get — are disrupting their pre-existing systems and are now open to adopting new processes. If these companies are up for it, how much more would start-ups and younger companies be looking for these skills. Which is why, for young people entering the job market right now, it is imperative to be well-versed in these new-age skills. They are in-demand and those skilled in them are in demand too. Pen and paper just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Who can do the work

Let’s move to the workforce. With companies having to lay-off several people from their organisations, they started thinking about alternative workforces and making the most out of the gig economy. The Deloitte report gives the example of one of India’s largest media houses that decided to leverage freelancers for their content roles, and move to a larger proportion of crowdsourced content.

Things like design, product development, project management, content creation, lead generation and so on, all now have the capacity to move onto virtual systems seamlessly and be run remotely.

Grasping digital skills and opening up to gig workers seem to be two big trends that surfaced in India during the pandemic, and now seem to be stabilising. These are exciting times as freelancers now make their way into the corporate world while continuing to have a stronghold in start-ups and other creative industries.