What will the future of work in Latin America look like post-pandemic?
Towards the end of 2020, less than 5% of companies with operations in Latin America said they plan on returning to the office within the next year. What makes the statistics shocking, however, is that they are collected from many different sectors. While you might expect tech companies in the region to continue working remotely this year, it’s surprising that the education, energy, finance, marketing, and marketing sectors share the same vision. In this Pacific Prime Latin America article, we discuss what the future of work in Latin America will look like post-pandemic.
Post-pandemic work in Latin America: The new normal
HR managers from a wide range of industries have had to quickly embrace new technologies to keep up with the changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of the industry, managers appear to be welcoming digitalization with open arms. The Latin American region is likely to work towards innovation, digital transformation, and technology adoption at a rapid pace, though implementation is likely to be unbalanced.
Even though most respondents expressed their willingness to adopt Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies in 2021, a UNDP report from 2020 found that only 20% of workers in Latin America can actually work remotely. At the same time, the normalization of said technologies is making it easier for businesses of all shapes and sizes to move their operations from physical to digital. On top of that, the pressure from the ongoing pandemic seems to be accelerating the adoption rate.
In Latin America, HR managers from various industries are getting ready to see the pandemic through and are planning for whatever crisis comes next. Here are some things you can expect from the workforce in Latin America once the pandemic is over.
More flexibility and less human contact
It’s normal for business communication in Latin America to take place face to face. As a matter of fact, some countries in the region even find it rude to make business deals or agreements with a person that they have not shared at least a coffee or meal with. This custom makes it easy to see why most (86%) HR managers in the region did not feel prepared for the current crisis.
Since the novel coronavirus made its way through the region in March 2020, businesses and their workforces have had to adapt to new ways of communicating and reaching agreements. In fact, all companies surveyed had to implement new software since the pandemic started, with two-thirds of them using video-calling software to communicate with their remote teams.
Aside from video-calling software like Zoom, many businesses have also adopted software to monitor remote work. With the majority (55%) of companies in Latin America adopting alternate work schedules, the new normal for work in the region seems to be more flexible and requires less human contact than prior to the pandemic.
Innovative technology isn’t going anywhere
45% of the companies surveyed plan to add AI to their operations in 2021 while 35% expressed the same about robotics. Companies across Latin America are finding ways to automate tasks so their employees can focus on more intellectual and creative labor. Even though there is concern about AI replacing humans, over 90% of companies believe that technology will be used to leverage human capacities instead of a means to scale back on employees.
With that said, the integration of cutting-edge technologies such as AI does come with controversy and difficulties. For instance, how AI will support the working class remains vague. Fewer than half of the companies surveyed said they are prepared for the digital era, which likely means smaller businesses are probably even less ready.
The transition towards the digital age may be happening quicker than we imagined, but businesses operating in the region have to deal with the challenges of shifting away from face-to-face operations. The pandemic has been a wake-up call for HR to recognize the need for change in how employees communicate, as well as receive benefits and training. The good news is that many organizations are embracing the changes and investing in these technologies.
More employee benefits
Most Latin American businesses recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic poses threats to their workforces’ physical and mental health. Consequently, almost two-thirds of HR departments have increased employee benefits, including more health benefits, funding for home office furniture, and training opportunities. Some companies have even introduced full remote work policies, following the likes of Twitter.
Even though these changes are imminent, they are especially innovative in a region where employers are legally required to provide certain employee benefits and usually do not offer much else. However, the increasingly competitive landscape and growing risk for employees has encouraged companies to look for new ways to retain their employees and keep them safe.
The new benefits in response to the pandemic were mostly privately developed, or independent of policy change. While some companies were already providing more advanced employee benefits, such as flexible work hours and stock options, the pandemic is encouraging more traditional companies to do the same.
Although the evolution of these changes will not be evident until all workers can return to the office, the fact that the systems are in place, and employers are getting ready for new crises, means that the future of work in Latin America looks digitally savvy, innovative, and adaptable enough to handle whatever comes next.
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