COVID-19

The era of

the digital workplace

The Belgian economy was hit hard, which is having disastrous consequences for the labor market. Professor Stijn Baert, labor economics expert, also sees opportunities for companies moving into the digital workplace era.

“It is more important to prepare for the consequences of this crisis than to try and predict them,” explains professor Stijn Baert, labor economics expert and member of the Flemish relaunch committee. “If the government succeeds in keeping businesses in difficulty afloat by means of targeted investment, it will be possible to reduce the number of additional jobseekers. If less appropriate action is taken, for example by continuing the federal policy of distributing cheques, I fear heavier repercussions on unemployment rates. But in any case, this crisis is not going to be a gift to the labor market.” Reversal of roles in the labor market again “In the short and medium term, I suspect that the balance of power on the labor market will change to the disadvantage of employees. We came out of a period of scarcity on the labor market, with many vacancies and few jobseekers competing for them, which in turn strengthened the position of the employee. This will change so that the employee will be able to make far fewer demands than was previously the case.” Teleworking quickly increasing “Another important consequence of this eventful period is the place that teleworking will retain. Employees are usually very enthusiastic about it. It reduces their stress, improves their work/life balance, they’re more focused when working, etc. You can also see that many companies have made investments in a very short period of time that made this teleworking possible for a large group. Under other circumstances, this would have been dealt with gradually, spread over several years. Nevertheless, the fact that the crisis has accelerated this is a positive effect.”

PROFESSOR STIJN BAERT has been working full-time as a labor economist at Ghent University, since 2015. He is also a professor at the University of Antwerp, Université catholique de Louvain, the Global Labor Organization (GLO), IMISCOE and the Institute of Labor Economics (IZA). Stijn has a Master of Science in Computer Science Engineering in 2006, a Master of Science Economics in 2008 and a Doctor Economic Sciences in 2013.


“Reinventing yourself during your career will become the new normal, more so than currently is the case.”
Stijn Baert

Numerous advantages of teleworking “And let’s not forget the many other indirect benefits of teleworking. It requires less travel, which is better for the environment and can also reduce employers’ costs. There is also less office space to be provided, which also saves money. I think we are really entering the era of the digital workplace: being able to work without the restrictions of time and place thanks to the possibilities that technology offers us.” Retraining and education are becoming the new normal “A third, big change I see is the reality that we will have to reinvent ourselves. Retraining and education will become the new normal, more so than currently is the case. This requires a significant change in our working culture. Each year, Eurostat organizes a survey to find out how many employees have received training in the four weeks preceding the survey. The Belgian response rate is 8% positive; in the Scandinavian countries, it goes up to 20 and even 30%. These figures show how great the potential is.”

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