When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the Philippines beginning in the first quarter of 2020, among the most affected members of society were the workers. Early on, non-essential industries were forced to shut down under the highest levels of community quarantine. Those employed in these industries had to survive on what they had saved up, subsist on government aid, or find alternative sources of income.

Gradually, the economy opened up again to where it stands today. The landscape is quite different from before, however. Loss of jobs, permanent closure of businesses, and other economic challenges continue to make things difficult for employers, employees, entrepreneurs, and others involved in the operation of every industry.

But with the bad comes some good. Not every development over the past year has been negative, and steps can be taken so that nothing in store for this year will be more of the same. Those steps rely very much on having the proper expectations, and here are the major developments the Filipino worker can look forward to (and participate in) for 2021.

Opportunities will close, but others will open in turn.

Part of what made the COVID-19 pandemic so difficult is that some industries slowed down, or even stopped existing entirely. In general, non-essential industries were forced to deal with the reality that society had no need for goods and services that did not strongly contribute to safety, health, and sustainability.

Organizations in these industries limited their operations, became smaller, or shut down for good. This also resulted in retrenchment in many cases. Workers found themselves out of jobs because their employers could no longer support the same number of employees as before, or had partially or permanently ceased operating altogether.

However, other industries will expand and gain a greater role, particularly ones involved in healthcare, safety, and innovative commerce. They may be existing sectors or emerging ones, and they will need capable professionals to accomplish their goals.

It’s important to keep in mind that apart from technical, highly-specialized, or industry-specific positions, these growing industries will need the same types of roles as industries that are lying low and cutting costs. This is how new employment opportunities will be generated moving forward, so Filipino workers must brush up on their career-seeking skills and embrace the idea of finding a new job if their employers decide to let them go.

Working arrangement innovations will continue to emerge.

Quarantine protocols changed the way professionals report to work. The need for safety emphasized the importance of keeping a safe distance from each other, and that required either modifying the existing workspace or allowing employees to work from home. In many cases, the first option was more costly than the second, and wherever possible organizations opted to implement remote working arrangements instead.

And so, for the first time since the advent of virtual workplace technology, majority of industries collectively turned to the work-from-home solution. Where before it was just an idea on the table or sparingly implemented, it became standard operating procedure. For some, it even happened practically overnight.

As such, digital productivity tools began to be skewed towards making remote working easier and more efficient. Video conferencing technology, which had already existed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, was only the tip of the iceberg. Timekeeping tools, task and project management platforms, and collaboration apps were also already here even before the pandemic, but they came into greater prominence within the past six months.

It’s safe to assume that the trend of increased remote productivity will drive even more innovations to various workplace routines and processes. The working Filipino will be seeing new platforms emerge even as existing ones continue to evolve. Tools will incorporate greater accessibility, connectivity, and functionality as remote working becomes the norm. The range of results that professionals can achieve digitally will drastically widen, as the natural forward march of technology is accelerated out of necessity. And it’s up to the working Filipino to keep up with these developments, in the interest of taking advantage of the flexibility and productivity they bring.

The remote transactions race will speed up.

Remote transacting proved its worth over the past year more than any other year. It has become almost a necessity as more and more businesses and public service providers adopt e-transaction platforms to help promote staying at home as well as physical distancing.

The increased use of remote transacting in 2020 was an important proof of concept. It proved that the Philippine economy can modernize and digitize a wide range of transactions while avoiding significant risks and interruption to economic activities. The impact is clear: remote transactions are now an integral part of society’s activities, and they will be here to stay.

Innovators now look to build on this foundation with advances in remote transactions technology. Possible improvements may include greater accessibility at any income level, given that the power to purchase the gadgets and other tools used in remote transacting will reflect differences in economic or financial standing. Since developers already know the technology works on the scale it has been implemented in for the past year, they may also be able to focus on improving user-friendliness and diversity of functions.

And of course, legal mechanisms for regulation and client protection will continue to develop in response to the needs of remote transaction platform and process users. Any technology will always come with potential for abuses, and policies with corresponding measures against things like fraud will be important to encourage users to continue utilizing e-transaction technology.

Whether as part of the developer community, as government employees involved in policy-making, or as front-end e-transaction users with valuable feedback, the working Filipino can expect to play a great role in the speeding up of the remote transactions race. They will also need to educate themselves regarding any new technological solutions and relevant policies and legislations.

Remote access to learning and growth resources will improve.

With each passing year, the importance of growth and development becomes more pronounced. Greater knowledge and sharper skills can lead to more rewarding opportunities, better compensation, and higher capability to make a wider and more lasting impact through one’s actions.

Following this point of view, it can be stated that learning and upskilling enable working Filipinos the means to make a difference, for their careers and for the industries they belong to. This is directly beneficial to society: in times of economic crisis, workers need to step up as a united sector and maximize their knowledge and skills to create solutions. And as their knowledge and skill bases are improved, their capability to create solutions also improves.

Educational and informative content creators have an important role to play here. With the increased need for the Filipino worker to learn and upskill in order to contribute to society’s holistic recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, content creators will be encouraged to expand their reach through digital platforms.

They also have the opportunity to increase, diversify, specialize, and deepen the range of materials and subject matters they offer through technology. Collaboration with other content creators and subject matter experts, whether in the same or in other fields, is easier through the same digital workplace technology that aids employees with their remote working assignments.

Thus, the working Filipino will have greater access to a wider variety of content that will help hone their knowledge and skills into potent tools for rebuilding and reengineering the nation.

The surprising reality is that a lot of these positive changes and developments will actually happen because of the negative ones. The challenges of the pandemic pose hurdles to overcome in order for people to survive, and human tenacity and ingenuity drive everyone to step up and do whatever is necessary to stay above the water.

No one is asking for more bad news, of course, but the point is that obstacles should be met with a productive attitude when they do come. Identifying downfalls that can be turned into opportunities for growth and progress is an essential skill for the working Filipino to use, today and in the coming years. And this gets easier through having a solid idea of what to expect.

Graphic elements by vectorjuice via freepik.com