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COVID-19- what can be learned from the white/blue collar anxiety divide?

Over the past year, the pandemic has largely widened the blue and white-collar divide, with one of the most critical distinctions being the varying levels of anxiety that pertain to the different types of skilled and “non-skilled” employment that form the private sector.

Over the past year, the pandemic has largely widened the blue and white-collar divide, with one of the most critical distinctions being the varying levels of anxiety that pertain to the different types of skilled and “non-skilled” employment that form the private sector.

Across the last year of the pandemic, white-collar workers have reaped the benefits of working from home, enjoying a better work-life balance, less commute stress and lower living costs. This has not been a viable option for many blue-collar workers, with most having to continue going into their place of work, or not working at all. That said, working from home has come with its own unintended consequences, with research revealing that white-collar workers are now 30% more anxious than blue-collar workers the return to the office post-pandemic.

The national body of research* reveals the vertical split in how the UK workforce feels regarding our offices and cities re-opening. With over half (51%) anxious and concerned about the difficulties they will face when returning to the office permanently and resuming post-pandemic work. This worry is particularly prominent amongst AB workers, with 24% concerned about their future career prospects and ability to effectively network once back in the office. This is in comparison to only 17% of C2 workers, with many, such as those in the hospitality sectors, waiting for the reopening of offices to resume work. This data reveals that working from home continues to widen the blue and white-collar divide, with white-collar workers more anxious returning to work as the exit plan rolls out.

Anxiety surrounding the future prospects of work is also widespread amongst white-collar workers. COVID-19 has caused increased redundancies, left fewer job openings and provided less job security. This has left 51% of AB workers extremely anxious and concerned about their future at work post-pandemic. This is in comparison to only 43% of C2 workers.

Avalyn Kasahara, Membership Director at Future Strategy Club, comments on the blue and white-collar divide and shares her top tips for career progression over the next few months:

“Governments and private companies need to be conscious of the blue and white-collar divide that the pandemic is widening. All workers within the UK have been affected by the global pandemic in some way, but it is important that we recognise the current split that is occurring due to the pandemic and recognise its significance. And whilst businesses are considering their next steps, and the commitments they will make to their workers, individuals can begin to alleviate any return-to-work anxiety they may feel by putting their personal plans in place.

For example, set a networking strategy. Think about what you’d like to achieve through networking and then use this to consider where best you might be able to meet people who can support you in achieving those goals. Even before the pandemic, collectives of like-minded individuals were coming together around shared goals, passions and causes, and this has only developed further during 2020. Whether it is a specialism based collective focused on the breaking trends in your area, or a sustainability-based collective looking at best practices or, like FSC, a collective based around personal and career growth, there are a lot of options to be involved in.

Consider your current network and those that you have worked with that you admire. It could be worth reaching out to them personally to see whether you could set up a monthly mentorship session. This goes both ways, many senior leaders are looking to pick up their mentorship. Adding to that, make sure you’re utilising the digital tools available. Use LinkedIn to discover what people are doing, attend webinars, or reach out to someone for a virtual coffee.”

*Future Strategy Club

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