The Future of Work in the Caribbean

In early 2020, many of us transformed our dining room tables into office desks thinking that we would be ‘back to normal’ in a few weeks. However, as we draw closer to the end of the year, many non-essential workers are still working from home and experts are already predicting that post-pandemic jobs will be permanently altered by this period of our history. This isn’t exactly bad news, especially here in the Caribbean where remote work has the potential to help us make the most of our resources while building happier and more productive societies overall.

Despite the evidence that shows that remote work can improve productivity, employee satisfaction and retention, pre-pandemic, many employers were skeptical about adopting more flexible working arrangements for their teams. Now that our changing circumstances have forced us to embrace the working arrangements that data and research could not, we can and should use this moment to reshape our thinking on the modern workplace and how we evaluate the performance of today’s employees. For the Caribbean, in particular, this cultural reset presents us with the perfect opportunity to create new models of working to advance our sustainable development goals and prepare our people for the future. Here’s where I expect us to make an impact:

1. The Reskilling Revolution: The world was already on the path to a reskilling revolution before the events of this year accelerated our push drive towards digital transformation. The Caribbean has the potential to not only participate but lead in this area especially given the fact that some countries has been quick to respond to our changing environment by spearheading initiatives to help our workforce reskill, upskill and become active participants in the new normal. The extent to which we can embrace the revolution will greatly influence our recovery post-2020 and our long term goals for sustainable development.

2. Recalibrating our Traditional Industries: What might the tourism industry look like in March 2021? What about services? Whatever the answer is, I can assure you that it will be nothing like what existed before everything changed in March of this year. And yet, countries like Barbados, Anguilla and Bermuda are already making news for their ingenious approach to attracting visitors by offering visas to remote workers. Similarly, dine-in restaurants are hard hit but online food delivery and ordering platforms are positively booming under the conditions of the new normal. These small glimpses into the future suggest that while many of our industries may be down, they are not out. They are examples of how we can use our creativity and innovative spirit to find new and more resilient ways of working.

3. Unparalleled Collaboration: Over the past few months I have had the pleasure of witnessing the complete redefinition of what it means to be collaborative and efficient. I have watched our teams use the digital tools at our disposal to support our customers through one of the most difficult years we have known while safeguarding their health and safety. I have worked with them to brainstorm and refine complex ideas without meeting face to face. And last month, the entire Republic Group collaborated with the OECS to host the Sustainable Development Movement Summit which was completely virtual and drew an audience from around the world. None of this would have been possible without collaborative technology. Whether your platform of choice is Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Docs technology enabled collaboration is the future, and will go a long way towards bridging the gaps across the region.

The future of work in the Caribbean is changing and for the better. Much of our workforce – whether they work in a major conglomerate or run a small family business – have adapted in ways that will do more than help them survive the current moment. They have adapted to make their businesses more digitally enabled, more resilient and more creative. In the long term, these are the kinds of changes that will help us drive growth, innovation and personal development across the region and usher in a brighter and more sustainable future for all.

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