Finger on the pulse: how COVID-19 is changing the way we work

By Darren Wisher | September 30, 2020

In direct response to COVID-19, cities and regions across the globe shut down earlier this year in a bid to stop the spread of the virus. Uncertainty prevailed as governments, businesses, and individuals were forced to change and adapt to new ways of working, having to quickly pivot on long-established strategies and business plans in order to respond to a new and evolving landscape.

To better understand the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hatch conducted a Pulse Survey with some of our closest clients to see how organizations, regions, and sectors are responding to this pandemic. Our survey uncovers how different organizations across the UK, US, Canada, and South Africa have responded and starts to identify and share early innovations as they emerge, which we share in our summary findings. The survey also sought to hear views on the future: namely what the recovery path might look like and how organizations adjust what they do to respond.

As the organizations we surveyed reflect on their initial response to COVID and start to consider their future plans, our research revealed three distinct emerging themes: impact, response, and recalibration.


The overall sentiment that emerged suggests that while the impact of this pandemic has been deep, there is reason to be optimistic about a post-COVID-19 world. This is seen not only in the short-term in how organizations first adapted but also the longer-term view.

Nearly 70% of those surveyed said COVID had had a reasonably significant or significant impact on operations within the first few months. However, after this period of adjustment, most were able to continue their operations, although this was largely dependent on the sector and type of job. A quarter of organizations surveyed said there would need to be a “very significant adjustment” to their longer-term ambitions, and most of these were public sector organizations, including municipal governments and transit agencies. Positively, none of the organizations surveyed feared going out of business.


Our research has shown that the sudden nature of the pandemic provided the catalyst for many organizations to adopt, develop, and invest in new digital systems as their workforces quickly shifted to remote working.

Digital technologies have become ubiquitous across organizations and are empowering employees to make faster, better decisions. Improvements to productivity have been seen through new workflows and by upskilling employees. Organizations worldwide recognize this positive shift in organizational culture, noting there is greater trust amongst teams and companies.


Despite the challenges faced, there is optimism for the future. Many organizations noted that their longer-term ambitions were unchanged, but that the path to success may look different from pre-COVID times.

Referring to previous global crises, specifically 9/11 and the 2008 Financial Crisis, many organizations reflected on how they previously overcame challenges to become stronger in the long term. Similarly, while immediate challenges remain, with an increased focus on business sustainability and resiliency most organizations have an optimistic view of the future. COVID has brought a number of social inequalities to the forefront. In response, our respondents feel that building a more inclusive society, with a focus on recovery through the lens of equity and equality, is also key.

As we embed this new normal and plan for business post-COVID, we expect these workplace shifts to catalyze further, more lasting changes across the urban environment. The knock-on effect of such fundamental shifts in work patterns will have potentially huge impacts on urban spaces and usage in the months and years ahead. Our research is already noting this change. Already we are seeing a significant impact on land uses and placemaking, transit and commuting, consumer spending patterns, and the location of retail and hospitality services. We will continue to monitor these emerging trends for months and years to come.

For a more in-depth analysis of our survey, please download our report or refer here for a results summary or contact Darren Wisher, Global Director, Urban Solutions.