The World Health Organization recently announced that COVID-19 is no longer a global emergency. However, the impact of the pandemic has left a lasting mark on all industries. Businesses struggled to pivot their operations to keep up and had to adapt to the new realities, such as moving towards remote work. As a result, we’ve had to rethink the future of work after COVID-19.

The pandemic showed us the importance of technology and the need for cities to reinvent themselves. Smart cities help urban centers retain talent and prepare for future challenges and crises, which is why, for many forward-thinking entrepreneurs, finding sustainable-minded urbanizations paving the way in creating the future of work after COVID-19 is crucial.

Download: Rethinking Smart Cities After COVID-19

This blog post will discuss the importance of creating a more sustainable and resilient future of work in a post-pandemic world and explore how seven of the most sustainable cities in the world are adapting to the new realities as they strive to create a more equitable future of work.

The future of work after COVID-19: The “new normal”

The world of work evolves constantly. With trends like digitization, cities need to focus on digital infrastructure to improve the quality of life while retaining talent. At the same time, businesses must think ahead and adapt to these constant changes.

The future of work after COVID-19 involves understanding how work will transform and how the workforce and workplace can comply with these changes. The “new normal” has increased demand for flexible work, job satisfaction, and work-life balance, shaped by Gen Z and accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic and the environmental crisis.


The ESG benefits of the new normal

The future of work, also known as smart work, has many advantages, such as a smaller carbon footprint resulting from fewer commutes and less waste. A remote worker can save 3.2 metric tons of carbon emissions and 1422,93 liters of gasoline annually.

Additionally, work-life balance improves with fewer commutes to the office, leading to lower stress levels, stronger family bonds, healthier lifestyles, reduced traffic congestion, and better job satisfaction.

According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute, the pandemic accelerated three broad trends – remote work, e-commerce, and automation – with up to 25% more workers than previously estimated potentially needing to switch occupations.

Related: Artificial Intelligence & Automation in The Post COVID-19 EraRemote work: After the number of COVID-19 cases stabilized, companies had three choices: Continue remote working, initiate a hybrid-work policy, or enact a back-to-the-office policy. Although virtual meetings and working from home will likely continue, it’s expected to be less intense than during the pandemic’s peak.E-commerce is on the rise. It’s growing at two to five times the pre-pandemic rate. Consequently, the digital commerce industry has advanced in delivery, transportation, and warehousing.COVID-19 accelerated the adoption of digital technology, particularly automation, and Artificial Intelligence. Many companies have used these technologies to control costs more effectively and make better-informed decisions.

The seven most sustainable cities creating a better workplace after COVID-19

The pandemic taught us that sustainability is vital for creating resilient, self-sufficient workplaces that adapt to changing environments and adopt innovative strategies.

After COVID-19, workers and employers realized the importance of digitalization, workplace flexibility, and mental health, which is why some of the most thriving cities in the world have taken proactive steps to integrate sustainable practices – like remote work, telemedicine, or four-day weeks that will help not only the country but also the well-being of its citizens.


Reykjavík, Iceland

Reykjavík is working towards making cheaper renewable energy. A staggering 99% of electricity production in this Icelandic city is powered by hydropower and geothermal power. Not only is this combination more affordable and more eco-friendly than fossil fuels, but it’s also more reliable.

The city is also home to the Orca plant – the world’s biggest carbon-removal plant, which removes carbon dioxide from the air.

The city’s success is because the country prioritizes its citizens’ well-being, focusing on three main areas: advancements toward flexible work schedules, gender equality, and social welfare programs.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Denmark’s capital is one of the leading green cities in Europe. Since 1995, the city has reduced carbon emissions by 50% and is on track to become the first major carbon-neutral city.

Copenhagen has launched multiple initiatives combining technology and sustainability to create a healthier environment. One is Copenhill, an energy plant that transforms waste into energy.

Additionally, Copenhagen is rapidly moving towards digitalization in healthcare, both in treatment options and data collection. After the outbreak of COVID-19, the Danish Health Data Authority led the way in providing digital solutions for the new era of healthcare with new innovative technologies, automated processes, and an empowered workforce.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands

The city’s leading initiatives focus on reducing air pollution and waste management through electric vehicle policies, intelligent grids, and energy efficiency programs. Amsterdam has installed sensor-based smart meters in buildings, allowing residents to monitor their energy consumption in real-time. Public facilities also have sensors to avoid energy waste, paving the way toward a sustainable future.

Although Amsterdam doesn’t only worry about the natural environment, since the pandemic, one of the city’s primary focuses is its residents’ well-being. COVID-19 taught us the importance of mental health, which is why health insurance has to cover all or part of the costs of mental health care.

Additionally, many workplaces in Amsterdam have a company doctor or welfare support that people can visit when seeking professional help.

Stockholm, Sweden

The Swedish capital runs almost entirely on renewable resources, with very little going to landfills. But its distinguishing feature is the highest number of certified eco-hotels. By supporting ecotourism and attracting more discerning customers who want to travel more responsibly, we use our eco status to generate higher tourism revenues.

The pandemic highlighted Sweden’s skill shortage for automation in specific sectors, affecting the transition toward digitalization. According to Sweden’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan, the country’s primary focuses are: better employment opportunities for the unemployed and workforce training to facilitate adaptation to a digital society.

London, England

London sets the pace in multiple areas. It’s renowned for using hybrid double-decker buses and pioneering the world’s first hydrogen-powered buses. It’s also recognized globally for its leadership in green finance, including carbon trading, green bonds, and venture capital investment, and is second only to Silicon Valley for cleantech IPOs.

England’s capital is the heart of many companies involved in the four-day week trial that studies the impact of working fewer hours on businesses’ productivity, the well-being of their workers, and the effect on the environment and gender equality.

The UK fosters some of the world’s brightest entrepreneurs and corporations, setting the benchmark for innovation on the global stage; Plug and Play UK supports leading corporations and startups in crafting and exploring innovation ecosystems domestically and abroad.


Stuttgart, Germany

Stuttgart is among Germany’s greenest cities and a leader in transportation innovation; In 2022, the city was named Germany’s most sustainable large-scale city. Whether it’s the cargo-bike capital title or the significant rail expansion works in southern Germany, Stuttgart boasts an impressive commitment to sustainable living.

During the pandemic, we all saw the importance of innovation and proactivity, and when it was over, sustainability became a competitive advantage for the next decades. One of the city’s focuses for the future of work is shaping its innovation ecosystem and investing heavily in new green technologies.

Stuttgart fosters the Startup Autobahn, the ultimate innovation platform that unites young global tech companies with the unrivaled tech expertise of Silicon Valley and the best of German engineering.


Singapore, Singapore

Singapore is a rapidly expanding city with a high population density that relies on adaptable architecture to use space best. The city incorporates nature into its design through green roofs, vertical gardens, and plant-filled walls. One impressive example is the Marina Bay Supertrees, which act as solar power generators, rainwater collectors, air venting ducts, and vertical conservatory gardens.

Regarding the future of work, the city will continue adopting new technologies to transition toward smart growth. However, employees must embrace change through training and continuous learning to remain relevant and add value to the organization. Initial education is limited before knowledge becomes unnecessary.

What role does sustainability play in the future of work?

The future of work and sustainability are intricately connected, and their relationship is critical for individuals, organizations, and societies. The future of work is the evolution of how work is done, the technologies used, the skills required, and the workforce’s composition. Sustainability is the ability to meet daily needs without compromising future generations to meet theirs, involving protecting the environment, fostering social justice and equity, and promoting economic prosperity.

The future of work after COVID-19 is crucial in promoting sustainable practices and shaping the systems, processes, and behaviors needed to achieve a sustainable economy and society.

COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of innovative technologies and a commitment to sustainable practices, including a shift towards renewable energy, sustainable transportation, and eco-friendly products-changes that will create opportunities for sustainable economic growth.

One of the critical elements of sustainability in the workplace is technology. Automation, AI, and digital platforms can improve efficiency and enable new business models. Many cities worldwide are paving the way for a more sustainable future of work by adopting innovative sustainability initiatives, from promoting circular economy principles and renewable energy, to reducing air pollution and water waste.

The future of work after COVID-19

The future of work requires us to embrace sustainability initiatives and take a holistic approach that involves investing in green technology, sustainable building practices, efficient transportation systems, and renewable energy sources. Taking up these initiatives will help us create resilient and adaptive workplaces needed to handle any challenges we may face.

Plug and Play Tech Center empowers cities worldwide to partner with businesses and startups to become more sustainable and prosperous. Our innovation platform continues to research and develop intelligent solutions to tackle global sustainability challenges for the cities of the future.

Plug And Play Tech Center

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