‘Business as unusual’: How COVID-19 could change the future of work

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Working from the office could become a relic of the past in the post-COVID-19 world.

Millions of people around the world have been working remotely due to the coronavirus pandemic and now experts are asking whether this “business as unusual” could be the future of work, at least for those people whose job doesn’t require them to be tied to a particular location.

UN News spoke to Susan Hayter, a Senior Technical Adviser on the Future of Work at the Geneva-based International Labour Organization, about how COVID-19 could change our working lives.

A few large companies have said employees need not commute to work again Susan Hayter, Senior Technical Adviser on the Future of Work, ILO

What are the longer-term effects of the pandemic on the workplace in developed countries, once the immediate crisis is over?

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As coronavirus forces millions to work remotely, the US economy may have reached a ‘tipping point’ in favor of working from home

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Companies are enabling remote work to keep business running while helping employees follow social distancing guidelines.

A typical company saves about $11,000 per half-time telecommuter per year, according to Global Workplace Analytics.

As companies adapt to their remote work structures, the coronavirus pandemic is having a lasting impact on how work is conducted.

With the U.S. government declaring a state of emergency due to the coronavirus, companies are enabling work-from-home structures to keep business running and help employees follow social distancing guidelines. However, working remotely has been on the rise for a while.

“The coronavirus is going to be a tipping point. We plodded along at about 10% growth a year for the last 10 years, but I foresee that this is going to really accelerate the trend,” Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, told CNBC.

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The average worker spends 51 percent of each workday on these 3 unnecessary tasks

 

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Fortunately, there are several ways to minimize these tasks or eliminate them from your company.

There are thousands of books on time management, and thousands more on work/life balance, but almost all of them either nibble around the edge of the problems or pretend they don’t exist. So, here’s the straight skinny: The reason most people are stressed for time is that they are wasting more than half of each working day on time-wasting tasks.

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The fastest growing commute is no commute at all

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A growing number of commuters have found that the fastest way to between Point A and Point B is if Point A is Point B.

More than 1 in 20 Americans now usually work from home, new 2018 data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows. Telework has recently overtaken public transit as the third-most-popular commuting method in the country.

It remains nowhere near the most popular American commute, however. Three in 4 workers, or more than 111 million people, still drive alone to the office or factory each day.

Carpooling comes in second, well above working from home. The share of Americans who carpool has lost ground since the Great Recession, though it remains far more popular than other methods, such as walking, biking or taking a cab.

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How 5G will reinvent “working from home”

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It’s 10:00 am. Do you know where your employee is? No doubt they are working—somewhere.

Thanks to greatly improved internet connectivity and workforce applications, employees in an increasing number of professions can work just about anywhere they want—in their home, at a coffee shop, on a plane. And chances are they’re more productive and more engaged than they would be if they were in the office. They may even be planning to stay in their job longer because of their flexible work location. In 2017, Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom, in a TED Talk, went so far as to call work-from-home potentially as innovative as the driverless car.

Now, work-from-home is itself about to be disrupted, by the coming of 5G and its ability to enable virtual reality (VR) anywhere through what’s known as XR, the combination of extended, augmented, virtual, and mixed reality technologies. Fifth-generation (5G) communications networks, with their exponentially faster connection speeds, capacity, and communication response times (known as latency), will make possible an astonishing range of innovative new products and services.

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Remote jobs are exploding and salaries can top $100,000

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The lure of remote work is obvious. You can save on the costs of a formal work wardrobe, lunches out and commuting.

Until now, you might have been limited in your choice of jobs. That’s changing. Some fields had an increase of more than 50% in remote jobs in the past year, according to FlexJobs.

More than 4 million employees — slightly more than 3% of the U.S. workforce — work from home at least half the time, according to Global Workplace Analytics, a telecommuting research site.

Certain careers offer more remote jobs than others. FlexJobs found that seven fields had high rates — more than 50% — of remote career opportunities over the last year.

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Was the telecommuting craze a failed experiment?

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Remember the time Marissa Mayer banned telecommuting at Yahoo and started a media firestorm? Some thought she’d flipped her lid. Others said she’d made a grave mistake that would kill morale. Well, she hadn’t and it didn’t. That was one of the few things she did right in her ill-fated attempt to turn around the hapless internet portal.

While the former Googler didn’t intend to start a trend, she did. HP followed suit a few months later. Then came Best Buy, Bank of America, Aetna and others.

Last week, IBM gave thousands of virtual workers an ultimatum: either show up in the office, or go work somewhere else. Considering that Big Blue pioneered the “anytime, anywhere workforce” decades ago, that sort of closes the books on what has turned out to be yet another overhyped management fad.

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Top 6 best websites for finding remote work for web professionals

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Remote work for web professionals is a viable career option.

The choice to work from home or any place where there’s an Internet connection is a viable career option for web professionals. If you’re looking to make the leap into telecommuting, a great place to start would be the following top-notch job boards that allow you to discover remote Web development work opportunities.

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Setting the Record Straight on Telecommuting

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Sylvia Marino, 39, with her son Harry, 7, in Mill Valley, Calif. She telecommutes
at Edmunds.com, which is based in Santa Monica, 350 miles away

I’M executive director of community operations at Edmunds.com, which provides information to car buyers, sellers and drivers. I lead the team that develops systems and policies for anyone submitting comments, reviews and questions to the site. My team also works with engineering to decide how parts of the site should appear to users — the forums, the car and dealership reviews, blogs and the question-and-answer area.
I’ve been telecommuting since I started with this company over 10 years ago. Going from reporting to an office before I joined Edmunds to working at home has been an evolution. I started in the financial services industry and wore a suit and heels every day. When I moved to the software industry, I wore jeans and flip-flops to work and brought my dog along with me. If she barked once in a while, it was no big deal.
I still get up, shower and get dressed in the morning as if I’m going to work. It’s important to have structure and routine. I also don’t like the thought of neighbors or the FedEx person seeing me in pajamas when I get the mail or a delivery. Now, if I’m on a conference call and my dog barks, I apologize, lead her out of my office and shut the door.
My children are 4, 7, and 9. I learned early not to tell anyone at their schools that I work at home, because some people think you can take time off at will. This way, no one can expect I will automatically chaperon field trips or take traffic duty at school in the morning. I do volunteer at the school as my schedule permits — just as other working parents do.
My children know that Mommy is working when they come home from school. They come to the office door to say hello — the way parents get phone calls at the office when their kids get home from school. When I have my headset on, they know I’m on the phone. On the rare occasions when they really need me, they’ll mouth a question or use pantomime to communicate. Sometimes they try so hard to make me understand what they want that it’s hard to keep from laughing.
I couldn’t imagine working in an office again. I joke that I’d be unemployable if I had to show up at the office on a daily basis. I like visiting our office and catching up with colleagues. But when I’m there I have a list of things I need to discuss with people, and I get right to the heart of it. I’m sure that I come across as intense to people who haven’t known me that long, but I typically have a long list of items. My goal is to maximize my in-office time.
I like the peace and quiet at home and the ability to work uninterrupted. I always found the conversations in the office distracting. I multitask well and get more done in several hours at home than I ever did over several days in the office. Sometimes I glance at the clock and four hours have gone by.
Some telecommuters say it gets lonely, but I’d say a bigger problem for most of this group is feeling that they always have to be available. If I call people at the office and the phone goes to voice mail, I figure that they’ve stepped away from their desk for a minute or are in a meeting. But if someone calls me, I feel that I’m expected to pick up the phone within three rings — no matter what time of day or night.
People think that I’m always at my desk. But I have conference calls and meetings, just as my colleagues in the office do, and I get up to get coffee or grab lunch, too. I don’t ever want to be perceived as holding up people’s work because they can’t reach me, so I make sure to get back to everyone as soon as I can.
There was a day when people thought you had all kinds of free time if you worked from home. There’s still some of that stigma, but the remote workers I know have strict accountability. None of us would last long if we weren’t really working when we were supposed to.
Some telecommuters say office workers complain about a communication problem with remote workers. I say that’s an excuse. The real problem for people in the office is that they can’t get up and walk over to your desk. But there’s no reason they can’t pick up the phone or send an instant message.
EDMUNDS has a telecommuting policy. People know what’s required and what to expect, and it helps them figure out if they’re good candidates for a role that lets them work from home. If they need a lot of direction, they probably won’t do well.
Successful telecommuters are self-starters and can manage their time. Many, like me, are list-oriented. If you thrive on working face to face with colleagues, you’ll do better in the office.
It’s hard to believe, but some people still don’t understand telecommuting. For example, I shop online a lot because it saves time, and some of my relatives know that. I’m constantly online for my job, too, and I think one of them is confused. He once said he thought I didn’t really work but spent my days chatting and shopping online.
It would be nice to be paid to shop all day, but I’m not that lucky.

SYLVIA MARINO:  I’M executive director of community operations at Edmunds.com, which provides information to car buyers, sellers and drivers. I’ve been telecommuting since I started with this company over 10 years ago.  I lead the team that develops systems and policies for anyone submitting comments, reviews and questions to the site. My team also works with engineering to decide how parts of the site should appear to users — the forums, the car and dealership reviews, blogs and the question-and-answer area.

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