Has teleworking come to stay? How the coronavirus can change the future of work

1 June 2020
Economic Affairs

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an unintended telecommuting boom for millions of people. The spectacular growth of this trend makes experts wonder if we have before us a revolution that could have repercussions in the immediate future of workers, or, at least, in that of those people whose work does not need to be tied to a specific physical location .

To try to find an answer to this question, UN News spoke with Susan Hayter, technical advisor to the International Labor Organization. Hayler’s specialty is analyzing the future evolution of work and in the following interview he explains how COVID-19 can change our working lives.

When the crisis ends, what long-term effects do you anticipate the pandemic could have on the workplace in developed countries?

Before the start of the pandemic, there was already much talk about the consequences of technology for the future of employment. The message was clear: the future of work is not predetermined, it is up to us to shape it.

But since many countries, companies and workers chose to telecommute to contain the transmission of COVID-19, that future has arrived ahead of schedule, radically changing the way we work. Virtual meetings have become commonplace and economic activity has increased across a wide range of digital platforms.

As restrictions are lifted, the question on everyone’s mind is whether this way of working will become the “new normal.” Some of the large companies in developed economies have already said that what was a large pilot project without a specific plan, teleworking, will become the usual way of organizing the labor market. Employees’ return to work will not imply that they have to travel, unless they decide otherwise.

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ILO
International Labor Organization technical advisor Susan Hayter telecommuting during the coronavirus pandemic

Is it good news for them?

It could be cause for celebration, for the people and the planet, But the thought that the end of the office it is certainly exaggerated. The International Labor Organization estimates that 27% of workers in high-income countries could telecommute from home. This does not necessarily mean that they will continue working remotely.

The question posed to us, for employers and workers, is how to adapt work practices and take advantage of the benefits generated by telework without losing the social and economic value of the physical employment space.

When we applaud the innovations in labor management that allowed companies to continue during the health crisis, we must not forget that many people have lost their jobs or that due to the effects of the pandemic in some industries, many companies have gone bankrupt. A key issue for people returning to their workplace will be the quality of their work, in particular safe and healthy jobs.

Lin Qi
Workers at a Chinese-owned shoe factory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

What should happen next? What is the next step then?

Undoubtedly, the measures taken by employers to make workplaces safe will have a great impact on the level of confidence of workers. A dialogue is also needed with union representatives, where they exist.

For this approach to work, everything must be examined: from social distancing plans, control measures and coronavirus tests, to the availability of personal protective equipment.

For people with sporadic jobs, such as food delivery and transporters, the work is not tied to a place, but to perform a specific activity to earn income. The pandemic has revealed the false dichotomy between job flexibility and guaranteed income. These workers may lack or have inadequate access to sick leave and unemployment insurance benefits. We need to take advantage of the new reality to ensure that your work is done in safe conditions.

In developing countries, how different do you expect the look of the workplace to be?

The International Labor Organization estimates that the earnings of the nearly 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy decreased by 60% during the first month ofcrisis. These workers are unable to telecommute and face the horrible choice of risking their lives or their livelihoods. Some countries have taken steps to shore up these basic incomes while ensuring adequate hygiene and personal protective equipment for employees and customers, businesses, and workers in unregulated or informal sectors.

As companies begin to assess the effectiveness of switching to telecommuting and the ability to fix their data security issues, and whether they have the infrastructure in place, for developing countries new opportunities may arise in the service sector.

However, in activities such as software development and servicing the financial sectors, relocation opportunities may be accompanied by retraining of other jobs as companies seek to improve inventory management and management. capacity of supply networks.

This situation will have a longer-term impact on employment in developing and emerging economies. The problem is that, as the development of the new service sectors will take time, the negative impact of rising unemployment is immediately felt. Inequalities in digital readiness capacity can further deter countries from taking advantage of these opportunities.

World Bank / Peter Kapuscinski
Developing countries, such as Nepal, can benefit from a global transition to teleworking.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of remote work?

Teleworking has allowed many companies to continue operating and guarantee the health and safety of their employees. People who can telecommute during the health crisis have the opportunity to share meals with their families. The work has been oriented towards the human being accommodating home education and the care of children and the elderly.

However, for these people the lines between their workday and their free time have been blurred. causing increased stress and the potential for mental health risks.

Faced with the severe economic recession caused by the pandemic and rising unemployment figures, there are opportunities to take advantage of changes in work organization to design new job-sharing plans that allow flexibility and save jobs. This can mean shorter work weeks or job-sharing arrangements to avoid layoffs in lean periods, while restructuring working time arrangements to achieve a better long-term work-life balance.

The digital transformation of work and the possibility of teleworking has also been accompanied by other benefits. For example, depending on their circumstances, it offers the possibility of extending working life to older and more experienced workers and provides job opportunities for those in rural communities.

However, for another large number of workers aggravated their sense of isolation and the loss of their identity and goals. The social recognition of work and the importance and belonging that derives from it cannot be changed by virtual classrooms, no matter how informal our clothing may be while we occupy them.

To what extent will the pandemic reinforce growing inequality?

While the pandemic may represent a turning point for the digital transformation of the workplace, it has also revealed profound shortcomings. People in the highest income brackets are the most likely to choose to telecommute, while those in the lower segments lack that possibility; they will have to commute daily and are more likely to be less able to manage their time as a result.

As online and digital work become the “new reality,” the demand for skilled workers is likely to rise in the future along with their wages. Input from healthcare professionals and other workers (eg teachers and grocery store staff) will be valued more than ever before. However, it is also likely that many low-wage workers, whose wages have stagnated due to the loss of union power and changing employment status, will see further erosion of their income as the lists of the unemployed grow.

Historically, economic crises, pandemics and wars have exacerbated inequalities. The question that remains to be answered is whether it is a tectonic change linked to growing political and social instability, or a crisis that leads us to consolidate the foundations of just societies linked to the principles of solidarity and decision-making democratic institutions that advance societies, labor markets and workplaces to equality.

1 June 2020
Economic Affairs

The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered an unintended telecommuting boom for millions of people. The spectacular growth of this trend makes experts wonder if we have before us a revolution that could have repercussions in the immediate future of workers, or, at least, in that of those people whose work does not need to be tied to a specific physical location .

To try to find an answer to this question, UN News spoke with Susan Hayter, technical advisor to the International Labor Organization. Hayler’s specialty is analyzing the future evolution of work and in the following interview he explains how COVID-19 can change our working lives.

When the crisis ends, what long-term effects do you anticipate the pandemic could have on the workplace in developed countries?

Before the start of the pandemic, there was already much talk about the consequences of technology for the future of employment. The message was clear: the future of work is not predetermined, it is up to us to shape it.

But since many countries, companies and workers chose to telecommute to contain the transmission of COVID-19, that future has arrived ahead of schedule, radically changing the way we work. Virtual meetings have become commonplace and economic activity has increased across a wide range of digital platforms.

As restrictions are lifted, the question on everyone’s mind is whether this way of working will become the “new normal.” Some of the large companies in developed economies have already said that what was a large pilot project without a specific plan, teleworking, will become the usual way of organizing the labor market. Employees’ return to work will not imply that they have to travel, unless they decide otherwise.

[Descarga nuestra aplicación Noticias ONU para IOS o Android. O subscríbete a nuestro boletín.]

ILO
International Labor Organization technical advisor Susan Hayter telecommuting during the coronavirus pandemic

Is it good news for them?

It could be cause for celebration, for the people and the planet, But the thought that the end of the office it is certainly exaggerated. The International Labor Organization estimates that 27% of workers in high-income countries could telecommute from home. This does not necessarily mean that they will continue working remotely.

The question posed to us, for employers and workers, is how to adapt work practices and take advantage of the benefits generated by telework without losing the social and economic value of the physical employment space.

When we applaud the innovations in labor management that allowed companies to continue during the health crisis, we must not forget that many people have lost their jobs or that due to the effects of the pandemic in some industries, many companies have gone bankrupt. A key issue for people returning to their workplace will be the quality of their work, in particular safe and healthy jobs.

Lin Qi
Workers at a Chinese-owned shoe factory in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

What should happen next? What is the next step then?

Undoubtedly, the measures taken by employers to make workplaces safe will have a great impact on the level of confidence of workers. A dialogue is also needed with union representatives, where they exist.

For this approach to work, everything must be examined: from social distancing plans, control measures and coronavirus tests, to the availability of personal protective equipment.

For people with sporadic jobs, such as food delivery and transporters, the work is not tied to a place, but to perform a specific activity to earn income. The pandemic has revealed the false dichotomy between job flexibility and guaranteed income. These workers may lack or have inadequate access to sick leave and unemployment insurance benefits. We need to take advantage of the new reality to ensure that your work is done in safe conditions.

In developing countries, how different do you expect the look of the workplace to be?

The International Labor Organization estimates that the earnings of the nearly 1.6 billion workers in the informal economy decreased by 60% during the first month ofcrisis. These workers are unable to telecommute and face the horrible choice of risking their lives or their livelihoods. Some countries have taken steps to shore up these basic incomes while ensuring adequate hygiene and personal protective equipment for employees and customers, businesses, and workers in unregulated or informal sectors.

As companies begin to assess the effectiveness of switching to telecommuting and the ability to fix their data security issues, and whether they have the infrastructure in place, for developing countries new opportunities may arise in the service sector.

However, in activities such as software development and servicing the financial sectors, relocation opportunities may be accompanied by retraining of other jobs as companies seek to improve inventory management and management. capacity of supply networks.

This situation will have a longer-term impact on employment in developing and emerging economies. The problem is that, as the development of the new service sectors will take time, the negative impact of rising unemployment is immediately felt. Inequalities in digital readiness capacity can further deter countries from taking advantage of these opportunities.

World Bank / Peter Kapuscinski
Developing countries, such as Nepal, can benefit from a global transition to teleworking.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of remote work?

Teleworking has allowed many companies to continue operating and guarantee the health and safety of their employees. People who can telecommute during the health crisis have the opportunity to share meals with their families. The work has been oriented towards the human being accommodating home education and the care of children and the elderly.

However, for these people the lines between their workday and their free time have been blurred. causing increased stress and the potential for mental health risks.

Faced with the severe economic recession caused by the pandemic and rising unemployment figures, there are opportunities to take advantage of changes in work organization to design new job-sharing plans that allow flexibility and save jobs. This can mean shorter work weeks or job-sharing arrangements to avoid layoffs in lean periods, while restructuring working time arrangements to achieve a better long-term work-life balance.

The digital transformation of work and the possibility of teleworking has also been accompanied by other benefits. For example, depending on their circumstances, it offers the possibility of extending working life to older and more experienced workers and provides job opportunities for those in rural communities.

However, for another large number of workers aggravated their sense of isolation and the loss of their identity and goals. The social recognition of work and the importance and belonging that derives from it cannot be changed by virtual classrooms, no matter how informal our clothing may be while we occupy them.

To what extent will the pandemic reinforce growing inequality?

While the pandemic may represent a turning point for the digital transformation of the workplace, it has also revealed profound shortcomings. People in the highest income brackets are the most likely to choose to telecommute, while those in the lower segments lack that possibility; they will have to commute daily and are more likely to be less able to manage their time as a result.

As online and digital work become the “new reality,” the demand for skilled workers is likely to rise in the future along with their wages. Input from healthcare professionals and other workers (eg teachers and grocery store staff) will be valued more than ever before. However, it is also likely that many low-wage workers, whose wages have stagnated due to the loss of union power and changing employment status, will see further erosion of their income as the lists of the unemployed grow.

Historically, economic crises, pandemics and wars have exacerbated inequalities. The question that remains to be answered is whether it is a tectonic change linked to growing political and social instability, or a crisis that leads us to consolidate the foundations of just societies linked to the principles of solidarity and decision-making democratic institutions that advance societies, labor markets and workplaces to equality.