Covid-19 Just Changed How We’ll Work Forever:
45% of Us Will Be Working Full-time Remote by 2021, Here’s How
While 5 million people worldwide worked remotely/at home in 2018, 675 million will work remotely in 2021 and beyond. We worked remotely because remote was the future of work. Now, we must work remotely because the coronavirus Covid-19:
- Has killed 4% of the people diagnosed.
- Is a novel coronavirus (nCoV), one never seen before in human beings and for which there is no vaccine (http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/health-emergencies/coronavirus-covid-19).
- Can only be controlled by us isolating ourselves from each other, indefinitely.
Today, 8 million jobs that are done primarily in brick and mortars can be done remotely (while another 7 million require designated production facilities). By the end of the year, most will be. That’s a 45% increase in the remote workforce in 14 months. The future is here. Spring 2020.
There are 3.3 billion adults employed globally and 1.5 billion work full-time. Half of those can work from home/virtually. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) March 2020 reference data, worldwide, people work in 10 major occupational categories and half of the categories a very remote-friendly while most of the rest allow for some virtual work:
- Technicians and associate professionals
- Clerical support workers
- Service and sales workers
- Skilled agricultural, forestry and fishery workers
- Craft and related trades workers
- Plant and machine operators, and assemblers
- Elementary occupations
- Armed forces occupations
In 2019 in the U.S. alone, 43% of career people worked from home at least part-time, and remote working grew about 10% annually. As of March 2020, about half of all full-time employees are working exclusively from home – proving their jobs can be done remotely. Going forward, indications are that while 62% of employees worldwide could exclusively work at home, 45% will.
“The coronavirus is going to be a tipping point,” Says Kate Lister. “We plodded along at about 10% growth a year for the last 10 years, but I foresee that this (Covid-19) is going to really accelerate the trend.”
Working remotely: short-term impact vs. long-term trends
Short-term, per the model in the opening illustration, these are some of the deep impacts Covid-19 will make in the business of running business in the immediate future and until the coronavirus loosens its grip on mankind. Employers:
- Must change their daily practices to manage, inspire and maximize output from existing employees now working from home.
- Should experience an early surge of productivity that will drop off in the extreme if they don’t quickly master a remote-worker management learning curve.
- Are going to experience a damaging drop-off in business acquisition and incoming revenues while all their clients navigate the new ways of doing business too.
- Will be throttled by dramatic drops in business and consumer spending, stock market losses, and ultimately a full-on recession.
- Are forced into massive lay offs as isolating and quarantines force them to shutter their shops, restaurants, factories and other businesses to flatten the disease curve.
- Won’t be hiring remote employees (or many at all for that matter) while they adjust to managing their own remote workforces where previously they had none.
- May experience more bankruptcies at a faster rate than anyone ever considered possible – especially small businesses and start-ups.
- Will be forced to concentrate on specific actions to compensate for the covid-19 outbreak including
- Protecting their workforce through management and policy changes, enhanced communication practices, redesigning the strata of their workforce, implementing telecommute technologies, social distancing in the facilities and ongoing incremental changes based on input from the scientific community and directions from government regulations and regulators.
- Re-building the supply chains through re-starting them, managing orders and fulfillment, adjusting inventory, re-assessing productivity and production capacity, evolving demand management operations and optimizing transportation routes and logistics.
- Ramping up a new plan for customer engagement by increasing transparency, communicating risks, re-treading customer engagement practices and increasing fast-response to customer feedback.
- Rethinking their financial management in light of cashflow, unplanned expenses, reduced income, etc.
- Aligning management and stakeholders to implement changed portfolio demands and quick reaction and action-taking based on frequent situation changes.
These coronavirus pandemic-caused business challenges (and others we haven’t identified yet) will have big and immediate impact our remote-working lives. We must expect to:
- Lose a lot of opportunities that were widely available just a month ago before businessed stop hiring,
- Be laid off from remote positions we already have as our employers struggle with decreased business and revenues,
- Be picked back up then dropped again as ebbs and flows in demand and need occur,
- Have competition for available remote work increase drastically,
- Experience the demise of some companies we rely on to consistently hire virtual employees, and
- Find our projects put on hold indefinitely while companies figure out how to navigate the effects of the pandemic.
Long-term, the data to predict what will happen just doesn’t exist. We just don’t have much information to go on because this type of global self-isolating has never happened in our modern history of doing business in a globalized high-tech, mega-trending society. Some theoretical modeling based on past pandemics and wars indicate that:
- The economy will recover but will deliver larger economic disparities between the haves and have-nots and small business/startups and big business.
- Some business types will rebound much faster than others: food and grocery suppliers and retail outlets, manufacturers of personal hygiene and other basic household goods, pharmaceutical and health care providers, home improvement companies, gun and ammunition manufacturers and retailers, energy, and tech in the areas of high-speed internet and connectivity, AI, cloud computing and autonomous vehicles.
- Services to employers and remote employees will increase in the areas of training for a new future of work that’s here now and mental health/management of the remote-work lifestyle.
- Political stresses, tensions and instability, as well as human conflict based on those stressors, will increase and social disruption will come hand-in-hand with mistrust of government and its authority.
- Companies and individuals will be challenged to recoup financial losses from the pandemic and subsequent recession for some time.
- Businesses may diversify to mitigate future pandemic risk.
- Taxes will likely increase.
- The universal goal of the five-hour workday will be overtaken by company and individual need for increased revenue-generating productivity.
Those of us who work remotely, then, can expect to:
- Work much harder to overcome being stuck in low-wage positions, and put in longer hours and deliver higher quality and productivity to maintain a desired income level,
- Change the types of businesses we prefer to work in in favor of those doing well and hiring,
- Be innovative when finding ways to turn our subject-matter expertise into remote income opportunities,
- Train ourselves to be super competitive in the hiring process,
- Better manage our political discourse and opining in order to work well in teams,
- Be more professionally ambitious than we have wanted to be to obtain and maintain the remote work we want,
- Wear more hats for the same job or company,
- Keep less of our income on payday,
- Work longer hours than we have been anticipating pre-pandemic
For both employers and remote employees, we will see:
- New tools emerging quickly to make our new work model more productive and easy to implement,
- People who lack integrity receiving little tolerance as the transparencies and compassions from the pandemic migrate into our daily work loves,
- The creativity that comes from need – i.e. necessity is the mother of invention – bringing unexpected new opportunities,
- A much more personalized approach to merging and mingling people in dispersed environments with the home office,
- A more genuine caring throughout the workforce for clients and customers, our employers and employees, and each other.
Sales of powerful and portable hardware is skyrocketing in the midst of the pandemic and will continue to experience growth when it’s over. Companies will be regularly writing home-office equipment into their benefits and risk management plans.
Increase in demand for telecommuting technology will increase remote jobs
Whatever you call it – working from home/home office, remote, virtual, consulting, outsourced – technology already exists and is poised to explode into a new system to make remote painless and affordable. You simply cannot work remotely without the right hardware. The required connectivity and productivity equipment for remote employees follows and we’re detailing it here because the companies in these businesses will be hiring increasingly remote ongoing).
- Internet Access (varies based on where in the world you work), the higher the connection and download capacity the higher your productivity:
- IoS/Internet Over Satellite – Slower than the fast hard-wired/dedicated line options, but still pretty fast. It’s not in most budgets but moving toward being the globally preferred connectivity method.
- T-1 & T3 Leased Lines and OC3/Optical Carrier Lines – Fast dedicated phone and optical ‘channels’ usually purchased by corporations, government and other large organizations.
- Wireless Internet Connections – Both the best friend and worst enemy of mobile remote workers. Detailed info on wireless is available here (https://www.facebook.com/groups/rvinternet/).
- Cable/Broadband Internet Connection – Delivers the highest-speed and most consistent data for hardwired
- VDSL/Very High DSL – Is a version of standard DSL that boosts speed by traveling hard-wired only short distances.
- DSL/Digital Subscriber Line — Requires hard-wired phone lines so isn’t great for mobility but delivers decent speed and connectivity. Includes ADSL and SDSL technologies (detailed here).
- ISDN/Integrated services digital network and B-ISDN/Broadband ISDN (typically not very fast) – ISDN data travels through conventional phone lines while B-ISDN travels via fiber optic lines.
- Dial-up/Analog (typically slow) – Still exists in many parts of the world, but is mostly replaced with DLS and Cable. External modems are available for newer computers.
- If you travel… you may need to have peripherals that accommodate all the connectivity possibilities
- Computers/Workstations. Portable is the key to the mobile lifestyle and the demand for these ever-evolving iterations of these products will not slow (neither will the companies making them):
- Laptops – Search for yours (and companies hiring remote) with keywords like portable, powerful, ultra portable, ultrabooks, thin, lightweight, gaming (tend to have large monitors and powerful processors), etc.
- Workstations – Doable for those who live in their mode of travel (i.e. RV, boat) and have enough room. Big technology is getting smaller every day and can often attach to your flat-screen TV monitor. Search with keywords like Pro, Mini, modular, all-in-one, tiny, compact and print-sized.
- Tablets – Great for writers and editors, researchers, not as good for projects requiring split-screen (or dual monitor) activities. Watch for evolving technology turning tablets into CPUs.
- Productivity Software and Apps. There are probably 100 of these for every job description, but here are the primary categories you’ll likely work with (investigate companies that make the best-selling ones within each category for ongoing remote opportunities as well as productivity that works for you).
- Community Building
- Development and Design (productivity for tech)
- Feedback (i.e. polling and surveys)
- Note-taking and/or Recording
- Online Meetings and Screensharing
- Productivity (the digital tools of your specific trade/job)
- Project Management
- Real-time Communications
- Storage (i.e. cloud)
- Team and Video Chat
- Time Management
In past days, the terms “work-life and social experiment” have been bandied about freely. With good reason. Working from home full-time has only ever impacted 5% of the population, with only 43% ever working remotely at all.
Other industries in high-demand will have re-thought their workforce practices benefiting remote and mobile remote workers
As a global society, we have never self-isolated and practiced social distancing. Arguably, we are at our innovative best in these trying times, and the inroads we’ve made by pre-existing remote and industries like food delivery, ship-to-door-everything, online learning and streaming entertainment have well prepared us for the future of work, now probably how half of us will work going forward.
Some industries are and will, and still others will become high-demand and increasingly profitable during and post-pandemic. Look to these for remote work that fits your mobile lifestyle:
- Online Retail (especially those selling staples and implementing robotics in warehousing)
- Movie/Video/TV Entertainment (companies forward-thinking bypassing theater/television production and delivering straight to streaming)
- Fine Arts (Music from Opera to Pop and Country, art shows, meet-the-author, etc. will have an entirely new niche in digital delivery
- Telehealth (Already well-underway will now meet higher demand for financial reasons for both the consumer and provider)
- Professional Services (Legal, accounting, financial planning, project management, IT and training and development will all continue to be provided more remotely)
- Public Servants (from politicians to public lands management) more services to them, i.e. administrative, will be provided virtually
- Gaming and Gambling – Entertainment at home is a huge industry in more demand now than ever with no sign of slowing (most creative is done by remotely)
- Teleconferencing, remote team management and community building and online collaboration
- Prepared Meal companies shipping weekly heat-and-eat selections
- The Defense Industry (sent all non-essential on-base personnel to work from home – unprecedented)
Conversely, look to these industries if you are in a position to help them re-build as an investment in their future and yours because they may not be profitable again quickly, but they offer your preferred types of opportunities. Even though they didn’t fare well through the pandemic, they’ll be back and more remote-friendly as remote will be part of every industry’s workforce blueprint.
- Travel Industry (Airlines, Hotels, cruise Ships, Vacation Rentals)
- Convention and Events Industries
- Shipping and Supply Chain
- Restaurants/Food Service
- Storefront Retail
- Theme Parks
- Movie Theaters and Production
- Automotive and Other Manufacturing
- Personal Services (From hair and nail care to gyms and personal training, more management, sales, scheduling and even screening will likely develop remotely)
Expect also to see lower wages for professional jobs done online and higher wages for people who must “go to work”: police and fire, home health care, grocers/liquor stores and pharmacists, facility management and maintenance/janitorial/landscaping, food service, sanitation, truck drivers and delivery service drivers, people transporters, housecleaning/laundry services, etc. These people have been hailed as heroes, and they are, in this time of crisis and upheaval, and their futures should reward them for it.
“We will get through this pandemic, too. We will go back to work and school and gather in restaurants and theaters and sports stadiums again. But when we do, cities and their leaders should not simply return to business as usual. Not only does COVID-19 threaten to reappear in subsequent waves if we do not remain vigilant, but there will always be future pandemics to brace against as well.” ~ Professors Richard Florida and Steven Pedigo
Beyond the doing-the-work-remotely lay of the land…
Benefits! Employers will deliver and employees will receive benefits we’ve never experienced before and have always wanted. In no particular order, these include but are not limited to:
- We will be used to the isolation impacts of remote work as most of us never were before. Remote is not for everyone. Much has been said and written about psychological impacts related to the isolation of working remotely. However, as we experience working remotely we get better at it, and the pandemic is an extraordinary virtual-work training program for all of us, teaching us to overcome the downsides by:
- Set a work schedule that’s mutually beneficial to you, your team and your employer, and stick to it.
- Take breaks for meals and a bit of exercise.
- Keep up your social life before and after work.
- Love the space in which you work, or change it so you do.
- Have a work buddy (dog, cat, bird even favorite music playing in the background).
- Make it a point to video chat with team members regularly and build relationships.
- Connect one-n-one with your boss regularly to discuss progress, questions, issues etc.
- Don’t work in a vacuum. If you need inspiration, meet with people in an online meeting and ask for it.
- We will save money and increase our financial security. It’s widely documented that remote workers, even those who work virtually just a few days a week, save $4,000 in commuting costs minimum, and much more from reducing eating-out costs, commute impulse buys, medications to keep you going to work when you shouldn’t, etc.
- We’ll know how to reduce health risks thus reducing our insurance outlay. It’s yet to be seen all we will learn about medical care and insurance from this pandemic and our recovery from it, but there’s no doubt that we’ll practice telemedicine a great deal more, saving money in both insurance and medical bills. We’ll get sick a lot less – big savings there. Insurance companies will be forced to re-think their rates and services, and going up will be unacceptable to us. Overall, we’ll have learned to take much more control over our physical and financial wellbeing (and providers in this realm will hire more of us remote).
- We will own more companies we work for. Unrelated to the pandemic, companies are under pressure, and even regulation, to treat remote workers like employees, offering full benefits and legitimate employee status (not contract or freelance). Post pandemic, full benefits will become more the norm than not for virtual workforces, and these benefits will include not only the standard and traditional ones, but significantly increased profit sharing and employee-owned.
- A new industry about remote will be created. All these changes in the workforce will demand that employees will need to learn to be very good at remote, and employers will need to learn to become very good at managing remote, and profiting from it. An entirely new human resources/talent and adult education industry will result. It will be remote.
- We’ll solve many of the global environment problems. Yes, we’ll get back to manufacturing and travel, but the daily commute of billions will be reduced by half. We’ll finally turn the corner and reduce our pollutants rather than increase them – all by designing a better workforce model than the world has ever had.
It’s now, and its future is ours. Here are a few bits of not-so-conventional wisdom to keep you successfully on your remote journey:
- When job-hunting, look first to the companies that were good at remote before the coronavirus, and fall into the category of doing well despite — even because of – it.
- Look next at the companies doing well (or already talking about their next-steps plan) that have already been practicing some remote and readily acknowledge the benefits.
- Watch for and connect with companies that have come back to life or started up in the middle of pandemic chaos because they saw a need and rose to it spectacularly.
- Be proactive in your application process. Acknowledge the hard time and offer your potential remote employer more than they are asking for, and
- Do more than they are asking for for less that you would have demanded in 2018 – we’re in this recovery together.