For many years, business professionals have discussed the so-called “future of work.” From the development of ever-better digital technologies to the embracing of non-traditional business models, these past few years have seen sizable developments to how we work and conceive of work.
Now that the Coronavirus has ushered in a new era of remote work, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the future of the workforce as we know it will be defined by digital technology and professionals who remain within the confines of their own homes.
Remote work is everywhere these days
Even before the Coronavirus upset the global economy and forced many of us into self-quarantine, it was growing increasingly clear that remote work was becoming more viable with each passing year. The development of cheap, effective, and easy to use computers, webcams, and smartphones have all exacerbated the trend of working from home. Now that COVID-19 has forced even more people into their living rooms and home offices, we’ve actually seen such a massive uptick in home office equipment sales that we’re now running into serious shortages.
PC monitors, webcams, microphones, and other equipment being sold out indicates that many people who are working from home for perhaps the first time in their lives are actually enjoying it. Indeed, more workers than ever before now indicate that they want to keep working from home, even after the danger of COVID-19 has passed us by. That’s according to a recent report from CNBC, which found that 42 percent of survey respondents were working from home while a whopping 24 percent indicate that they’d prefer to work from home even after the crisis is over.
Realistically, many of these people won’t be able to work entirely from home forever – instead, we’ll see a hybrid mix of working from home and the office that’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. Many professionals will find themselves capable of managing their responsibilities from home but will nevertheless be compelled to attend in-person conferences, committee meetings, or major company events, for instance. This hybrid mixture is increasingly going to be a major part of the “future of work.”
It remains to be seen how working from home will impact certain industries which effectively demand an in-person presence. Medical workers won’t be able to provide an affordable MRI scan to patients from the comforts of their couches, for instance. There will thus be an industry-by-industry disparity in who we see working from home. What’s worse, there will be a huge class divide, too.
The future of remote work won’t be equal
Working from home will be inherently unequal in the future, which means that wealthier, white-collar workers will find it far more manageable and achievable than their poorer, blue-collar counterparts. One analysis from CNBC indicates that big tech companies are leading the way on working from home, but that these companies are also generally wealthier and hire more expensive workers than most. Many people who earn the minimum wage or lower salaries than more well-educated professionals will find it difficult to work from home, and may never even be extended the opportunity in the first place.
It’s thus essential that the “future of work” includes societal discussions about wealth inequality and remote work inequality. Failing to take these things into consideration will doom our society into suffering from even worse inequality than that which currently plagues it. Remote work is changing how we manage our responsibilities in a major way, but it’s of the utmost importance to remember that remote working is more achievable for some than others. As our economy changes, so too must we change to ensure that nobody is left behind.