Complex Made Simple

Getting too comfortable with remote work could edge workers and economy towards a precipice

An insider look at the dark side of remote work

Workers around the world lost $3.5 trillion in labor income in the first three quarters of 2020 22% of all full workdays will be supplied from home after the pandemic ends 9 out of 10 remote workers say they would rather continue working remotely for the rest of their careers

Imagine these work from home (WFH) consequences post-COVID-19. Fewer and fewer people go to work or travel on business, meaning less fuel consumption, lower oil prices, and oil economies like in the GCC taking a big hit. 

Less travel also means workplaces go virtual, retail outlets close shop as commerce goes increasingly online. It means the insurance industry for both people and places will wobble. It means cash will disappear, and banks will close.

Fewer people means more automation, fewer jobs, more gigs, less security, smaller families, more humanoids, the end of humanity.

Ok, perhaps too apocalyptic but it can happen.

Here’s a more realistic view.  

Read: Remote jobs unhealthy, here to stay, but lots left to make digital workflows work

The hard facts about the future of employment 

The ILO estimates that workers around the world lost $3.5 trillion in labor income in the first three quarters of 2020 as the pandemic slashed their hours on the job fostering uncertainty in the business climate and fear among employees.

The risk, for workers, goes well beyond immediate job losses and hiring freezes. The deeper danger is that companies will be less inclined to build permanent workforces, relying instead on cheaper gig, temporary, or contractual workers.

Telecommuting, or WFH, became a lifeline for operations that were once resistant to work-from-anywhere arrangements in the past.  

The evidence suggests that remote work is here to stay and will have big implications for expanding people’s choices about where they live. 

“More than 20% of the workforce could work remotely 3-5 days a week as effectively as they could if working from an office,” consulting firm McKinsey & Company reported in November.

“If remote work took hold at that level, that would mean three to four times as many people working from home than before the pandemic and would have a profound impact on urban economies, transportation, and consumer spending, among other things.”

Researchers at the University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute (BFI) agree that 22% of all full workdays will be supplied from home after the pandemic ends, compared with just 5% before, citing a survey.

Smart Dubai has released at Gitex Technology Week 2020 the ‘Future of Work’ report.  

Among other things, the report at digital ‘solopreneurship’, where people are moving away from traditional entrepreneurship and looking towards the internet for ways to make money through various business models, such as affiliate marketing or e-commerce. 

The report looks into the gig economy, taking freelancing platform Upwork Inc. as an example, which has 14 million users and posts $1 billion in annual freelancer billings. 

The size of the gig economy skyrocketed to $204 bn in 2018 and is projected to grow 17% by 2023.

Looking at automation, the report reveals that 30% of current jobs are at potential risk of being automated by 2030, while other reports indicate that automation will contribute $ 15 trillion to the global GDP by 2030.

The report explores shifting attitudes towards work in general, where stable employment, safe career paths, and the concept of a ‘job for life’ have lost their allure, especially among millennials and Gen-Z. Indeed, 43% of millennials say they envision leaving their job in 2 years.

Remote work is likely to continue growing, with 9 out of 10 remote workers saying they would rather continue working remotely for the rest of their careers.   

Read: Residency offered to remote workers choosing Dubai as a base of operation

Getting comfortable at home

If we are going to work from home, we’d better learn how to get comfortable doing it.

A survey conducted by cooling experts Taqeef and AC manufacturer Midea reveals that 60% of UAE respondents have expanded their comfort zones, and now regularly do things they were not comfortable with before. 

The survey shows that 67% believe the pandemic pushed them out of their comfort zone and as a result, the majority of respondents have become more cost (77%), environmentally (79%) and health-conscious (82%).

When asked about what constitutes ‘ultimate comfort’, 62% selected using the Internet as a source of information (62%) as the primary choice, followed by spending time with friends and family (60%), relaxing, and taking it easy on the weekends (60%), same-day delivery of items ordered online (41%), low-noise or quieter home appliances such as washing machines, dishwashers and ACs (41%), and smart technology in-home devices (40%).

58% highlighted that smart technology in home appliances such as smart sensors, virtual assistants, TVs, and ACs which were considered as luxuries a few years ago have become a necessity now. 

In fact, 41% have increased investment in-home technology and appliances this year.