From 1760 to about 1840 the First Industrial Revolution introduced new processes that moved manufacturing from small shops and homes to large factories. This was quickly followed by a shift in culture as people moved from the rural areas where the manufacturing once took place and into big cities where the large factories were being built. This is a stark contrast to what’s currently happening in America during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The Coronavirus has equally placed upon us new and unexpected demands that, like in previous crises experienced in our nation, has revolutionized the way we work and connect. It has also changed the way we consume, both products and information, and opened the path for a new type of entrepreneur.
I, like the rest of the Brave World Media team, am among the 4.7 million Americans that were already working remotely from home before the pandemic. That’s still only 3.4% of the American population. By June of 2020, roughly 40% of Americans were working from home full time because of the pandemic.
Daily work meetings now consist of Zoom video calls, Slack notifications, and Asana reminders. Facebook, Google, and Siemens employees can work from home until July 2021. IBM eliminated almost all of its office work years ago. In 2014, the pioneer of teleworking had over 40% of their employees working remotely. This shift has continued and in many ways, has been pushed on overdrive by the pandemic. Outdoor retailer REI recently announced it is completely abandoning its corporate campus in suburban Seattle, which hasn’t even been completed yet. Shifting headquarters operations to sites across the Seattle area, prioritizing remote work and many offices in New York City sit empty, with companies contemplating whether a return is worth the cost and risks involved. Not only has working remotely become possible, but it’s also preferable. A recent survey revealed that 70% of Americans would rather telecommute than work in the office.
Faced with the possibility of making remote work a permanent fixture. Americans are considering trading in the hustle and bustle of the city for the calm and quiet of the suburbs. And according to data from Harris Poll the pandemic has nearly a third of Americans considering it.
This has also made a lot of companies in less-hyped and far less expensive cities more creative in how they retain talent. According to Bloomberg CityLab, tech companies have come up with incentive programs to “lure tech workers” into cities that haven’t traditionally been known as tech hubs and allowing staff to work from home. .
Now the work-from-anywhere dream has become a reality for many and the State Department has lifted the Do Not Travel advisory determining its advisory levels on a country-by-country basis, countries are launching remote visa programs to attract remote workers. This introduces the telecommuting work-tourism model. These countries are hoping long-term visitors will support local economies without displacing any permanent residents’ jobs.
Remote work has proven to be a winning strategy for the Brave World Media team too. Thanks to technology, we’re able to collaborate regardless of where we are in the world and the elimination of overhead costs means our team further benefits financially because more money goes into paying staff than paying rent. I’ve been a digital nomad for four years and I’m noticing this lifestyle quickly shifting from niche to the new norm.
While some work on perfecting the work-tourism life balance, others are concerned that the physical isolation of employees could potentially hamper product development and innovation. So far the lack of face-to-face interaction is impacting the work environment both positively and negatively. Analyses looking at VPN data found people were putting in three additional work hours in the U.S. over the last few months.
A study by Google on remote workers found “no difference in the effectiveness, performance ratings or promotions for individuals and teams whose work requires collaboration with colleagues around the world versus Googlers who spend most of their day to day working with colleagues in the same office.”
But what are the risks to these communities? Is gentrification the best way to support struggling economies that have been decimated due to lockdowns and closed borders? This updated version of remote work means that an updated version of entrepreneurs and idea makers is being developed. Those who adapt fastest will be the first to profit. But adaptation isn’t the only concern to consider in this new trend. Accessibility to technology and WiFi, especially in rural areas remains a huge factor – even as families are forced into virtual learning for their kids. What about those with small children? What societal changes and considerations are we taking into account so as to not burden these households? What other long-term effects will the work-from-anywhere model have on other countries and communities?
As innovators and creatives, it is our responsibility to consider and assist where we can in answering these questions, whether for our communities or our teams.