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How Pandemics Shape 2021 Workplace Trends

Data from a project called eWorkLife revealed an increase in working hours when it was not clear when the working days ended. By 2021, work-life balance needs to be recognized as a public health issue, and the eWorkLife project is encouraging policy makers to take action. Image by Joshua Miranda / AIX

Along Dave Cook

Economist John Maynard Keynes predicted in 1930 that as technology increases productivity, our workforce will gradually decline to around 15 hours a week. Not only did this not happen, but commuting and suburban living patterns, which are often forgotten as recent historical inventions, have led to extra time away from home.

But 2020 changed that all. In the new history of remoteworking at COVID-19, I’m amazed at how much it has shaken our lives and how common we have taken. My research also points to many trends that help shape the working life of 2021.

“In time for Christmas”
At the beginning of 2020, remotework was a long-term trend of gradual increase. Only 12% of US workers work full-time remotely and 6% in the UK. Not surprisingly, the world wasn’t ready for a ton of remote work.

However, COVID-19 instantly proved that remote work is possible for many people. Workplace institutions and norms have collapsed like dominoes. Offices, face-to-face meetings, and daily commute fell first. After that, the 9-5 schedule, vacations, and personal family life were threatened. Countries have begun issuing remote work visas to encourage people to spend on blockade work on their territory.

As the old norms disappeared, a rapid procession of new technologies marched uninvited to our home. You had to master zoom meeting etiquette, compassionate email practices, navigating surveillance, and compassionate responsibility management. The list continues.

Faced with harsh statistics (UN predicts 195 million unemployed), only deaf people complained about working from home. Nevertheless, COVID-19 created the largest remotework experiment in human history.

In July, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson dreamed of returning to normal feelings “in time for Christmas” with Edwardian optimism. Fast-forwarding the summer and locking down 2.0, the illusion of the 12-week experiment disappeared into sepia-colored memories. One interviewee joked, “I really thought I’d be back in the office by July. What an idiot!”

Do you have discipline?
Silicon Valley companies Google, Apple, and Twitter were one of the first companies to announce that employees could work from home. Before the curve, they were well practiced. As expected, they already had a flashy term for it: distributed work. In 2021, concepts such as distributed work and hybrid work will surge.

Most weren’t as ready as Silicon Valley. In March, we published the results of a four-year research study that tracks remote workers. I warned that a successful remote worker requires deep self-discipline preparation. Otherwise, the burnout continued.

We understand this now. However, I patiently explained the first blockade to the press and explained why working from home was so difficult. The news presenter laughed when I suggested that returning to the office might be considered a luxury-because it helped people build their days. Conversations about disciplined routines, good or bad, will intensify in 2021.

By May 2020, many reported that they were experiencing zoom fatigue. I simply predicted that the use of zoom would subside.

I would have been right if we were back in the office. Instead, the need has instructed us to enhance the zoom game. The zoom was saved at the same time, ruining telecommuting, and it won’t go away anytime soon.

Commuting paradox
Remote workers, who are grateful to still have a job, also reported that they had bitten the survivors’ guilt. Overwork was one way to express this feeling of guilt. Many felt that working extra hours might secure their work.

In April 2020, I joined another scholar studying work-life balance. eWorkLife.. Survey data showed an increase in working hours, even when it was unclear when the working days ended. In particular, there is no clear signal to end the working day.

After four years of remote research, I noticed a strange pattern. Participants initially stated that “escape from commuting” was the main advantage of working from home. Still a few months later, these same workers began to recreate the mini commute.

The eWorkLife project revealed similar findings. People wanted to create a “clear division between work and family.” Research leader Professor Anna Cox urged people to pretend to commute to maintain a work-life balance. By 2021, work-life balance needs to be recognized as a public health issue, and the eWorkLife project is encouraging policy makers to take action.

Right to disconnect
What happened to the time you lost on your previous commute? Many people use it to catch up with admins and email. This takes advantage of the worrying tendency.

Pre-pandemic warnings about infringement of work culture 24 hours a day, 7 days a week have increased. Social scientists argued that modern workers are turning into a hybrid of workers and smartphones. In 2016, French workers were even given the legal right to disconnect from work emails during off-hours.

The 2021 wish list includes a continuous increase in workplace activity and the disclosure of remote work policies by companies and governments. Twitter and 17 other companies have already announced that employees can work remotely indefinitely. At least 60% of US companies have not yet shared their remote work policy with their employees. Remote workers talk to me until their boss reveals a post-pandemic policy — their future plans are impossible.

The late activist, David Graber, described Keynes’ failure to work 15 hours a week as a missed opportunity, “a scar of the entire soul of our group.” COVID-19 may have begun a conversation about an alternative future with a better balance between work and leisure.

But that’s not easy to achieve. And we have to fight for it. — — conversation

Dave Cook is a PhD candidate in Anthropology at University College London.

How Pandemics Shape 2021 Workplace Trends How Pandemics Shape 2021 Workplace Trends

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