Yes, you get to have a hot homemade lunch that is brought right to your room and yes, you can afford to wake up minutes before the ‘shift’, but is work-from-home as goody as it is made out to be? Remote working has become the norm. In an era of the pandemic and the future that is to follow, the absence of office spaces and the advent of the work-from-home culture seems to be for good, with no reversal of the same. Right from Twitter to Spotify to major eCommerce platforms, organisations embraced the new remote culture with open arms, some even going on to say that this would be permanent. Does the model work for every country and race? Is the model a list of pros without any cons?
Which sectors does remote working not favour?
Everything can be done virtually, was a common phrase as the pandemic worsened and even businesses and operations that couldn’t be fathomed to be possible online made their way into the virtual space. However, not ‘every business’ could flourish digitally as in the case of every disparity that exists, the brunt of the pandemic came down upon the workers and labourers who either had no access to the internet or were engaged in menial jobs.
In an IMF report, it was postulated that a whopping 100 million workers in 35 developing countries would have to face the wrath of the pandemic as they would not be able to continue their work online. The vulnerable populations include vendors, traders, etc. and the percentages of these are more in low-income countries thus painting a frightening possibility for the economy of such countries.
Remote working is causing an imbalance between the cost of living and wages
In low-income countries, even though daily-wage workers were unable to join the bandwagon and thus have to incur huge financial crises, the cost of living is the same if not more expensive and this worsening divide is cause for concern. In order to take up jobs that help them earn and be part of the digital era, these skilled workers need to move to bigger cities where there is access to the internet and broadband. But with bigger cities, there is an increase in the standard of living and thus the cost, putting these workers in a tight spot.
Work-related expenses add to the crisis
While office spaces are saving a fortune on rent paid, electricity bills, water supply and food in the case of free canteens, the other side - the employees, are experiencing the alternate end of the expense spectrum. One would expect that with work-from-home, travelling costs would be negligible and thus save many pockets from running dry, but employees complain of the work-related costs going up. These hidden expenditures loom big for those who are struggling to make ends meet.
What is the solution to help these low-income groups?
It does not seem as if remote culture may be done away with all together but what can be brought into place are public work programs by the Government in favour of these low-income groups. Since digital is the future, the generations being educated today need to be trained in techniques and skills that will suffice, and that can be put to the test in the virtual working model. As the digital divide widens, efforts can be taken to bridge the gap.
The following solutions could be taken into account:
- Depending upon the demography, imports, exports and the economy of the country workforce should be focused on areas where there is a demand for jobs and areas that are starting to deteriorate should be addressed. It is best to build a workforce and focus resources in places that need them
- Healthcare that supports the workforce should be in place. A country’s economy is as good as its health infrastructure is and thus in order to build a population that is able to resume offices and get the wheels of the economy chugging again, the health services should be optimum to cope with infections
- Wage subsidies for the labourers and those who are unemployed should be provided to ensure a level playing field when it comes to the standard of living and being able to access opportunities
While measures are being taken for the world to be able to rise from the ashes and the destruction that the pandemic has caused, more needs to be done to help those who have borne the worst brunt of the situation.