As a dreadful 2020 winds to an end and we prepare to usher in 2021, I find myself thinking what a year like this, the biggest experiment in remote working in human history, has taught us, and how it will affect us in the short term, during the next 12 months.
What will the work be like next year? I guess that depends on who you work for. The pandemic has forced many companies to modernize and to realize that there are other ways to work, but that won’t necessarily translate into lasting change. Unfortunately, only some companies are seriously looking at what they can learn from the pandemic, while many others are desperately hoping they can return to doing things the way they did before all this mess.
As of February 2020, only 3.4% of Americans, a grand total of 4.7 million people, worked from home. Over the course of the year, that number grew to 42%. Now, another survey states that 65% would like to continue working remotely full time after the pandemic, while 31% would prefer some form of hybrid format. Most people have found that they can perform many of their tasks from home, and don’t want to go back to working like before.
The pandemic has also made many of us more tech savvy: until last February, aside from Skype or Facetime calls to friends and family, few people knew anything about video conferencing software, and they needed to use it they would first call the IT department. Now, many of us have four or five of these programs installed — even though Zoom, which has made Eric Yuan one of the richest people in the world, still has the best latency — and manage them well enough, even if they lack the skills or resources to avoid meeting or presentation from being a torture session. Most of us still have a lot to learn about video conferencing, and this is a communication genre that is evolving very quickly.