Updated weekly, this page brings you the latest news in the worlds of remote working and freelancing. Bookmark it. Check in regularly. Stay informed!
Stories for Week Commencing 12th October 2020
You CAN Stay Home
An ever-increasing number of companies are now embracing home working and beginning to give some serious consideration to their policies. This is promising news for people with dyslexia or other conditions which can make working in an office difficult.
Microsoft’s CEO has been very open about the fact that he is tired of working from home. Still, Microsoft has released new “hybrid workplace” guidance as it plans to expand work from home and make it permanent for some.
Ford, along with other carmakers such as GM and Toyota, has announced that employees can continue working from home. Most have said this will last until 2021, but Toyota is offering to make it a permanent option. Not every employee will be able to benefit, but it is a step in the right direction.
Certain sectors, such as health care, need to have staff on-site. Still, many businesses and organizations are encouraging as many employees as possible to work from home. The Mayo Clinic, for example, has now adopted a hybrid work model for 1,500 of its employees.
Even remote work adverse United Airlines seems to be realizing that the world has changed. It has paired up with Peerspace to provide flexible face-to-face meeting packages for remote work companies. It really isn’t a well-thought-out scheme but if we are being generous we could give them a few points for effort.
Fighting for Freelancing
Freelancing continues to grow as do the opportunities to serve new and underrepresented segments. Veronica Asenso Afriyie has created STUDIO 27° as a learning hub to help women, queer, and non-binary freelance artists. Another interesting development is the emergence in various countries of platforms focusing on interim management gigs.
It is really encouraging to see freelancers and freelance associations fighting to improve freelancing for all.
On October 6, freelance musicians in the UK took matters into their own hands. Around 400 of them performed outside Parliament as part of the Let Music Live campaign. They played 20% of Mars, from Holst’s The Planets, to protest the fact that they can only claim 20% of their income from the government.
Other creative freelancers in the UK have also joined together to create a dedicated network for those in the film industry. Dial F for Freelancer aims to reduce the barriers to finding paid work.
In Brooklyn, a virtual pop-up event will take place this weekend to help freelancers and small businesses. Experts will be on hand to provide insight and information on resources. The goal is to help freelancers to pivot in order to thrive in the current economic climate.
It may sometimes seem like little progress is being made. Still, it is important to remember that this is a gradual process that can lead to significant long-term change.
In Spain, the efforts of freelancer associations finally seem to be paying off. The Social Security Ministry and the Tax Agency are working on a new Social Security system that would tie freelancers’ contributions to their actual earnings.
Tech Issues are Starting to be Addressed
Many companies are still struggling to make working from home work. The good news is that they now understand the problems better. Some have even begun to put together coherent plans to cope with the new reality.
Cities and communities, like Cambria County, have seen the opportunities that remote work present. Now they are starting to take measures to ensure that they are attractive locations for workers. Having seen the vital importance of the digital infrastructure to remote working, they are now investing in improving it.
It also appears that businesses and home workers have taken the warnings over cybersecurity seriously. While there may still be many concerns, data shows that data breaches are not more common than they were before.
The Lighter Side of Working From Home
Dealing with pets during home working can be very entertaining (for others) and embarrassing (for you). Still, you need to find ways to manage their behaviour. It is especially important when dealing with video conference calls as pets react to changes in your body language. Try to give your pet plenty of exercise beforehand and provide other sources of entertainment during your call.
Wobbling around in high heels, getting choked by ties, and sweating it out in restrictive suits may become a thing of the past for many of us. Even jeans have taken a hit. People are now investing in more comfortable work attire, such as good quality loungewear. Just make sure that what you wear gets you in the right mindset for work and will be perceived as appropriate by those you need to interact with.
If you live in the UK and are craving a more social environment than your home you just might be in luck. Step aside Starbucks, here come the “pub-desks”! This can be a great way to help support your local pub, get out of your pyjamas, and socialize a bit more. Just make sure that you don’t violate any laws or company policies if you do decide to indulge in a pint while you are there.
While free toilet paper may not seem such a big deal now that the panic buying has ceased, it is still nice to have. The Dutch family finances institute NIBUD has calculated the additional expenses to employees from working at home. They even figured out that toilet paper costs employees an extra $0.03 per day. It may seem a little exaggerated to go into such fine detail but as a result of the research Dutch civil servants will now receive more than $400 extra per year!
News from Previous Weeks
Stories for Week Commencing 5th October 2020
Tough Times Ahead?
As the economic situation worsens, many companies are struggling. This often means cutting jobs. But it can also mean reducing the rates offered to freelancers resulting in a drop in their income. In many cases, freelancers are offering discounts just to keep working with clients that they already know and trust.
A forced return to working from home due to increases in COVID cases is also causing concern.
The risk to city centres and the businesses located there is significant. In fact, a mayoral candidate for London is arguing that, despite COVID, workers need to return to their offices to secure the economic future of the city.
Many companies are simply not comfortable with remote work. Interest in work tracking technology is once again raising fears of employers “spying” on workers.
If schools and childcare centres are forced to close again then the situation for women could become even more tenuous than it already is. The US government has announced that 865,000 women left the workforce last month.
The next few months could be particularly tough in the Northern Hemisphere as colder weather approaches. Data released by Energy Helpline indicates that household bills in the UK could increase by up to 18% this winter due to working from home.
Efforts to help can also backfire. Instead of easing the tension, the amendment to AB 5 has led to further calls to scrap the legislation altogether. Now it looks like Germany may be headed for a similar predicament with the proposal of a law that makes working from home a legal right.
There’s also some news out there this week that can only be described as…quirky. One of Microsoft’s latest ideas is adding a “virtual commute” facility to Microsoft Teams. As part of it, workers will be prompted to write a list of tasks for the day during this “virtual commute.” Innovative or crazy? We’re yet to decide!
Finding the Silver Lining
Although COVID and the economic downturn may be the major driving forces behind the changes in the way we work, not all of the changes are negative.
The growth in remote working may have highlighted a lot of social inequality but advocacy groups are hopeful that it could lead to the hiring of more people with disabilities.
The changes in working patterns could also lead to more integrated neighbourhoods and a greater sense of community. It is interesting to see that both Facebook and Google seem to be leaning towards headquarters that mix office space with housing, small businesses, and services.
There has also been an increase in demand for co-working spaces. Apparently, even those who are tired of working from home prefer to have a workspace near their home.
Freelancing is offering many an opportunity to boost their quality of life. As more companies begin to rely on freelancers ,it creates a greater number and variety of opportunities. This makes freelancing an increasingly attractive option for young professionals who wish to have greater control over their lives and careers.
New freelance platforms can make this process even easier.
Niche platforms often play a significant role in preventing the lowering of rates. And these platforms are by no means limited to tech jobs. In Australia, a platform has just been launched exclusively for beauty and barber professionals.
Other platforms are trying to set themselves apart by helping freelancers keep more of their money or access it more rapidly. One interesting new player in this field is Any Task which pays freelancers in cryptocurrency.
There is no question that these are very hard times. But, the outlook is good for those able to adjust and take advantage of the wealth of new opportunities to improve life and community.
Stories for Week Commencing 28th September 2020
The Importance of Not Working at Work
Despite the prevalence of micro-managers and the increase in employee surveillance tools, it turns out that socialising with your coworkers is a vital part of doing business.
The CEO of JPMorgan Chase has been one of the most vocal campaigners for a return to office work. He argues that creativity is greatly affected by the lack of collaboration and socialization which used to occur in office spaces. And he is far from the only one expressing this concern.
Still, the push for a return to the office to improve innovation and creativity is not something that will be easily achieved.
Many workers do not want to return to the office. Even those that do return will find that the new safety regulations limit collaboration and socialization. Then there are the inherent health and safety risks to consider.
Even JP Morgan, despite their push for a return to the office, has had to send some workers back home due to a positive COVID test.
So what are businesses to do?
The simple answer is that they must change their approach. Remote companies have shown that innovation is far from impossible outside the office setting.
Companies need to start spending more effort on identifying problems, evaluating meeting styles, and really using the available technology to their advantage. This will allow for more focused virtual work meetings as well as more beneficial social interaction.
Socializing virtually can indeed be more difficult, but it can be done. There are even apps that will randomly pair coworkers for a virtual coffee so that teams can get to know each other better.
Ultimately, investing in improving socialization among remote workers is a win-win. They will become better communicators both virtually and, when the moment is right, in-person.
Remote Work and COVID Update
A lot of recent news has focused on the desire to have workers return to the office. But the reality is that it is still not safe.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was recently accused of asserting that workers could lose their jobs if they did not return to the office. Now, he has had to do a U-turn. The increase in COVID cases simply made his position untenable.
Now the entire UK is once again encouraging workers to work from home where possible. In Wales, arguably the country most receptive to remote work, a new fund has even been created to help freelancers working in the creative and cultural industries.
France is in a similar position of having to backtrack. Aside from the disruption to work, this situation is likely to make companies think twice before trying to return to the office again.
In the meantime, Spain seems to see remote work as an opportunity to improve the economy. Rather than trying to get workers back into offices, Spain is trying to regulate for remote work. A new bill has been presented which includes the right to ask for flexible hours and stipulations that employers pay for work expenses.
The road ahead is still not clear, but current events seem to indicate that flexibility, especially regarding work arrangements, is going to be crucial in order to survive the COVID crisis.
Freelancing is Dominating the Headlines
The surge in freelancing and a recent study by Upwork has placed freelancing front and centre of the news.
What seems to have drawn the most attention is the increase in the number of professionals freelancing. This may be a conscious choice with working from home having exposed many to the benefits of remote work. Or it may be as a result of the “interim economy” forcing businesses to hire contractors rather than recruit employees.
Whatever the cause, this trend serves to further legitimise freelancing.
Freelancing is perhaps the least limiting form of work available but that does not mean that there is an even playing field.
Freelancers in America or Europe complain about people in other countries accepting low rates. Many contracts require freelancers to be native English speakers. Access to freelancing platforms, obviously, requires access to the internet. High-paying freelance platforms tend to be very exclusive.
The truth is that the freelance model is just as flawed as the rest. You are never going to find a completely fair and egalitarian work model. But at least with freelancing you are the one calling the shots. And currently, there is a glut of information about freelancing.
There are articles talking about freelance platforms. Articles about the practicalities of using freelancers. Articles about finding meaningful work. Guides for issues such as freelance taxes. There is information of every kind out there right now!
Take advantage of this situation to get information, and to get inspired. The beauty of freelancing is that you get to carve out your own unique path.
If you are keen to start freelancing but are left feeling dizzy by all the information out there, then you should consider taking our Freelance Kickstarter course. It will guide you through the process of starting a freelance career, removing the sense of overwhelm and giving you a real head start.
Karen Fleming is a bookworm who loves using her experience to help others. When she isn’t reading, writing, or taking yet another online class, she is probably doing some one-on-one tutoring or enjoying a good movie with her husband and two daughters.