Home Working and Freelancing: The Latest News

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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 3rd August 2020.

Many Companies Keep Home Working Going

Although the novelty of working from home may be starting to wear off for some, the signs are that widespread home working is not going anywhere anytime soon.

Governments may be very keen to try and get workers back into their offices, but that doesn’t mean that companies and their employees will play ball.

Google’s decision to allow employees to work from home until July 2021 is important. Not only is it the latest in a series of announcements by major companies, but it also signals to other tech firms that they should do the same. In highly competitive sectors like tech, companies cannot afford to lose employees by forcing a return to the office.

The Guardian did an analysis by business sector and found that many expect to continue working from home. Even the companies trying to get workers back into offices do not expect major changes to occur until September – and depending on where you are, that could mean 2020 or 2021…

Uncertainty over the opening of schools has pushed many US-based firms to aim for the end of the school year in July 2021. In the UK, companies may be banking on the government’s threat to fine parents if their children do not return to school in September 2020.

But there is another key factor that will affect each company’s decision regarding working from home.

Companies are unlikely to make changes when there is a threat of further periods of enforced work from home.  Even if there were to be no further generalized lockdowns, any employee showing symptoms will have to self-isolate.

The logistical nightmare that COVID-19 has unleashed on everyone makes working from home the most viable option for now. Eventually all companies will have to develop a more definitive stand on it, but we are not quite at that point yet.

Has a Rush to Freelance Platforms Created a Race to the Bottom?

The media is full of articles encouraging people to start freelancing. Now is a great time to do so. But it is more important than ever to do it right.

The Coronavirus crisis has hit hard. As everyone struggles to keep afloat, freelance marketplaces have been swamped. Upwork has seen new client and freelancer registrations increase by 50% since mid-March.

Companies are increasing the demand for freelance workers and will no doubt continue to do so. Still, the increased level of competition for that work is already having a negative impact.

Freelancer.com has revealed that the pay for an average job has dropped by about 20% in the past six months. Worse still, LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index showed that many are willing to take up to a 50% cut in their pay in order to retain their job.

We understand that having work right now could really seem like a privilege. Still, it is important to know your worth.

Companies will always look for ways to reduce their costs. But good companies understand that talent is worth paying for. Undercharging in order to win a job will ultimately hurt you and help drive down prices.

Even the freelance marketplace sites understand this. Many have created programs to highlight highly-skilled or professional workers. Additionally, some sites are rejecting applicants in fields which are already saturated.

If serious freelancers and workers are willing to stand their ground and demand reasonable pay, then the current negative trend should only be a temporary blip.

If you are unsure of what you should be charging, we have an article here that can help you.

Changes in the Freelance Marketplace Game

Helping companies find the right freelancers may not always be easy but it can certainly be lucrative. Fiverr, for example, has just been valued at over $3 Billion.

This is drawing new players into the freelance marketplace game and forcing the existing platforms to make changes.

It is hardly surprising that sites like Clockwise Software and Eastern Peak are now offering to help you set up freelance marketplaces.

What you may not know is that freelancing has long been on the increase. Companies have been offering services of this type for some time. The Coronavirus crisis has simply sped things up.

Newer players, like Area of Expertise, seem to be taking a more specialized approach than the major platforms. Freelance marketplaces often specialize in certain niches or try to set themselves apart by only accepting highly-skilled freelancers.

Some are even adopting what is called a “Remora Strategy”. This involves tying themselves closely to a major enterprise by providing specialized freelance services focused on that enterprise’s needs.

In response, already established platforms are rolling out new features. These range from offering new service categories to providing ways to better highlight a freelancer’s expertise.

The bottom line is this. If you have ever considered establishing a freelance marketplace, now is a great time to act.

If all you want to do is find freelance work, take advantage of the current situation and look at all your options. You are not limited to only one freelance platform. We have several you can take a look at here.

Stories for Week Commencing 27th July 2020.

Could Working From Home Invalidate your Home Insurance?

It may seem easy to continue working from home since we have all now been doing it for at least a few months. But pandemic work from home arrangements were not designed to be permanent.

In the UK, there is growing concern over the issue of home insurance. This is because government guidance on working from home is set to change on 1 August.

Recent research indicates that as many as 9.7 million Britons could soon unwittingly invalidate their home insurance policies.

The Association of British Insurers has been trying to keep the public informed. While working from home due to the pandemic, homeowners do not need to contact their insurer to update their coverage. However, if you choose to continue working from home once you are officially allowed to return to work, you need to contact your insurance provider.

Some home insurance policies may cover a limited amount of home office equipment. Still, they are unlikely to cover everything.

If any of the equipment you use is company property, you should also check with your employer that they have the correct insurance policy in place.

Depending on the nature of your work, you may need to consider additional forms of insurance. This is especially true if you will have people visiting your home in connection with your business.

This problem is not limited to the UK. The same issues are likely to be true for home insurance policies in all countries.

Do not run any unnecessary risks. Contact your home insurance provider to discuss any modifications which may be required.

Knowing and Demanding Your Rights

We are all familiar with the idea of workers’ rights, but what those rights might now be is not entirely clear.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions is particularly concerned because workers in Ireland, unlike many other countries, do not have a legal right to work flexibly.

Civil servants in the UK have complained about having to pay higher mobile phone and broadband bills while working from home. They are far from the only employees who have had to assume some business costs in recent months.

Issues such as business costs, legally required rest periods, and wage adjustments will all need to be addressed.

Unfortunately, working from home as a remote employee or as a freelancer can make doing so a little more difficult.

The freelance writers at Voltage found this out the hard way. The writers went on strike claiming that they were being paid below the industry average. In response to their attempts to unionize, the company simply fired them all.

Laurence Berland has warned that even highly-skilled workers could find themselves with less leverage. This is because there is less transparency in distributed workforces. It is harder to organize workers when they are not in the same physical workspace.

Even if working from home makes it harder, remember that the onus has always been on the workers to fight for their rights.

Should People Have a Right to Internet?

Kome Ajise, executive director of the Southern California Association of Governments, raised this interesting question.

The issue of a lack of reliable internet access has come to a head in California and Oregon. This is due to the current need for remote learning and remote work.

Although it may seem a little strange that this is a problem in the USA, rural areas and minority communities frequently have less access to reliable internet in their homes.

Even if individuals are willing and able to pay for a high-speed connection, they may not be able to find a service provider in their area.

It is almost impossible to work from home without a good internet connection, so this is likely to be a growing concern in every country.

Should access to reliable internet services be considered in the same category as access to water and electricity? Who will pay for increasing the availability of services?

These are difficult questions but ones that will need to be answered. Otherwise, the current inequities will become even more pronounced.

Stories for Week Commencing 20th July 2020.

Cities and Countries Compete to Attract Remote Workers and Freelancers

Many people have begun to reevaluate the place they call home.

Lockdown has made people realize that an expensive apartment in the city may not be as desirable as it once seemed.

In cities like Los Angeles, freelancers are beginning to wonder whether they will be able to stay. If there is no further help from the government, they may not be able to wait for the economy to pick up.

On the other hand, in the state of Texas, both Houston and Waco have seen home sales increase.  Families are now looking for houses with gardens or larger houses in areas they can afford.

Traditionally, jurisdictions have vied with each other to attract businesses, but it looks like things may be changing. The reality is that economies rely on spending to thrive.

The ability to lure remote workers could become an important part of the economic plans of countries and individual areas in the future. Several nations are already leaning in this direction.

Barbados was the first Caribbean island to publicly announce plans to allow visitors to stay visa-free for up to one year in an attempt to attract remote workers.

Bermuda followed closely behind them, creating a one-year residential certificate. These certificates are expected to come into effect in the first week of August.

Estonia has announced a similar program called the Digital Nomad Visa. Georgia is also opening its borders to remote workers to boost the economy.

If the trend continues, then remote workers will have more options than ever when it comes to choosing a home to work from.

Will Those Forced to Work From Home be able to Find a Healthy Work/Life Balance?

Those who have been working remotely or as freelancers for a long time now can testify to the fact that finding a balance is not always easy.

The situation is undoubtedly worse for employees who suddenly found this paradigm thrust upon them.

Research done by JDP and Microsoft shows that employees are logging extra hours now that they are working from home. There has also been a significant increase in the amount of work being done at night and during the weekends.

New research also shows that employees feel guilty about taking breaks. Even when they are legally mandated.

Key factors in reducing those feelings of guilt include bosses encourage breaks or breaks being taken with colleagues. These mitigating factors are both likely to be absent when working from home.

Managers are going to be a critical part of the equation if employee burnout is to be avoided.

Only 49% of respondents in the JDP study said that they felt that their boss trusted them working from home.

Managers need to be open and focus on results rather than schedule compliance if they wish to help their employees adjust.

Ultimately, employees will have to take a stand for themselves. They will need to learn to set schedules and create boundaries if they hope to create a healthy lifestyle whilst working from home.

How is Your Mental Health?

The Coronavirus crisis has created an incredible amount of mental strain on all of us. The sudden and dramatic change in the way we live and work takes a toll.

Experts have long warned that working from home can negatively affect our mental health due to our social needs not being met. Isolation and burnout are two of the major concerns.

The unexpected shift to working from home has meant that neither employees nor their managers were prepared to handle these issues.

Additional stress has been placed on freelancers. Besides some businesses suffering, they have had to go through significant red tape to receive support measures.

Coming out of lockdown would seem, at first glance, to ease some of the mental strain. However, it brings with it a whole new set of concerns.

Many people do not feel it is safe yet to return to business as normal. Being obliged to return to work or to send children to school when there are still safety risks puts people in a terrible position.

As early as May, the UN was warning of the possibility of a global mental health crisis. This was long before some of the thornier issues came to light.

If you are feeling lonely, stressed, or depressed, you are not alone. Everyone’s mental health has been affected by this situation.

Give yourself a break and remember that sharing how you feel can be one of the most useful tools for coping and for helping others to do the same. We’re always there for you at our Facebook group (click here to join), and you may find this recent article useful too.

Stories for Week Commencing 13th July 2020.

Will Working From Home Change Everything?

At HomeWorkingClub, we’re currently running a survey on freelancing and remote working. (If you’ve yet to take part, you can do so here – and you could win a $50 Amazon voucher).
One eye-opening initial finding is that the vast majority of people think the working world has “changed forever” since Covid-19.
Has the working world changed? Survey results
Clearly offices are still going to exist in the future, but for some companies they now seem like an unnecessary expense.
 
Many firms have realised that it is possible for them to operate successfully without having all their staff in a central office.
 
An abandoning of office space will have a severe impact on the economy and our urban spaces.
 
Commercial property landlords and the office construction industry would be the most obvious casualties of such a change. But they are far from the only ones.
 
In the UK, concern over the economic impact to shops and restaurants in city centres has prompted the Prime Minister to suggest that employers should ask their office staff to return to work.
 
If central business districts are abandoned, cities will have more to worry about than empty buildings. In Philadelphia they are already concerned about the possibility of tax revenue depletion.
 
In Silicon Valley, the agglomeration of technical knowledge and creativity, which has made it famous and led to many technological advances, is also under threat.
 
Many leading tech companies, which once required employees to live nearby, are allowing their staff to work remotely. With the astronomical cost of living in the area, there is little doubt that many employees will relocate.
 
The option to work from home opens up wonderful opportunities for individuals. But the repercussions of such a shift on the economy, the urban landscape, and our culture should not be ignored.

What is the Best Work Model as We Move Forward?

The forced move to working from home has created a dramatic shift. Although many are excited to return to the office, others would prefer to continue working from home.

The news from many corporations is that they are considering some form of hybrid.

One model is where employees alternate between working at home and in the office. This is seen as a way to strengthen corporate culture and provide the social interaction that seems to be missing in remote work.

Another model is where some employees work in the office, as they always have, while others work from home.

The nature of some jobs means that they cannot be done remotely. Yet offering the option to work remotely to only some employees can cause divisions within the company.

In 2013, both Yahoo! And HP Inc. put an end to their programs mixing virtual and on-site working. They discovered that organizational performance suffered because of a loss of common culture and a sense of cohesion.

An article by Wired warns that regardless of which hybrid model is chosen, it is a worse option than a completely remote or a 100% office-based model.

The argument is that having an office automatically creates a sense of hierarchy. It could also lead to managers relying on old processes and systems which are no longer appropriate.

Ultimately, each company will find its own way forward. Still, if you are applying for a job then this is something well worth considering.

If you are wondering how a remote company can provide socialization and create a corporate culture, you should check out our interview with the COO of Tyk, James Hirst.

Could You Have More Money in Your Pocket?

Money is tight right now. The current crisis has left economies all over the world reeling. Now, more than ever, you do not want to be leaving money on the table.

If you live in the United States and are an independent contractor, gig worker, or freelancer you might actually be doing just that.

The CARES Act provided for a $1,000 Federal Grant for those whose businesses have been affected by Coronavirus. If you haven’t already, you can apply for the grant through the Small Business Administration website.

Another way you can help your personal finances is to look for some freelance work.

Much has been said about the vulnerability of freelancers but the Freelancer’s “Fast 50” report shows that the freelance market as a whole is growing. Freelance job postings in the second quarter of 2020 were 41% higher than for the same period in 2019.

You may not be interested in becoming a full-time freelancer but you can still make decent money running a side hustle.

A survey by Bankrate showed that 45% of Americans have a side hustle and that, although most make $500 or less a month, the average monthly income for employed side hustlers was $1,122.

Now is a great time to start doing freelance work – especially if you could use a little extra money!

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