As the coronavirus continues to spread, resulting in governments and businesses rethinking certain processes, we are beginning to experience some big changes. Some of these changes may very well end up reshaping how we go about our everyday lives.
- The world’s experiment of large-scale remote work and its potential effects
- The impacts from the virus on travelling both large and small scale
Changes to our everyday routines
The coronavirus has recently demonstrated the significant impact pandemic events may have on our everyday lives.
Since large crowds can increase the rate at which the virus spreads, one of the recommendations to decrease a person’s chance of getting sick is to avoid them.
Thus, institutions ranging from companies to universities and even governments are recommending people stay home for the time being. This means people are no longer attending meetings, lectures, and commuting as they normally do every day.
Even simple tasks such as grocery shopping are being affected. For example: it is now being recommended that only one person or so goes to the store, leaving their families behind in order to mitigate the risk of large crowds.
Social distancing is also being practiced, with pictures emerging online from the US, to Europe, all the way to Asia showing people doing so.
A big part of our everyday social lives are being heavily impacted too. It’s clear the recent COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the majority of people worldwide. However, in our new Information Age, could technology perhaps aid in providing a solution to these hurdles? Furthermore, could technology help reshape how our everyday society functions?
The biggest work from home experiment
People, universities, businesses, and more have began experimenting with a solution to a major impact from the virus: a drop in productivity.
To combat this drop in productivity, working from home is now being explored. Many people from employees to students in countries across the globe are now completing their tasks and submitting them all from the comfort of their home, without a daily commute.
Working from home / remote work is nothing new, as many people across the world already do this. However, the scale at which the virus is pushing us to experiment with it in our new digital age is something we’ve yet to experience.
This experiment will provide insight into the viability of large-scale remote work for companies, academic institutions, and more. If the same amount of productivity can be achieved more efficiently from home, we may see future changes to the office and school routine.
Demand for technological solutions
Large scale remote work results in a demand for extremely robust, scalable, user-friendly applications that make it easy to communicate and do work over the internet. Collaborative tools such as Google Docs will prove to be extremely helpful, while platforms such as Telegram will serve as the new means of communication between workers, be it students or employees. This is even an opportunity for perhaps distributed ledger technology and decentralized applications to be involved.
While working everyday in an office may not become a requirement, group meetings and conferences will still be essential for business operations or collaborative projects for university students. These processes are not going anywhere, however the way we approach them may very well change as technology becomes a bigger part of them.
Granted this worldwide experiment yields positive results, we may see a core aspect of our everyday lives become more digital. This will undoubtedly spark the creation of platforms that can handle incredible amounts of users at once enabling them to collaborate in real-time. Be it 5 people working on a document, having a 20 person conference call, or sharing a presentation with 50 students, such platforms can certainly replace our current in-person solutions.
Business and employee costs
With employees predominately working from home, a massive cut in costs is achieved by the business.
Firstly, a large office to house each employee throughout the workday is no longer needed. In a system where there is a mix of remote work and a mix of employees at an office, a smaller office is still viable since employees are not required to show up each day and could even rotate days.
For example: a business with 50 employees and an office with a 25 person capacity may still function adequately. Employees could simply alternate from remote work to office work, with 25 working remotely and the other 25 working at the office at each time. The business would be able to maintain a significantly smaller office while having more workers than the office would be able to support. However, though at this point theoretical, it is still a very interesting system to consider.
With significantly less people, this means lower utilities costs as well as office supplies including laptops, desks, paper, air-conditioning, etc. This cost is largely shifted onto the employees, as they now become responsible for housing themselves throughout the day and replenishing any supplies they need while working from home.
Since businesses would no longer need a person in a specific physical location for remote work, this has a few significant effects.
- Competition for remote jobs becomes higher
- Wages for the job become lower
Since remote work may be done with someone in Miami just as well as someone in New York, more people become eligible for more positions. This results in a higher competition for remote jobs, as they are no longer geo-specific.
With a remote job market becoming more competitive, and assuming demand for a job exceeds demand for labor, wages are likely to drop and become more competitive. This is done by people willing and able to take a lower price in exchange for skills that the company now has an abundant access to.
Taken a step further, if an American company may then outsource more jobs to India for example, costs will certainly decrease for the company and competition will increase for domestic US workers.
With employees predominately working from home, a massive cut in costs is also achieved by the employee.
Employees no longer need to commute to their office each day, saving money on transportation whether it’s a train, bus, Uber, and especially a car. Other costs such as stopping at a coffee shop for a convenient coffee and donut may also go down, as it no longer becomes convenient since the employee no longer has a commute.
This has both a cost of money and a cost of time.
Buying work-specific clothes, such as office attire including suits, dresses, and shoes, no longer becomes a requirement. Working at home in your pyjamas now becomes socially acceptable, since only your partner and kids may judge you now. Making meals at home becomes a viable and more convenient option too, saving money on eating out if the person so chooses. However the reality of this is we would probably see demand for food delivery services skyrocket, as this is even more convenient than that stop for your coffee and donut since you don’t even have to leave your house.
However, arguably the biggest benefit is the persons time that is saved.
With more time people can seek new work opportunities, learn new things, work on hobbies, and overall reclaim more time in the day for themselves. This can potentially increase people’s level of satisfaction and overall the quality of their work. More importantly, this allows people to simply be human beings and enjoy life rather than devote the majority of their hours to their job.
Working from home / remote work can certainly alter the everyday routine most of us have become so accustomed to. It can also help solve the disconnect our modern fast-paced lives have on us and our wives, husbands, kids, mothers and fathers, and friends. Whether or not this large-scale experiment will yield promising results though is something only time will tell.
The effects on travelling – from cars to planes
Another change the virus is causing: a significant decrease in travel. Some of the most prominent airlines have announced suspending international flights to certain locations (e.g. China, Italy) due to both virus fears and lack of demand for tickets.
A number of countries have also implemented a travel ban and / or a quarantine for those travelling from recently affected areas. Countries are even beginning to close their borders off entirely, with the exception of permanent residents and citizens being able to enter.
Combine this with individuals now turning to remote work, and it’s clear travelling as a whole is being affected from airplanes to cars.
Since people are no longer commuting everyday to their jobs or classes, most modes of transportation are simply not being used. Trains and busses are becoming empty, Ubers are less needed, and people don’t need to use their cars each and everyday to go to and from work.
Many business trips that require an employee to fly to a different city for a few days now turn into a conference calls. The more we are forced to use technology in place of traditional meetings and business operations, the clearer it becomes that these solutions provide the same results as traditional ones.
This sparks a sharp decline in the need for fuel such as petrol. What makes the situation even more interesting is the current state of oil prices, as Saudi Arabia and Russia are battling it out with a price war that has sent oil prices sub $30 / barrel. With an even bigger decrease in the everyday need for it right now, oil prices may become even more cheap on top of what the price war has caused so far.
If this whole remote work experiment has a positive response from employees, students, companies, and universities, we will see a long-lasting drop in demand for fuel. As for airlines, these are uncharted waters, as it’s uncertain how long borders will remain closed.
Furthermore, airlines risk going bankrupt the longer this virus situation continues. However, it’s worth mentioning that major airlines such as United and American airlines have spent up to 96% of their spare cash on stock buybacks. It’s no wonder they risk going bankrupt. If some of these huge airlines do end up closing shop, then undoubtedly we will see a significant decrease in air travel.
However, once the virus situation comes to an end, flights will still continue to have a large demand for a variety of reason (e.g. vacations, family visits, essential business meetings, etc.). On top of this, realistically many airlines may not close shop, as Trump has voiced his support of a bailout for aerospace companies such as Boeing.
In short: this pandemic may bring change
As the coronavirus continues to impact our daily lives, we may very well experience some changes based on the quick solutions we have adopted. The bigger change of the two briefly discussed in this article is by far working from home / remote work. This change itself would have an impact on countless other areas, as it would alter the core part of many people’s every day.
As said before, this is the biggest remote work experiment the world has ever seen. Depending on whether or not this is a success and has a positive response, we could see remote work becoming a bigger part of our lives. Surely not all at once, but it can definitely become more and more present in the workplace, and also in the classroom.