Democratizing Opportunity, The Impact Of Remote Work On Globalization


Covid-19 has forced businesses around the world out of their physical offices and into the digital realm. Before 2020, telecommuting was an occasional circumstance for some, and only the norm for a small subset of contractors and freelancers with digital specialties. The sudden shift to remote work has in effect, become a global experiment conducted on the long-term viability of this working structure. Valuable data is being accumulated on how working from home impacts individuals, businesses, industries, and world economies.

In countries such as the US, UK, and Canada, remote work has been steadily increasing in popularity as advances in technology have allowed for it. The term ‘digital nomad’ has entered the zeitgeist, popularized by millennial culture and young tech startups. Virtual meeting and project management software such as Zoom and Slack have made the need for renting a physical office space an unnecessary expense for many SMBs, allowing for a vast hiring pool unconfined by location.

The pandemic lockdowns caused many other countries and industries to hastily catch up to the working structures digital nomads have pioneered. Businesses quickly invested in remote software and trained workforces within the digital frameworks now needed to keep afloat in this volatile market. Futurists have long been predicting a rise in the availabilities of remote-based roles, but no-one could have anticipated the speed at which this change would be actualized.  Remote work could now represent the next pivotal shift for globalization, and work as we know it.

Benefiting Employees

Traditional working structures have remained in place for centuries, and the disruption caused by the pandemic has given a rare opportunity to stop and assess. Although the standard office environment may be ideal for some people, remote working in practice has raised some valid questions. Before the lockdowns, employees were fit around the frameworks set by employers. This often meant a stressful daily commute, a uniform of business suitable clothing, and forcing productivity in an environment that may not have been ideal for every employee’s unique needs.

An unexpected development from remote work is a new focus on the needs of employees as individuals. Lockdown rules and government safety guidelines have meant employers have been required to make adjustments for the other responsibilities and commitments in their employee's lives, such as childcare and homeschooling obligations. This increase in flexibility has shifted convention, so work is now fit around the individual’s frameworks.

This adjustment has benefitted individuals in a variety of ways. When someone can design their working day around their lifestyle and needs, they become more efficient and productive. Each person is different, some more effective in the morning, others in the evening. Some people enjoy working in silence, others prefer their favorite music. Working at home means more time is spent with loved ones, which increases wellbeing. More flexibility has allowed for advantages to mental health, such as the freedom to go for a walk, take a power nap, wear comfortable clothing, and work in proximity to an anxiety-relieving pet. Work is now measured by the quality of output, rather than time spent at a desk.

Benefiting Employers And Industry

A recent survey has revealed that between 70 to 80% of those currently working remotely in Latin America would prefer to continue telecommuting after the pandemic is no longer a threat. This is a significant number that implies that employers will need to re-evaluate working structures to prevent an exodus of skilled workers seeking roles offering the flexibility and autonomy they have experienced during this time.

Flexible and hybrid remote work structures can also benefit businesses. Office real estate is a costly expenditure that comes with the additional costs of insurance and employee safety adherence. Downsizing or eliminating the physical office would reduce yearly expenditure. Embracing a distributed team structure also widens the hiring pool from locally available talent to industry specialists from around the world.

Globalizing workforces mean an increase in innovation and development as training, experience, and specialties from a variety of influences are embedded in company culture and practices. global market rates can also be cheaper for the hiring company and this helps to democratize wages across countries, leveling out economical disparities.

Globalization 4.0

Historically, the term ‘globalization’ has summarized the international trade of goods. Now, through technological advancement, the export of services is also possible. In the past, developments in transport and manufacture have disrupted globalization, and remote work is the next big change with the potential to affect the world’s economy.

Services represent 63% of the global economy, and remote digital roles are the means to export these specialist skills. Previously, international hiring involved individuals immigrating to a different country on working visas. This practice caused a disparity in global economies as the most educated and skilled professionals from emerging nations would often seek employment abroad to further their careers. The developed nation hiring from the global talent pool would gain these individual’s skills, but also their tax revenue, and financial contributions to commerce, the local housing market, etc. Skills export can positively alter this system.

International remote work democratizes opportunity allowing individuals around the world to gain employment at fair market rates, without uprooting their lives. For emerging nations, this represents income from abroad contributing to the local economy, and skilled professionals gaining experience that could transfer to homegrown entrepreneurship and innovation in the future. Skills export will encourage developing nation’s governments to invest further in education and the technological infrastructure required for consistent connectivity. These developments will balance access to well-paid jobs, quality education, and the internet with these opportunities becoming standardized globally.

Maintaining Momentum

The pandemic has forced this adaptation to working from home under difficult circumstances. For many, this has meant dealing with the stress of confinement, along with managing work around children, and other family members or housemates working from the same environment. Despite this, the remote work experiment has revealed some positive results and potential for constructive change on a global scale. If adaptation is achievable under the duress of a global pandemic, then it is certainly a viable option once the threat has passed.

To take advantage of the benefits remote work can offer, companies will need to reevaluate their procedures and redesign processes to support distributed teams. Existing company perks and benefits packages may no longer suit people working from their home environments in different global locations. Onboarding processes for new hires will need to be rethought, and international employment laws researched.

Social media and the export of entertainment has been aiding awareness and understanding of different cultures for some time, and this will assist the integration of international teams. The merging of culture in the work landscape will build unity in a time when a backlash against immigration and racial prejudice has increased in countries such as the UK and the US. Laying these foundations could mean the easing of immigration policies in the future as a vast international workforce will have gained desirable experience and skills for visa sponsorship. The pandemic has been a difficult period for the world, but it may have cleared the path for a brighter future.

Gemma Dodd Bio

Gemma Dodd is a Political Correspondent at Immigration News. She is invested in human rights and informing audiences about social injustice and positive global change.

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