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BEERG Newsletter - Future Work: A Roundup of Recent Developments

In the US, Gallup recently released a return to office survey which makes for interesting reading.

  • Approximately 56% of full-time employees in the U.S. -- more than 70 million workers -- say their job can be done working remotely from home.
  • 5 in 10 are working hybrid (part of their week at home and part on-site)
  • 3 in 10 are exclusively working remotely
  • 2 in 10 are entirely on-site

In the UK Times, the respected commentator, David Aaronovitch writes about the “war” between (some) employers who want to keep remote workers under constant surveillance, and employees who push back against it. Tech companies on both sides of the divide are creating software to deepen surveillance on the one hand, and to feign presence on the other. Aaronovitch wryly observes:

News from the working-from-home battlefront: the Undetectable Mouse Jiggler can be yours within 24 hours for just £14.99. And a very handy bit of kit it is too. What it does is make your computer look as though it is being used by you, even when you’ve nipped down to the shops or are watching golf on the TV. “Just plug it into your computer and press the button,” the manufacturers advise, and “the cursor will start to move automatically”.

The Wee Shoogle goes one better. “It’s important to learn all the tricks and tips in order to maintain a pristine image in the office,” say its makers. So if you’re in one of those interminable Microsoft Teams meetings and want to slip out without your screen “going yellow” (the virtual equivalent of taking your jacket off the back of the chair) it keeps nudging your mouse to stop your screensaver appearing. And it is undetectable by your employer’s IT department.

Meanwhile, Rolf Schmucker a social scientist and head of the DGB Good Work Index institute in Berlin, writing about the “blurring of boundaries” concludes:

The early and comprehensive participation of the workforce and workplace representatives is a prerequisite for overcoming the invisibility of work in the domestic context. Working in the ‘new normal’ is not a programme per se to humanise it. Only by strengthening the rights of employees and concrete design with the participation of those affected can it actually be used to enhance self-determination.

A recent article in the HBR says that while remote work has become commonplace since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the focus on daily remote work arrangements may miss a larger opportunity that the pandemic has unearthed: the possibility of a substantially increased labour pool for digital economy work. The article explores the idea that “distributed” work will allow companies to recruit across the US without workers having to move from their hometowns. 

But why stop at the US borders? Does not remote/distributed work open up the possibility of a digitally connected global workforce which avoids all the problems normally associated with immigration? We are certain that we are going to hear a lot more about “remote meaning remote” as discussions about the future organisation of digital work continue.

BNP, the French bank, or at least one manager in the bank, has emailed his team encouraging them to spend more time in the office: see HERE 

Published on: September 7, 2022

Topics: People and Culture, The UK and European Union

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