Telecommuting: The Countries Avoiding the Post-Covid Work Trend and Why

Telecommuting: The Countries Avoiding the Post-Covid Work Trend and Why

Two years ago, the COVID-19 health crisis caused a surge in telecommuting as most countries had to adhere to strict safety measures to keep businesses running.

But now that most of these measures have been lifted and life has returned to “normal,” many companies are still shifting their once office roles to fully or partially remote.

A recent study from the job site Indeed found that the number of global remote job postings has increased since the start of the pandemic, nearly tripling from an average of just 2.5 percent in January 2020 to almost 7.5 percent in September 2021

Spain, Ireland and the United Kingdom are just some of the countries that have seen the biggest increases, and the United States is no stranger to this trend either.

Remote opportunities jumped from less than 4 percent of all high-paying jobs before the pandemic to about 9 percent in late 2020 and to more than 15 percent today in North America.

Data researchers from careers site Ladders believe telecommuting is here to stay, with a quarter of all professional jobs available remotely by the end of the year.

“This change in working arrangements cannot be overstated. As big as it is, it’s even bigger than people think,” said Ladders CEO Mark Cenedella.

“Hiring practices typically move at a glacial pace, but the pandemic has turned up the heat, so we’re seeing a rapid flow of change in this space. It’s really quite amazing.”

But while much of the world seems to be quickly embracing remote and hybrid work, some countries simply haven’t yet adapted to the idea; whether for cultural, legal or technical reasons.

Czech Republic: Legal uncertainty regarding the status of teleworkers

Although telecommuting is becoming commonplace in most Western European countries, the flexible method has not been fully embraced by the Czechs, especially by employers, even though the country is just as technologically equipped as its peers.

The reason is quite simple: the Czech Republic struggles to give proper status to remote workers and the law does not specify whether a remote worker is a normal employee or not, so companies prefer to avoid remote work given the legal uncertainty.

The Czech Republic is the only country that has never given legal status to remote workers, and although the government is starting to discuss their legislative status following pushes from younger generations who want changenot much progress has been made so far.

According to an Ipsos survey, 51 percent of Czech employees surveyed are interested in permanent remote work and 59 percent in partial remote work.

France: Europe’s bad student

Meanwhile, France stands out as the lowest performing student in Europe, according to study carried out jointly by Ifop and the Jean Jaurès Foundationonly 34 percent of the French have worked remotely regularly during the pandemic, while 61 percent of Germans, 56 percent of Italians and 50 percent of Britons have done so.

The amount of time the French work remotely is also less than their European neighbors: 11 percent of them work from home four to five days a week, compared to 30 percent of Italians.

These low numbers can be explained by the strong disparity between senior management – ​​the majority of whom can work remotely – and other socio-professional categories, who largely continue to go to work.

Age is also another factor in these differences in France, with older workers feeling less comfortable with digital technology than the “digital native” generation.

The French are known for their reluctance to change, so the situation may not change anytime soon. Moreover, the culture of “presenteeism”—the practice of being present at the office despite being sick—is still strongly ingrained in the minds of the older generation.

When asked whether they would like more or fewer remote working days, French survey respondents said they would like fewer remote working days compared to their European neighbours.

The researchers believe that this low demand is the result of social interactions, which are a key decision-making tool in the French office, but also a form of resignation among many French workers who feel that remote working conditions are not available to them .

Japan: A strong culture of ‘representation’

Japan, like France, is another country that is affected by the culture of presenteeism.

Many Japanese fear a lack of career advancement if they don’t work long hours in the office, and forcing those workers to telecommute because of the health crisis has proved a disaster.

While most employees say working from home makes them more efficient than in the office, Japanese employees have become less productive by an average of 20 percent, according to a 2020 study by economist Toshihiro Okubo.

Japan also has a highly social work structure, making it a poor candidate for telecommuting, as employees prefer to work in teams and make assessments as a group, while overseas employees are usually given unique responsibilities and assessed individually.

Mentorship and dialogue are two core values ​​of the Japanese work system, with senior employees supervising younger peers and informal coffee machine chats enhancing team contact – something that simply doesn’t work in a remote environment.

Lack of access to personal computers was another reason that made the shift to telecommuting very difficult for Japanese workers; the nation has one of the lowest PC access rates according to the OECD.

Also, home offices are far less common than in the West due to the small size of the average city apartment and the prices of larger houses in Japan’s highly urbanized society.

China: a difficult transition

Although China was the first country to resort to remote work as it was the first country to deal with the coronavirus, the transition was still relatively difficult for the Chinese workforce.

at this time, 40 percent of Chinese workers have been forced to work from home, compared to just 7 percent of employees who were allowed to do so previously – a rather unexpected cultural shift for a country strongly attached to presenteeism and hierarchies, according to consulting firm Bloomberg.

However, after the country began locking down key affected regions, the use of digital technologies – including artificial intelligence, location tracking, facial recognition, etc. — has skyrocketed to contain the spread of the epidemic, and some companies have begun keeping their employees tight, even remotely.

Employees had to contact their bosses every morning to tell them their location and whether they had symptoms of the virus.

China’s communist history may also explain the difficulty for the Chinese to accept telecommuting, as employees are forced to negotiate agreements collectively.

But despite the country’s strong collectivist culture, the new habits developed during the pandemic are slowly growing among Chinese workers and may see further developments in the coming years.

Access to high-speed broadband in developing countries

For many countries, the pandemic has highlighted the unevenness of digital access, another barrier to a successful transition to hybrid forms of work.

Unsurprisingly, developing countries are the most vulnerable, but many have taken positions that are at odds with their internet resilience.

For example, Mexico and Brazil are more resistant to the Internet than Indonesia or Indiaaccording to economic consultants Bhaskar Chakravorty and Ravi Shankar Chaturvedi.

Angola also stands out as the least telecommuting-friendly country in the world, with only 0.70 of every 100 people in the country having fixed-line broadband in 2020, compared to 36.41 in the US. according to the World Bank.

The number of teleworkers in the country this year remains difficult to estimate as few figures have been reported to the International Labor Organization (ILO) by government institutions.

Overall, most countries around the world have experienced an undeniable shift in the ability to do work beyond the confines of the traditional office, with many employees now equipped to log in from home after learning how to do so during the height of the pandemic.

Companies are now navigating the pros and cons of remote and hybrid work, choosing which aspects suit the particularities of their unique cultures.

So while some countries like France, Japan or China may have been slower to adapt to remote working than the US or the UK, the hybrid and remote trends are here to stay – but so are the joys of chatting with colleagues in the office .

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