Working from home has been one of the most drastic changes to most of our lives over the last seven months. The dining room and kitchen table that hardly ever served as a temporary workstation have now asserted their dominance in our homes, and makeshift desks have set up shop in peculiar spaces, hidden from flatmates or children. The process has taken us through a rollercoaster of emotions, excitement, resentment, fear, peace and not to mention the distractions that many have had to wrestle with. Like any change in life, we are accustomed to adapt to it. Have we adapted past the point of return? Will we work from home forever?
With signs that the threat of the virus was waning during the end of the summer, governments began encouraging employees to return to their business premises, with safety restrictions in place. In response, many workforces began filtering back to their lives before lockdown, and tensions around minimal social distancing decreased. Now, the virus is flaring up again, which is bound to cause another shift.
A part-time basis of at home and in office working has also become commonplace. We all seem to be settling into a rhythm around the concept of remote working, and therefore have become more flexible. A survey conducted in May showed that 55 per cent of US workers wanted a mixture of home and office working. In the UK, employers expect the proportion of regular home workers to double in coming months, from 18 per cent pre-pandemic to 37 per cent post-pandemic. In China, employment expert Alicia Tun predicted that in ten years time there will be a split as far as 60 to 40 per cent employees wanting to continue working from home.
Working from home has in many ways accelerated the increase of overall technology adoption, as we are forced to collaborate on an online basis daily, no matter what sector of previous employment. Organisations were challenged to reimagine communications, and were also forced into seeing the emotional impact of the change between colleagues.
Working from home allows countless distractions. The internet can waver, computers can break and children can interfere. As we rely on technology more, surprisingly we also seem to be faced with a more ‘human’ side of humans.
Organisations are becoming far more aware of the need for flexibility and empathy. Research finds that nearly half of people working from home reported managing these at-home distractions as a challenge, no matter their ranking within a company’s hierarchy. As humans we have had to face similar challenges simultaneously that were not necessarily out in the open before.
Evangelist and head of NEC consulting at NEC Asia Pacific, Singapore-based Walter Lee said in a statement that “We have all had to adapt to this work from home environment very quickly, If there was one social lesson learned, it’s that we have all become more connected in a sense, because everyone—the whole world—is going through the same situation.”
Companies are being managed in various ways, some have given employees permission to continue working remotely until at least 2021, others have recalled staff to the workplace with different schedules and groups to keep the numbers down. Some companies are leaving it up to the individuals to decide where to be based.
Each and every one of us has a very different way of working, for example timings as to when we work best, are critical to many regarding productivity performance. Some need silence, and some need noise. If companies continue to allow flexibility around physical presence in the workplace then this could only benefit the overall business more. The introduction of flexible, or in another word, ‘hybrid’ working has given the in-office workforce a taste of what could be. Because of this, it may never be the same again.
Hybrid working is the key to understanding a more flexible future, it generally grants more autonomy to the employees to fit around the rest of their lives, instead of their lives fitting around work. TechRepublic produced an interesting manifesto in collaboration with Microsoft on how we may transition into this hybrid way of working.
Before we start praising this new approach to work, it should be noted that it could also do more harm than good in many circumstances. The pandemic finally shed light on the enormous socioeconomic and racial inequality between who is able to work from home and who is not, and it can’t be ignored anymore. We all live differently, by choice or not, which is the most important factor we should consider going forward as we brace for an inevitable hybrid workforce all over the world.
As the global fight against racial injustice gains steam, meaningful change is beginning to materialise. From mayors pledging to defund police forces and racial justice organisations receiving an outpouring of support to a sharp rise in public discussions around issues of systemic racism—evidence of progress trails behind the swelling wave of protest and outrage. It is important to build on this historic momentum and keep the foot on the gas.
What can you do to support the movement for black rights and racial justice?
Taking to the streets to demonstrate remains one of the most effective ways to protest injustice and demand immediate change. Check the Black Lives Matter website, local community websites and social media for information about protests taking place in your area. If your circumstances don’t allow you to march in the streets, you may want to inquire about virtual protests happening, like the one recently arranged by Black Lives Matter London.
Protesters marching in the streets are in need of various supplies, including water, masks, food, and more. Visit the webpage of a protest happening near you to learn about its designated supply drop-off locations, or contact protest organisers for information on how to help.
As a growing number of protesters are being arrested by police forces, bail money is urgently needed for people who cannot afford to purchase their freedom. This Google Doc contains a list of bailout and legal funds categorised by city and state.
Systemic racism has robbed black communities of funds and resources and stilted progress among its residents. Contributing to initiatives designed to empower black communities is a crucial step in rectifying the ravages of centuries of racial discrimination. Black Visions Collective, National Bailout and Campaign Zero are three organisations that work in varying ways to achieve long term improvement for black communities, end their oppression and promote their rights and safety. You may want to research similar organisations operating in your city or state.
Make it a point to support black-owned businesses, restaurants and shops in your area. You should also research which companies are complicit in perpetuating systemic racism and refrain from supporting them—L’Oréal, Reformation and Zimmerman, I’m looking at you.
Immigrants of colour are disproportionately targeted, terrorised, and abused by the government—at the border, in detention facilities, and in black and brown communities repeatedly raided by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). At the invitation of the NYPD, ICE agents have been infiltrating Black Lives Matter protests in New York City, and have already detained one immigrant. Research and donate to organisations working to protect and advocate on behalf of immigrants of colour.
Queer people of colour are at an increased risk of experiencing violence, exclusion, police brutality and oppression. They are also more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental health issues as a result of what is commonly referred to as ‘compounded minority stress’—being both queer and black or brown. The LGBTQ Racial Justice Fund and the Black Trans Femmes in the Arts Collective are two out of numerous organisations working to protect and uplift black queer people in the US. If you’re based in the UK, you may want to check out UK Black Pride, IMAAN and NAZ Project.
While the focus tends to revolve around national politics—it is local authorities that are often hotbeds of racial injustice. Inquire about your mayor, comptroller, chief of police, and district attorney, demand accountability for their actions, and be sure to vote in local elections and get involved in your community.
Across the US, and around the world, more and more people are demanding to defund the police and invest their budget in community projects and infrastructure and locally-run emergency-response teams. Minneapolis may be the first US city to completely disband its police force, and LA Mayor Eric Garcetti had already pledged to slash the city’s police budget and invest the money in communities of colour. Join the growing demand to defund the police by supporting #8toAbolition, the Movement for Black Lives or other NGOs operating in your city or county.
Challenge yourself with daily and rigorous reflections on how the concept of Whiteness may affect your life; in what ways does it limit or impact your actions, your perceptions, your opinions, your circle of friends? Policies are important milestones in the fight against systemic racism, but they alone cannot herald real, long-lasting change on societal and institutional scales. Slavery had been abolished, Jim Crow laws had been eradicated, and yet here we are still battling the plague of racism. Ultimately, racial justice could only be achieved when we fundamentally change the ways we see ourselves and obliterate the institution and concept of Whiteness.