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

Two years ago, the COVID-19 health crisis caused an increase in telecommuting as most countries had to follow strict security measures to keep businesses running.

But now that most of those measures have been lifted and life has returned to “normal,” many companies are still moving roles that were once in-office either fully or partially remote.

ONE recent study by employment website Indeed found that the number of global job listings with a remote component has soared since the start of the pandemic, nearly tripling from an average of just 2.5 percent in January 2020 to nearly 7.5 percent in September 2021.

Spain, Ireland and the United Kingdom are just a few of the countries seeing the biggest increases, and the United States is no stranger to this trend.

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 scientists at careers site Ladders believe remote work is here to stay, with a full quarter of all professional jobs available remotely by the end of the year.

“This change in work arrangements is impossible to overstate. As big as it is, it’s even bigger than people think,” said Ladders CEO Marc Cenedella.

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

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

Czech Republic: Legal uncertainty regarding the status of remote workers

Although remote working is becoming common in most Western European countries, the flexible method has not been fully accepted by the Czechs, especially by employers, despite the fact that the country is as technologically equipped as its counterparts.

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

The Czech Republic is the only country that has never given legal status to remote workers, and although the government has begun to discuss legislation on their status following pressures from younger generations calling for changenot much progress has been made so far.

According to an Ipsos poll, 51 percent of Czech employees surveyed were interested in permanent remote work and 59 percent in a partially remote job.

France: Europe’s bad student

Meanwhile, France stands out as Europe’s lowest performing student, it says a study carried out jointly by Ifop and the Jean Jaurès foundationonly 34 percent of French people regularly worked remotely during the pandemic, compared to 61 percent of Germans, 56 percent of Italians and 50 percent of Britons.

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

These low rates can be explained by the sharp difference between senior executives – the majority of whom can work remotely – and other socio-professional categories, who largely continue to go to their place of work.

Age was also another factor in these disparities in France, with older workers 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 ingrained in the minds of the older generation.

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

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

Japan: A Strong Culture of ‘Presence’

Japan, like France, is another country plagued by a culture of presentation.

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

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

Japan also has a highly social work structure, which makes it a poor candidate for telecommuting, as employees prefer to work in teams and be evaluated as a group, while overseas workers typically have unique responsibilities and are evaluated individually.

Mentoring and dialogue are two core values ​​of the Japanese work system, with senior employees supervising younger peers and informal coffee shop chats fostering contact within teams – something that simply didn’t work in a remote environment.

Lack of access to personal computers was another reason that made the switch to remote work very difficult for Japanese workers. the nation has one of the lowest rates of access to personal computers according to the OECD.

In addition, home offices are much 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

Despite the fact that 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 that time, 40 percent of Chinese workers forced to work from home, compared to only 7 percent of workers who were allowed to do so before – a rather unexpected cultural change for a country very attached to the showmanship and hierarchies, according to consultancy Bloomberg.

However, once the country started locking down key affected areas, the use of digital technologies – including artificial intelligence, location tracking, facial recognition, etc. workers, even remotely.

Workers had to check in with 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 in adopting remote work, as workers are forced to negotiate agreements collectively.

However, despite the country’s strong collectivist culture, the new habits developed during the pandemic are slowly growing among Chinese workers, and further growth could be seen in the coming years.

Access to high-speed broadband in developing countries

For many countries, the pandemic has shone a spotlight on 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 contrasting positions on their internet resilience.

For example, Mexico and Brazil are more internet resistant than Indonesia or Indiaaccording to financial advisors Bhaskar Chakravorti and Ravi Shankar Chaturvedi.

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

The number of remote workers in the country this year remains difficult to estimate, as few figures have been shared with the International Labor Organization (ILO) by government institutions.

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

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

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

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