A rapid shift to working from home

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A rapid shift to working from home

The author is the head of the Factpl team of the JoongAng Ilbo.

“What would you choose between working from home for the rest of your life or getting a $30,000 raise in your pay?

In April, Blind, an online community of workers, took a survey on 3,000 employees of major American companies, including Apple, Google and Amazon. Sixty-four percent of the respondents chose “work-from-home for the rest of life.” The value of living remotely in an affordable neighborhood free from traffic jam is more than 30 million won ($25,800) a year. Managers want workers to return to the office, but employees now ask if that is really necessary.

Companies are responding. Following Facebook and Twitter, Google on August 10 announced it will offer permanent work-from-home options. Employees’ salaries will be cut by as much as 25 percent depending on the location. Whether the pandemic ends or not, the trend seems irreversible. A company can keep talents when it allows them to work anywhere in the world. As these companies have the technology to make it possible, there’s no reason not to try. They have already swallowed the world with software.

Korean IT companies are also responding swiftly. Some eliminated offline offices and have all employees meet in the virtual world while others allow employees to choose their preference, whether it’s a permanent work-from-home option or reporting to work only twice a week. There should be the trust that workers will do their job without supervision — and there should be reliable know how on evaluating their performance online. As a result, these companies attract competent workers. There’s no downside for companies either. It is a chance to recruit talented workers around the country, even the world.

The JoongAng Ilbo’s newsletter Factpl is conducting a survey on its subscribers on the same subject. Many responded that they’d like to continue working from home even if they get a pay cut. Many said they’d rather save on commuting. The economic value of an individual’s commuting time in Korea is 4.57 million won a year. If work can be done properly without this cost, there’s no reason to refuse the option.

Of course, the movement only applies to a portion of workers. Smaller companies and service jobs that require in-person business cannot afford to work from home. How about in the future? The inequality in work-from-home options should be reduced, and everyone should be given broader options to work in safer places more efficiently. It may be complicated for now but not impossible. Dating, education, shopping and gambling are shifting to the online space. Today, everyone carries an AI device in their hands. Most of all, no one knows when a crisis worse than Covid-19 may hit again and keep us apart. Housing prices in the capital region with easy commutes to good jobs is also too expensive.

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