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Covid means remote workers can live anywhere. So where’s ‘anywhere’?

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SEATTLE — In spring 2020, just as the first Covid-19 surge was peaking and businesses, schools, and whole countries were shutting down, a young couple named Elizabeth and Anton made a bold move. Little did they know it would put them in the vanguard of a pandemic-enabled geographic dispersion that demographers, economists, employers, developers and local governments are still figuring out.

Elizabeth grew up in a Seattle suburb and, after college and a spell working in Hawaii, returned to settle where she always wanted to live, in Seattle itself. She and Anton seemed to be living the Cascadia dream. Their apartment, in a walkable neighborhood packed with hip restaurants and bars, was small, but it had an iconic view of Mt. Rainier and the downtown skyline. She biked around the city’s scenic Lake Union to her job in the city’s shiny new tech district, helping oversee clinical trials at a biopharma company, and grew vegetables in a nearby community garden. On weekends they escaped to the woods and mountains.

But with each return to the city, her spirits fell. The dark, damp winter days depressed her: “When it rained, I smelled concrete rather than earth. It stressed me out to eat from my plot — two or three times I found needles there. I have a really bad image of leaving work in South Lake Union and seeing a man shooting up in his mouth. People like me were just walking by. It filled me with despair.”

Then the pandemic hit, and everyone who could was told to work at home. Elizabeth and Anton faced the prospect of living and working together, 24 hours a day, in just 550 square feet, or looking elsewhere for more space and the life they really wanted. Suddenly all options were open. They took an exploratory road trip around the Mountain West. “The call to Colorado kept getting stronger,” she recalls.

The tech giant Anton works for reluctantly agreed to let him stay remote indefinitely. Elizabeth asked the same but got shot down. She quit and landed at a smaller biopharma that was glad to let her work from home. They looked at a remote mountain village, but the broadband there was too slow to support online work — a critical factor in remote workers’ relocation choices. So they settled for a ranch house on the edge of Boulder with space for gardening and mountains nearby. Her urban blues evaporated. “Now the stressor of the day is building a barricade to keep the bobcat out of the chicken coop,” she says, laughing.

Just one hitch: Elizabeth and Anton, already priced out of Seattle’s real estate market, hoped to buy in Colorado. But prices have surged in Boulder, as they have in most of the country. They’re now looking south to New Mexico.

Meanwhile, another young tech-industry couple, Andrew and Amy, reached the same decision Elizabeth and Anton did, but it took them in the opposite direction. They’d had enough of life in San Jose, where they lived and worked for a streaming service: the sprawl and freeways, the wildfire smoke and surly neighbors, the general anomie of Silicon Valley. And with a 2-year-old daughter, they dreaded school prospects in California.

So they persuaded their employer to let them go remote permanently and chased their dream up the West Coast. They wanted to stay in a diverse, liberal coastal city; for many on the right and left, ideological compatibility is an important consideration in moving. But they also wanted a safe, cozy neighborhood and beautiful wild places to go camping.

They found it all in a quiet, leafy district of century-old bungalows with a prized public elementary school, a Carnegie library and a plethora of shops in easy walking distance, with water and mountains to east and west. With no income tax, their tax burden fell. Their immaculate three-story neo-Craftsman home cost $2 million, but they say it’s twice the house they could have gotten in a comparable Bay Area neighborhood. They still marvel at how friendly their new neighbors are. “Walking around, we get into conversations with strangers all the time,” says Andrew. “Everyone we pass says, ‘How you doing?’” All in all, the move “was a pipe dream come true.”

And not just for them. “When we sold some stuff we didn’t need on Craigslist, everyone who responded had just come here from California,” says Andrew. “Even Waffles, the neighborhood cat,” adds Amy. “His tag says 408” — San Jose’s area code.

Their dream came true in much-maligned Seattle, just two miles northwest of Amazon’s headquarters and a mile south of the apartment Elizabeth and Anton fled, on a hilltop haven overlooking the same urban landscape that oppressed her. One couple’s ordeal is another’s idyll.

Millions of Americans moved during the last 18 months, many of them spurred or influenced by the pandemic. But these two reciprocal moves to and from Seattle point up just how personal such choices are, and how they’re steered by individual circumstances. Amy and Andrew wanted a more urban setting; by selling the ranch house they’d fixed up in San Jose, they could afford a Seattle that was out of reach for Elizabeth and Anton, who longed for the country anyway.

As these divergent moves also suggest, it’s perilous to seek simple patterns and easy takeaways in complex demographic processes such as Americans’ response to Covid-19. But the pandemic has reset the residential choices and aspirations of millions of Americans, in ways that will last long after the Covid-19 emergency recedes. Those millions of individual choices together add up to forces that can sustain, reshape — and sometimes unmake — cities and communities around the country.


In March 2020, as the novel coronavirus spread from its initial beachheads in the Seattle, San Francisco and New York areas, a dire meme also spread: Americans were fleeing en masse from crowded cities to the supposedly safer suburbs and countryside. Island communities from Maine to Florida closed bridges and raised road blocks to keep outsiders out.

It’s tempting to draw early conclusions from incomplete data when something as dramatic as a pandemic intrudes. LinkedIn News’ editor was one of many to call it an “urban exodus.” The Washington Post announced the “Great American Migration of 2020” and predicted that it “might contain the seeds of a wholesale shift in where and how Americans live.” Even then-President Donald Trump weighed in from the debate podium. “New York is a ghost town. … It’s dying, everyone is leaving.”

Such sweeping statements were bound to elicit a counter-narrative. “There is not a widespread movement of people prospecting to move out of urban areas,” Bloomberg’s CityLab declared in September 2020. In April 2021 it stated the case more boldly: “There is no urban exodus; perhaps it’s more of an urban shuffle” — movement within and between metropolitan areas, rather than away from them.

But this conclusion also rested on some shaky foundations. Its first iteration relied on data from Apartment List; the renters it tracks may be more dependent on transit, more rooted to the sorts of fixed, lower-paying jobs deemed “essential” and less able to take advantage of remote working opportunities than homeowners. The second version cited census and postal data showing 84 percent of those moving from cities stayed in the same states, 7.5 percent of them in the same metropolitan areas, while 6 percent moved to other large metros and less than 1 percent left metro and micro urban areas altogether. But that tally left roughly 10 percent unaccounted for. And staying in the same state, even the same metro area, generally means radiating out to suburbs, exurbs, smaller towns and rural areas within metro counties.

It also turned out that some of the headline-grabbing early outflow was temporary — students at closed colleges and laid-off young workers returning home, affluent urbanites sheltering in beach cottages and second homes. And as Brookings Institution demographer William Frey noted this past May, plummeting immigration levels under the Trump administration had already depressed population growth in the large cities where immigrants tend to land. Then, in the words of Matt Mowell, a senior economist at the national real estate firm CBRE, “immigration ground to a halt in 2020” under pandemic restrictions, contributing to steep population dips in New York and other immigration hubs.

That’s just one of the ways the pandemic has mostly reinforced and accelerated trends that were already underway, rather than creating new winners and losers in a grand reshuffle between metropolitan areas. As Frey’s tallies show, Sunbelt and Western cities that were already growing robustly — Tampa, Sarasota, Atlanta, Nashville, Denver, Phoenix, Boise, Sacramento, Riverside — kept growing (with an extra boost from coastal California for the last four). Rust Belt and other post-industrial cities that had lost inhabitants for decades — Baltimore, St. Louis, Detroit, Milwaukee — kept losing, though the outflow slowed in some. Mowell notes that “people just stayed put” in many shrinking or slow-growth cities, such as Dayton, Ohio. “The chaos of the pandemic and labor market uncertainty likely encouraged many households to delay moving plans,” he said. As a result, despite the much-publicized disruptions in some cities, about the same number of people — 35 million — filed address changes with the Postal Service in 2020 as in 2019 and 2018.

San Francisco, San Jose, New York — in particular Manhattan — and Boston were another story. Their populations, boosted by the tech and financial booms, had held strong until the pandemic, but then suffered the highest out-migration rates among major metro areas.

Boston’s loss has begun reversing as colleges reopen, and New York is showing signs of recovery. “More people are choosing to go there now,” says LinkedIn’s chief economist, Karin Kimbrough, who tracks workplace shifts through its millions of job and résumé listings. The University of Toronto’s Richard Florida, who prophesied the rise of the “creative class” in cities like New York, is confident the Big Apple will get its mojo back: “NYC is special,” he told me via email. “It is the world’s most dominant global center. It has a diverse economy spanning real estate, finance, media and entertainment, tech and more. It is the magnet for the young and ambitious.” And it has ample experience recovering from crises.

But San Francisco, which lost residents faster than any other major city after the pandemic hit, hasn’t gotten them back, and San Jose’s recovery also lags. Tech jobs have continued to proliferate there as in other hubs, but those jobs (unlike New York’s finance and arts) are especially suited to remote work. Florida likens the West Coast’s tech meccas to the once-dominant single-industry towns of yore — more versatile and adaptable, certainly, than Pittsburgh and Detroit were, “but still not New York.”


One of the most timely indicators of how the work-from-home revolution is affecting America’s cities is key card swipes. Kastle Systems, a national office security firm, uses them to track workplace occupancy in its largest markets.

In March 2020, office attendance plummeted from nearly 100 percent to a little over 20 percent in Houston, Dallas and Austin, 10 to 15 percent in Los Angeles, San Jose, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, lower still in New York — and just 4 percent in San Francisco. Those numbers have slowly risen since (aside from sharp drops in Texas during its February cold snap). Kastle clients’ office attendance is now about 50 percent in the Texan cities. It tops 30 percent in most of the others — except San Jose, with nearly 27 percent, and San Francisco, at just 24 percent.

San Francisco’s empty offices reflect other factors as well: its scarce housing, high land-use hurdles, nosebleed rents and home prices, and strict Covid rules (which gave it the lowest infection and death rates among big cities). But even there, the net flight seems to be abating, though not reversing. Apartment asking rents, which plunged 27 percent last year, “are almost halfway back up,” says Ted Egan, the City of San Francisco’s chief economist. “The flow now is both ways.” According to USPS change-of-address records, 12,058 individuals, households and businesses left San Francisco in January 2021, 4,442 more than arrived. By August that gap had shrunk to 1,752.

But none of the experts contacted expect San Francisco to fill up again soon. And none expect America’s suburbs to lose their growth edge over San Francisco and other cities. In 2020, according to census data crunched by the Brookings Institution’s Frey, suburbs grew 43 percent faster than central cities in the 55 largest metropolitan areas. The online real estate listing and data firm Zillow recently reported that “the ZIP codes with the highest page views per online listing … became increasingly suburban over the past 18 months.”

Frey’s lone outlier was Seattle, which experienced more growth in its center than its suburbs in 2020. Since then, however, even this exception has fallen into line. The Seattle area has charted record home-price growth even in 2021 — but prices rose more than twice as fast in the suburbs to the north as in Seattle itself, reflecting higher demand for suburban housing. In January 2021, the Postal Service received nearly 2,000 more address changes from those leaving the center city than those entering; by August that gap had grown by a fifth. Incoming and outgoing address changes were roughly balanced in Seattle’s inner suburbs, but arrivals outpaced departures in the outer burbs.

Nationwide, all this accelerated a trend that began in 2015. For nearly a decade before that, central cities had grown faster than suburbs, a trend Frey credits in part to the Great Recession of 2007-2009. He believes it left many new graduates and other young adults “stranded” in the cities scraping together what work they could, putting off forming families, and living “la vie bohème.” Also, the outsize millennial generation, a.k.a. the baby boomlet, was at just the right age to relish trendy cities’ restaurants, nightlife, and meeting and mating opportunities — and to put up with cramped apartments and shared housing. Then, as the economy recovered and the tech boom spread beyond Silicon Valley and Redmond, they were perfectly placed to take advantage. Yesteryear’s barista became today’s six-figure programmer.

But now the suburbs are hot again. As Frey told me, this seeming change actually marks a “return to normal” — to the pattern of suburban growth and urban contraction that began in the postwar years. The late ’00s and early tens, when young people and empty nesters flocked to revitalized urban centers, was actually an anomaly. Now those millennials are mostly in their 30s, ready to seek family-sized houses and yards and fret over schools.

“We know millennials move when they set up households, looking for more space,” says Kimbrough.

Remote working has added a new imperative (and another advantage to the suburbs): home office space. And it’s given those in tech and some other white-collar fields undreamed-of choice in where they look. “Everybody’s kind of dreaming right now,” says Andrew in Seattle, “because you have this opening.”

Employers have pushed back, fearing they’ll lose control and their companies will lose their edge without the secret sauces of spontaneous collision and workplace culture. “We’re hearing CEOs say that creativity and innovation wane as a result of not working in groups, especially for millennials and GenZ-ers, who like socialization and miss the ‘creative collision,’” consultant Jay Garner told ChiefExecutive.Net.


Tell that to the millennials and GenZ-ers. Survey after survey finds that majorities of workers — 68 percent in one study — would choose remote over in-office work. The same survey finds that 70 percent of those who are already working remotely would forfeit benefits to continue, and 67 percent would take salary cuts.

It’s become a point of pride: “The people who want to go back are the ones who don’t do that much work,” one tech worker told me. “Who spend their days in meetings.”

As a result, going remote can give employers a recruiting advantage. In July, only 11 percent of the jobs posted on LinkedIn were remote, but they got 21percent of views. They included about 26 percent of software and IT services jobs and 23 percent in media and communications and wellness (all those Zoom Zumba classes).

A study by researchers at Stanford, the University of Chicago, and the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México concludes that “the mass social experiment in which nearly half of all paid hours were provided from home between May and December 2020” proves that remote working works. They predict that 22 percent of workdays will remain remote after the danger passes, up from 5 percent pre-pandemic and 1 percent in 2010.

“I think companies are losing qualified applicants, so they’re conceding to that as an option,” says Anton in Boulder; he sees a “much, much higher number of permanently remote jobs advertised in the environmental field” for which he studied than he did in spring 2020. “And they’re saving on office space.” Or seeing the light: 52 percent of bosses surveyed by the consultancy PwC in December said productivity improved during the enforced work-at-home period.

“Remote work is the biggest shift in the nature of work in decades,” says the University of Toronto’s Florida. “It gives some workers more flexibility. And in these cases it shifts the balance of power from companies to workers.” And, to various degrees, from New York to upper New England and the Hudson Valley, from the Bay Area to Boise and Billings. In this way, the world is becoming flatter; remote work is leveling the field of opportunity.

Many more workers in manufacturing, service, retail, and some white-collar fields can’t join this shift. But what Susan Wachter, co-director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Institute for Urban Research, calls “the new urban dispersion” will affect more than just the fifth or so of workers who will join it.

Kimbrough believes it will “be really healthy, a spreading-out of skills across the country” from places like New York. Will cities now compete less for job makers and more for jobholders — lavishing money on schools, parks and arts rather than tax subsidies for new factories and warehouses?

“Towns near amenities are the new hot spots now and for some time to come,” Wachter said by email. “I think cultural capital will be a continuing pull,” says San Francisco’s Egan. “I’ve told people you need to think about office workers as the new tourists. Instead of traveling they commute.” Or don’t.

Egan’s watchword may be prophetic in an unintended way. Well-paid remote workers, like affluent tourists, retirees and other transplants, can drive up property prices, pricing out those dependent on local labor markets. This introduces new class divisions, within rather than between regions. “There’s a widening affordability gap throughout the Mountain West,” says CBRE economist Mowell. “A city like Phoenix never had an affordability problem. Now it does.”

Dispersion may bring other changes, for better and worse. As Florida notes, “remote workers do not just work from home. They work in coffee shops, cafes, restaurants, co-working spaces, libraries, each others’ homes. Communities need to focus on building more effective remote-work ecosystems.”

It takes more than such “ecosystems” to adapt to the influx. The Boise area, with by some measures the nation’s fastest rising rents last year and biggest home price surge in the first half of 2021,is still reckoning with its own success. “This is no longer an affordable city,” says Jeffrey Lyons, a political science professor at Boise State University, who leads the annual Idaho Public Policy Survey. “We’ve asked since 2016, do you think pace of growth is about right or too fast? Responses were evenly split in 2016. Now 75 percent say ‘too fast.’” Longtime residents grumble endlessly about rude, impatient newcomers overrunning the town and spoiling its traditional conviviality, but as Lyons notes, “the same stories about Californians ran here in the ’70s and ’80s.”

“People always think immigrants from places like California will help turn red states blue,” says Erik Berg, the Democratic Party chair in Idaho’s Ada County, which includes Boise. “But those coming here are predominantly conservative.”

Lyons’ research confirms that. “What we see in our survey data is that people who are moving here from California, Washington and Oregon tend to be Republican” — 55 to 60 percent, with 10 to 15 percent independent and 25 to 30 percent Democratic. Idaho and other mountain states beckon to those fed up with what they see as runaway regulation, taxation and disorder in a California where even Republican bastions like Orange County and San Diego have turned blue.

By contrast, argues Mowell, for liberal émigrés like Amy and Andrew, Seattle and Portland are “very easy places to adapt to. It’s the same social and economic ecosystem.” Covid-19, he adds, “has mapped onto these existing political divisions. People who were dissatisfied with government in California tend to be dissatisfied with the way California has dealt with the pandemic.” And attracted by the more permissive, mandate-free approach in Idaho, which has one of the lowest vaccination and highest infection rates in the country.

Such tendencies don’t bode well for any hopes that dispersion will soften the hardening ideological divides between regions. Rather the opposite: “We’ll see more people living in communities of choice as we disconnect from the workplace,” predicts UPenn’s Wachter.

That would reinforce prevailing political cultures, promoting local homogeneity rather than diversity. Work and the downtown areas that once depended on office workers will serve less as social mixing bowls.

So, for all the churn the pandemic has caused, the Great Dispersion may leave us even more economically and politically stratified than before, compounding, rather than easing, Americans’ isolation from people who aren’t just like them.

About the Author: Eric Scigliano is a freelance writer based in Seattle.

This blog originally appeared at Politico on October 21, 2021. Reprinted with permission.


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Working at Home Accidents – Who is Liable?

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In many countries, the number of people working from home has doubled since the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. While many businesses take reasonable care and responsibility for their employees’ safety in the workplace, many are asking what the regulations are for remote workers. 

In this article, we will be discussing accidents when working at home and who is liable.

Your Employer’s Duty of Care

Whether you’re working in the office or from home, your employer is required to protect your health, safety and welfare while you are working for them. 

Just like in-house employees, remote workers expect and are owed the same duty of care from their employers. This duty of care covers everything from the physical working environment of the individual and extends to their mental health needs.

How to Create Safe Work Environments at Home

Unlike offices, where the environment can be controlled and safety measures can be put in place to protect employees, everyone’s home environment differs. From the layout to the furnishing, creating a safe work environment at home means something different for everyone.

Despite this, governments are asking employers to be vigilant about protecting the health and safety of their remote workers, according to Health and Safety Law

Whether employees are working part-time, full-time or on an ad hoc basis, if they are ‘at work’ employers must ensure that all reasonable precautions are taken to prevent any accidents they may otherwise be liable for. McCarthy + Co. Solicitors state the scope of an employer’s duty of care falls under four principal headings, with an employer being obliged to provide his workforce with:

  • Competent co-workers
  • A safe place of work
  • Proper equipment which is fit for purpose
  • A safe system of work

Below are some of the most effective ways employers can support the health and safety of remote workers.

Provide Risk Assessments and Guideline Advice

Often, workplace risk assessments will highlight areas of concern within a workspace, whether that’s in-house or remote. These issues are then raised with the employer and appropriate action is taken to reduce any risk to the employee.

Despite so many people working from home, very few have a suitable working space that isn’t the dining room or kitchen table. As such, accidents can happen – the most common being back pain and injury caused by insufficient working set-ups. 

All employers have a responsibility to ensure the working environments for their employees are suitable for remote working on a long-term basis. Advice should also be provided that helps employees carry out their own basic risk assessment at home and share their findings with employers so that suitable adjustments can be made.

Display Screen Equipment

This includes the use of smartphones, tablets and desktops in the home that allow employees to do their job. All equipment used for work must be provided and properly maintained by the employer. A few steps employees can take to reduce the likelihood of injury whilst working from home include:

  • Regularly changing their working position.
  • Taking short breaks every 10-20 minutes away from the screen.
  • Breaking up long periods of screen time with 5-minute rest breaks every hour.
  • Stretching regularly to avoid stiff joints.

Identifying and Reducing Hazards

Most slips and trips in the office are caused by uneven floors, obstructions in walkways, or inappropriate flooring. Unsurprisingly, these factors also come into play around the home. So, a risk assessment will consider the hazards around your home to ensure any necessary changes are made before remote working commences.

Manual Handling Training and Precautions

If part of your job involves the manual handling of products or the packing of boxes, precautions must be taken to avoid injury. A risk assessment will take these factors into consideration and highlight any areas of concern. It is the responsibility of the employer to provide the necessary training to ensure all manual handling is carried out safely and for the avoidance of any injury.

Mental Health Support

Employers have a duty to protect the mental health and wellbeing of their remote employees. Mental health conditions are classed as disabilities when they have a long-term effect on the everyday functioning of an individual and, as such it is against the law for employers to discriminate against employees with mental health struggles. As such, employers are expected and legally required to provide mental health support for their workers.

The type of support that is provided will depend on each person and their individual needs. However, providing support such as paid-for therapy sessions, online consultations, space to talk, and even the provision of specialist equipment or adjustments to the duties of the job itself are all necessary steps to protect employee mental health.

Equipment Provision

One of the most common injuries suffered by remote workers is because of a chair that is not fit for purpose. Employers are required to provide guidance and advice about the ideal chair and screen positioning to reduce potential injuries.  

Employers must check that remote workers have the equipment they need to do their jobs effectively and that said equipment is in good working order. Employers must also provide remote workers with any personal protective equipment, as necessary.

Who is Liable if You Have an Accident?

Many remote workers are concerned about whether their employer would be liable if they had an accident while working at home. Your employer would only be responsible if you suffered an injury whilst working from home due to some negligence on their part.

As we have already stated in this article, employers are predominantly responsible for carrying out a risk assessment of your working environment and ensuring you have suitable and working equipment available to do your job well. Therefore, unless they neglected to provide suitable training or equipment to you and you had a work-related accident as a result of this, it is unlikely your employer would be liable.

However, it is always important to provide all the facts of your injury and your working environment to a solicitor so they can advise you on your case. The sooner you report your injury and make a claim, the better. Whether you win your case or not, raising the issue will provide useful for your employer and hopefully encourage them to act and improve on any areas of negligence within their company so that future work-related accidents are prevented.

Final Words

Employers have a duty of care to their employees, whether they work in-house or from home. This duty of care requires that employers do everything within their power to ensure their employees are supported, both physically and mentally, to carry out their jobs safely. 

As the number of remote workers around the world continues to increase, employers must continue taking positive action to ensure the health and safety of their employees. 

This blog is printed with permission.

About the author: Gemma Hart is an independent HR professional working remotely from as many coffee shops as she can find. Gemma has gained experience in a number of HR roles but now turns her focus towards growing her brand and building relationships with leading experts.


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5 Tips to Make Video Meetings Fairer to Anxious Employees

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Video calls may have taken over as the meeting method of choice during the pandemic, and the surge in remote work means that they won’t be going away any time soon. Many people appreciate the convenience and flexibility of being able to show up on time no matter where they are physically. Still, it would be wrong to assume that everyone is entirely comfortable with this new working method.

It’s not always easy to tell who might be struggling with the new meeting schedule. For example, some employees that are more than comfortable meeting in person may be anxious about appearing on camera. On the other hand, people more than happy to chat for hours on the phone may still be coming to terms with the concept of online meetings.

Managers who are already comfortable with online meetings may be surprised to learn that one study suggests that 73% of people suffered from Zoom anxiety in 2020. A further study indicated that worries over backgrounds, appearance, and speaking over someone all play a part and virtually equally between males and females.

Essentially, the majority of people still have concerns about meeting online. Nevertheless, it’s a crucial component of adjusting to remote work, so what can you do about it? Here are five ways that you, as a manager, can promote a comfortable video calling experience for everyone involved.

1. Make Being on Screen Optional

Many employee concerns around video calls stem from the thought of being on screen. While comfortable in the office, their webcam acts as a window into their home. One of the quickest ways to make everyone more comfortable is to consider appearing on camera optional.

Some people like to be able to see who they’re talking to. Others want to ensure they have the full attention of the room. However, it’s time to accept that employees are often responsible and eager to do as their employer requires, and appearing on a screen shouldn’t make or break their efforts.

It may require additional trust from some managers, but the benefits are clear. Body language can be overrated on video calls, too – in some cases, it’s easily misinterpreted. Some employees might be concerned about this happening to them, but accepting that cameras aren’t essential to productivity can eliminate much of the anxiety associated with these calls.

2. Encourage Flexibility

Try not to get into the habit of scheduling video calls at short notice. This can cultivate an opinion among employees that they are expected to be at their desks at all times. That in itself can be a significant cause of anxiety, especially for those that have struggled to adapt to remote work and have altered their routines as a result.

It might make sense to implement an official policy on video meetings, such as providing at least 24 hours’ notice or potentially even banning them on specific days. There’s also evidence to suggest that it may be time to make all meetings optional, although this won’t work for every organization, especially those with just a handful of key people.

Giving people time to prepare for an upcoming meeting can ensure their schedule is free and that they’ve taken whatever steps work for them to make them feel more comfortable on screen.

3. Make it Your Job to Promote Social Interaction

There’s always a risk that anyone that misses out on video calls through anxiety may exacerbate their issues by reducing overall social contact. Like any competence, it is possible to lose social skills over time when left unused.

Video calls can replace face-to-face meetings, but they’re also a great way to keep up at least some of the more sociable interactions from the workplace. It may sound counterintuitive to arrange additional calls for those suffering from anxiety, but many people perform better under social circumstances than professional ones.

These meetings really should be optional, but someone needs to take the lead in ensuring they’re available for people that wish to attend. As a leader, there is no better candidate than you.

4. Make a Point of Mentioning Mental Health

Mental health is not a workplace taboo. On the contrary, many managers consider it part of their job to ensure that people feel good as issues can lead to a reduction in performance.

Most employees would rather not discuss their personal mental health, especially in front of groups. However, some are even anxious about broaching the subject at all. Make it clear on video calls that you’re aware of how remote work can affect people and that you’re more than happy to arrange for assistance.

If you’re comfortable providing that assistance yourself on a one-to-one basis, then do so. If not, ensure that you have someone you can send employees to for help. Such a seismic change in working habits affects everyone differently. Even if they merely need reassurance that their camera and microphone setup works, it can significantly improve their confidence levels.

5. Support Employees at their Own Pace

Some employees will never forget the first day they didn’t even have to get out of their pajamas for work. Others may still struggle to find a routine that works for them months after commencing remote work.

It’s simply impossible to support a team based on a timetable. There’s every chance that no two employees will be at an identical stage of adaptation. This does require flexibility on a manager’s part, but it should be viewed as an opportunity.

Every instance of providing customized support to an employee is a learning experience, and the more involved you become, the easier it will be going forward.

For example, if an employee who has never appeared on video decides to switch their camera on, don’t immediately view it as cause to make a big deal out of it – that may be the last thing they want. Instead, follow-up with them to ask how they felt and understand if there’s anything else you can do to make them comfortable in the future.

Wrapping Up

While people are becoming more comfortable with Zoom, Teams, and other video meeting apps every day, their usage represents a colossal shakeup in work patterns. The key takeaways involve acceptance, support, and enabling people to progress at their own pace. Some people may never be truly comfortable with the concept, but it is only fair to do all you can to encourage them to reach their potential, just as you would do with any other aspect of their working life.

About the Author: Amy Deacon is a business coach and speaker who creates solutions for businesses seeking to change attitudes and routines to boost productivity throughout the workplace.

This blog is printed with permission.


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Remote Work, Office Location and Employee Satisfaction: Considerations for the Modern Workplace

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It’s no surprise that today’s workplaces have evolved. From digital innovations to culture shifts, you and your colleagues need to form a plan so that you’re not left behind. Fortunately, you can easily make changes to ensure your team’s successful transition to modern methods.

Take a look at different considerations for your company.

1. Allow Employees to Work Remotely

It wasn’t until recently that businesses started to allow employees to work from home more frequently. This option used to be rare — but remote work trends are more prominent than ever due to COVID-19. In many cases, it’s become a permanent situation for workers.

A switch to remote work has lead to positive changes for numerous organizations. This setup allows employees to feel like they have more responsibility. They view projects as more worthwhile as a result. Plus, you’ll find that workers are happier because they don’t have to commute or manage office politics.

If your company doesn’t offer remote work possibilities, you won’t appeal to recruits. This opportunity has become standard. Therefore, you need to work with teams to implement a dedicated program for remote work. Then, your employees will have a choice.

2. Reconsider Office Locations, Amenities and More

Your company’s office locations make a difference. It’s essential to find a spot that works for your employees and clients as much as possible. You may not be able to fully meet your budget, amenities and other “wants,” but you should try as you explore potential leases.

It may not always be possible to move from one office to another. But if your company wants to look for a new space, you should consider location as a “need.” Is it close to public transportation? Can your employees access parking? Do security concerns exist? Your team needs to weigh various factors.

The same approach applies to aspects like amenities and layout. Do your best to create a business checklist that outlines everyone’s goals. As a result, your company will be better equipped to perform proficiently.

3. Gauge What Employees Want for Satisfaction

Do you know what to do to increase employee satisfaction? The expectations your employees have will likely fluctuate as times change. You need to make an effort to identify their desires so that you can meet them halfway. It’s not enough to offer decent benefits and large paychecks.

Today’s workplace trends revolved around culture. Your workers need to know that their company commits to long-term goals rather than revenue. An emotional connection between you and your employees makes a difference. Additionally, it’s increasingly clear that Generation Z wants employers to implement ethical practices.

Make an Effort to Listen

Your business needs to listen. How do your employees want your overall culture to look? It may seem challenging to overhaul your company’s current state. That said, you need to realize that recruits need more than digital touches and supportive training. They want their jobs to reflect a bigger purpose.

An effective way to start would be to poll your workers. Let them have a say in how you choose to proceed with culture shifts. A more democratic method allows everyone’s voice to be heard. As a result, your employees will feel more appreciated and comfortable.

These Ideas Are What a Company Should Think About for the Modern Workplace

There’s no denying that workplace trends continue to change. If you want to move your company forward, you have to consider what’s next. Elements like remote work, office location and employee satisfaction all contribute to a more advanced, modernized company.

About the Author: Ginger Abbot is an education writer with a special interest in career development and the workplace. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of Classrooms.com, where you can read more of her writing.


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How to Help Employees Adjust To Remote Work

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With a global pandemic raging on, most of us have started working remotely from the safety and security of our homes. However, the transition from physical work to remote work hasn’t been easy. Remote working has loads of benefits, such as no office distractions, no frustrating commute, no colleagues interrupting your workflow, etc.

However, there are a few things that you need to do in order to help your employees adjust to remote work. If you work remotely, it is no longer easy to keep your personal and professional life separate – you are susceptible to working longer hours and more likely to be stressed.

What are the Difficulties Faced in Remote Work

  • Isolation

Remote work sounds enticing but it comes with its fair share of challenges and issues. One of the biggest issues with remote work is isolation. With COVID-19 wrecking havoc in our lives and most of us being under lockdown, the deficit in human interaction is already being felt by all of us.

The camaraderie of working in your office, chatting with your colleagues, etc. is something which we are all missing.

  • Issues with Virtual Communication

Want to ask your colleague something? Having an issue with the project that you are currently working on and need some help? We all are used to wandering over someone else’s desk and getting the help that we need.

For most of us, work communication went from face-to-face to over-the-internet overnight. This forced everyone to adopt complex working structures that led to dissonance and confusion. Where should we send the updates? Should we email it to our supervisor or should we start a Slack thread? All these and a million other questions, with no one, to answer them clearly!

Helping Employees Adjust to Remote Work

Even though the management needs to take care of the individual needs of the employees, a couple of things are very important to ensure that all of the employees are on the same page and are facing no difficulties while working from home. It comes under your managerial responsibilities to provide the best workplace environment to your employees.

  • Establishing Clear Communication Structure

The ways you communicate with your employees need to be clearly set. Email and Slack updates aren’t enough – you need to supplement them with video conferences regularly. However, don’t go overboard with these but do keep them a part of your workweek so that the employees will be able to chat in real-time and interact with each other regarding any issues.

Make sure that your employees know how to use the virtual communication tools and they are not lagging behind due to lack of knowledge.

  • Frequent Check-Ins

The most ideal way of ensuring that your employees are alright is by checking in with them regularly. Don’t be overbearing – just give them a daily call, or set calls throughout the week to ensure that they are working properly and aren’t facing any difficulties. It is very important to ensure that you providing all the workplace rights to your employees while they work remotely.

  • Offer encouragement and support

You need to remember that your employees have just gone through a shift – a shift that hasn’t been easy for most of them. Keep in contact with your team and connect with them on an emotional level. Ask them if they are facing any issues and if you can help them in any way, don’t hesitate to provide your services.

However, you have to ensure that you are not crossing any workplace professional boundaries at the same time.

  • Ensure Social Interaction

In physical workplaces, employees get to interact with each other due to a multitude of reasons. Even the mere task of getting coffee from the office kitchen will allow you the opportunity to talk to your colleagues. Such opportunities don’t exist when you are working remotely from home and for those of us who are extroverts, this can be crushing.

However, as an employer, it is your obligation to ensure that your employees are virtually socializing. It can something as minute as keeping the last 10 minutes of a meeting to talk about what you are doing to hosting a virtual pizza party where all of you have pizza together and video chat.

With the help of these few tips and tricks, you can ensure that your employees are adjusting to remote work easily.

Happy Working, Folks!

About the Author: Alina Burakova is a life coach and she loves helping people figure out ways out of their problems. She also reviews the best online tutoring, resume, business plan writing and test prep services at EduReviewer and has an avid interest in reading & writing.


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Tracking Remote Employees: How To Not Cross The Line

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With the COVID-19 on the current agenda, the offline work seems to be far away. However, remote work is trending now because more and more businesses realize which benefits it drives. However, hiring top talent from different parts of the country and saving from rent come with the liabilities of remote working employment law.

One of the frequent questions that entrepreneurs discuss during a labor law free consultation is tracking remote employees. It’s only logical that they want to know how much time their workers dedicate to tasks daily. But what about the related remote work legal issues?

Tracking Remote Employees: Definition and Advantages

Basically, tracking remote employees implies the usage of special software that monitors the activity of a worker during the day. It tracks the amount of working time and presents them in an Excel or CSV file.

However, some programs offer much more. They can monitor keystrokes. Record videos or make screenshots, track the location, and assess productivity. Thus, employers can know almost everything about their remote employees.

Since Gartner claims that almost 80% of the businesses will monitor the employees with tracking software by the end of 2020, we can conclude that they see a number of benefits. Among them can be:

  • Privacy and Security: Remote work increases the risk of a cyberattack. Some of them can be even initiated from inside since employees can use personal devices and store valuable data on cloud storage. Monitoring their activities allows detecting an unreliable employee timely.
  • Improved Productivity: Its human nature to be more productive when being under control. Therefore, workers are likely to be more diligent working remotely if they are monitored.
  • Tracking of Assets: In case a business provides hardware for remote employees, it’ll want to locate it for the safety measures. Tracking applications show the data.

A Sustainable Approach to Tracking Remote Employees

Not all employees can be satisfied with the tracking apps being installed on the working computer. Therefore, it’s vital to prepare them, preferably at the hiring stage. But before we move to the educational and psychological part, let’s cover some legal issues.

The legal aspect of employee tracking highly depends on the implementation. The answer that will solve all the problems is a remote work policy that will state how the management can use the collected data. The policy should be clarified, signed and accepted at the recruitment. If you implement it when the company already employs workers, they also need to sign the acceptance.

As for the psychological part, it’s essential to adhere to several principles in implementing a tracking system:

  1. Gradual percolation
  2. Systematic education on what benefits the tracking system drives
  3. Communication with every employee to resolve any issues
  4. Periodic training in order to reinforce the initial message.

As you can see, implementing a tracking software is pretty easy. You just have to prepare a special policy and communicate it to the employees. Would you use tracking software for your remote employees?

About the Author: Yuriy Moshes is the CEO of Moshes Law and attorney with broad expertise. He has two bachelor’s degrees. Being an experienced expert, he is considered one of the most in-demand specialists in the employment law field. Apart from that, he provides labor law attorney free consultation for everyone who faces discrimination in the workplace.


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Rights, Responsibilities, and Recommendations for Remote Work Under COVID-19 Restrictions

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The coronavirus pandemic and resulting global quarantine have changed the way all we live and work, and it’s unclear when the lockdown will lift. You might be among the thousands of workers caught off-guard as employers made a hasty transition to remote work — and even now, weeks later, you might still be struggling to catch up.  Even if you’re a work-from-home veteran, you’ve likely never done it under social distancing conditions. 

Whatever your work-from-home situation, questions arise: How much leeway do I have in balancing my family’s needs against my employer’s? How do I stay focused and maintain my workload? And how do I establish some normalcy amid all these worries and distractions? While not all questions are answerable yet, here are some factors to consider about your rights and responsibilities as a new remote worker, as well as basic recommendations to help you catch up to the learning curve and work from home productively during the quarantine.

Emergency Preparation And Response

In addition to a global health emergency, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing unprecedented economic failure around the world. While nobody can accurately predict the full scope of the effects on the world’s economy, experts agree on basic measures that can help you prepare to meet the financial challenges that lie ahead:

  • Assemble important documents. In addition to putting together a disaster preparedness kit with materials and supplies, it’s recommended that you assemble a legal and financial emergency packet. Locate and make copies of the following: 
    • Identification documents for each family member (including pets) – birth certificates, Social Security cards, passports, picture IDs
    • Financial documents – bank account info, tax returns, pay stubs
    • Insurance information – copies of cards and policies
    • Info on bills and other financial obligations – rental and payment agreements
  • Assess and get control over your finances. A clear picture of your financial situation is more necessary now than ever, even if the news is bad as a result of the coronavirus. Now is the time to look into the following areas and take steps to repair any weak spots:
  • Analyzing your spending and cutting out nonessential expenditures 
  • Revising your household budget to accommodate a drop in income or a rise in expenses 
  • Establishing an emergency fund with 3-6 months’ worth of expenses 
  • Enacting measures to monitor, repair, and build your credit rating in anticipation of needing to borrow money
  • Negotiating better interest rates or payback arrangements with lenders or cardholders 

Workplace Considerations

Companies that once pled ignorance or incompetence at initiating work-from-home policies have learned in a hurry how to make it happen. But this haste has made for a transition that’s not always smooth, logistically or legally. Consider these elements when you’re navigating the work-from-home learning curve:

  • Set yourself up online. Reliable internet access is the key to staying in touch not only with your boss, colleagues, and/or clients, but also with news sources, family, friends, and the rest of the world. Equip your home with secure, reliable Wi-Fi internet access, plus a virtual private network, or VPN, if your company offers it. (Start with this step because, especially in a crisis, it may take some time.) 
  • Sort out your tech. Make sure your workspace has all the technology you need to function. You’ll likely be meeting via video conferencing, so don’t forget your webcam and microphone if it’s not already built-in. Load all the software you need for operations, communication, recordkeeping, etc., onto your computer at home. If you’re set up with a cloud storage account, your work files should be secure and accessible from anywhere.
  • Know that your productivity might be monitored. You should be aware that about half of all big companies use some kind of monitoring software for work-from-home employees, so workers won’t treat this stressful time as “one big vacation.” Keystroke monitors, attention checks for screen-sharing functions, and employer access to Slack conversations, while they create some civil liberty concerns, are nonetheless common.  

Uncertainty is the rule during this crisis, and the only promising way to meet it is with caution, preparation, and resolution. An awareness of our rights and responsibilities — and of our human capacity for cooperation in times of greatest need — can bring us through this crisis together.

Printed with permission.

About the Author: Molly Barnes is a full-time digital nomad. She works remotely, travels constantly, and explores different cities across the U.S. She started her site, www.digitalnomadlife.org as a resource for travelers, nomads, and remote workers. Molly writes resources that help office and remote workers alike reach their personal and professional goals of becoming more successful. Follow along with her and her boyfriend Jacob on their blog as they pursue a nomadic lifestyle while freelancing and traveling across the country.


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When Your Employer Asks You to Work from Home! Are You Prepared?

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Make Working from Home an Asset for You & Your Employer

You have dreamt of this and now it is happening.  Maybe not for the best reasons, but you may be asked to work from home in the near future.   Are you prepared?  Once it happens and your company realizes that it is business as usual without the presence of all employees, it might be a good idea to make sure you exceed your bosses’ expectations. 

While the benefits to employees of working from home are numerous, it is important that certain guidelines are followed to ensure that the experience is a “win-win” for employee and employer alike.  For the employee, the following practices will better ensure that work time from home is both productive and, in the employer’s eyes, acceptable and beneficial to the company.

10 Must-Do’s When Working from Home

  1. Create strict, uninterrupted times for your work. Make sure that other household members understand and respect the work boundaries you have set.  This extends to other parties who might be inclined to call or visit with “personal time” communications – they must honor your work boundaries as well.  And, don’t answer the doorbell.
  2. Ensure care for your children. Pre-arrange to have them cared for by family or friends, nannies, or taken to day care.  If you and a friend are also asked to work from home, maybe they take ½ day, you take the other ½ and both of you work while the children are asleep to make up other lost work time.
  3. Pre-arrange with your employer to have corporate electronic access through the company’s firewall. For most of us, working from home means you will be transacting company business on a computer.  While corporate access through firewalls will unlikely be a concern with corporate-issued laptops, the same may not be true if you are using your personal computer to transact company business.
  4. Create an office workspace dedicated to your employment. This “office sanctuary” may have the added benefit of being an office-in-the-home tax deduction as well.
  5. Ensure you have the necessary work tools prior to starting your day. In addition to a quiet office area, assess the “must haves” to conduct your work. 

These might include:

  • computer/laptop
  • printer/typing paper
  • work phone/fully charged cellphone
  • reliable Internet connection
  • work station or desk
  1. Beware using your work-related computer for personal activities. Your employer will likely be able to track your personal transactions, and will take a dim view when your company time is used for such purposes.
  2. Stay “plugged in” to your employer. The adage “out of sight, out of mind” is sometimes applicable to employees working remotely – to their detriment.  You may not be privy to certain communications that you would otherwise be aware of if you worked in a corporate office environment.  Be sure you communicate directly and often with management and key associates via conference calls and video chats, etc. both to “stay in the loop” and to ensure your value is well recognized for that next annual evaluation or promotional consideration.
  3. Dress appropriately when working from home. You are more likely to be in a “working mood” when showered and dressed, than you are if working in your pajamas.
  4. Offer to “make up” time used for emergency personal purposes. Offering an employer an additional hour of work here and there to compensate for picking up a sick child from school, will be appreciated by your employer and make them feel you are a trusted work at home employee.
  5. Consider “giving back” to employers with some complimentary employer time. For most of us, working from home translates to a considerable reduction in commuting time to one’s employer.  Consider offering your employer an extra 30-60 minutes of work time – it will reflect favorably on you as a proactive employee, and should better ensure that your employer will appreciate, and continue, your working from home arrangement.

The prospect of working from home is cherished by many and can be an asset to employee and employer alike.  Follow the guidelines above to ensure the experience is a “win-win” for all concerned.

Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Heidi Allison currently serves as a board member for Workplace Fairness, lending her expertise in communications, public relations and media relations. One of her passions is assisting job seekers with ground-breaking advice and discussions about career advancement.


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5 Steps To Ensure Your Work-From-Home Employees Maximize Corporate Performance

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Use These Guidelines to Ensure That Your Remote Workplace Is A Corporate Asset

The advent of employees working from the home continues to rise, a trend that will surely continue in the future. 

Corporations recognize that an increasing number of employees – particularly millennials and contract workers in the “gig” economy – value this option and that it is a tool to better attract/retain employees. 

Benefits to reducing brick-&-mortar expenses, such as utility bills, are also an attraction to many employers.  Still others are faced with mandated work-from-home provisions due to unforeseen events such as the coronavirus pandemic.  All of these factors will ensure that remote workplace activity will only increase going forward.

Having said this, many corporate managers fear employee misuse of such freedom. 

Here are 5 some steps to ensure that creating a remote workplace environment for employees is a positive, beneficial step for the company.

  1. Identify clear expectations from remote employees.  Key elements of this communication include the hours to be worked, amount of work to be completed each day, task prioritization, guidelines for the amount/timing of communications with management, etc.
  2. Ensure remote employees have the proper tools.  Not only does this include corporate laptops and the like, but also ensuring they can log in and input data via corporate portals that will assist management in tracking employee progress, performance, needs, etc. Doing so will reduce the need for managers to utilize valuable time in personally tracking and evaluating such data.
  3. Regularly monitor employee progress (and needs).  Employers must regularly follow up on employee progress to ensure that corporate objectives and expectations are met, and also to ensure the company is there to offer assistance to any employee who, for whatever reason, is struggling with the “remote” proposition.
  4. Interact regularly with remote employees.  All employees need some degree of support and morale enhancement from their management and key associates.  This in turn bolsters productivity and acknowledges that remote employees have not been forgotten, or their contributions overlooked for performance evaluation or promotion consideration.
  5. Place trust and faith in remote employees.  Virtually every employee wants recognition as being an important asset to the company.  While some may intentionally or inadvertently misuse remote working privileges, most will not – especially if given the proper guidance recommended above.  Managers need to avoid the extremes of micromanagement and inadvertently placing too little emphasis on mutual communication with their employees.

Properly managed, the remote workplace can benefit employers and employees alike.  Follow the abovementioned steps to ensure it is an asset on your organization’s behalf.

Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Heidi Allison currently serves as a board member for Workplace Fairness, lending her expertise in communications, public relations and media relations. One of her passions is assisting job seekers with ground-breaking advice and discussions about career advancement.


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