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Employers Are Spying on Remote Workers in Their Homes

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The future of work is here, ush¬≠ered in by a glob¬≠al pan¬≠dem¬≠ic. But is it turn¬≠ing employ¬≠ment into a Work¬≠ers‚Äô Par¬≠adise of work¬≠ing at home? Or more of a Big Broth¬≠er panopticon?

Dis¬≠turb¬≠ing increas¬≠es in use of dig¬≠i¬≠tal sur¬≠veil¬≠lance tech¬≠nolo¬≠gies by employ¬≠ers to mon¬≠i¬≠tor their remote work¬≠ers is rais¬≠ing alarm bells. With the num¬≠ber of remote work¬≠ers surg¬≠ing as a¬†result of the pan¬≠dem¬≠ic‚ÄĒ42% of U.S. work¬≠ers¬†are now doing their jobs from their kitchens, liv¬≠ing rooms and home offices‚ÄĒa num¬≠ber of employ¬≠ers have begun requir¬≠ing their work¬≠ers to down¬≠load spy¬≠ing soft¬≠ware to their lap¬≠tops and smart¬≠phones. The goal is for busi¬≠ness¬≠es to mon¬≠i¬≠tor what their remote employ¬≠ees do all day, and to track job per¬≠for¬≠mance and pro¬≠duc¬≠tiv¬≠i¬≠ty and reduce so-called¬†‚Äúcyber-slack¬≠ing.‚ÄĚ

Busi¬≠ness soft¬≠ware prod¬≠ucts¬†from Hub¬≠staff, which tracks a¬†worker‚Äôs mouse move¬≠ments, key¬≠board strokes, web¬≠pages vis¬≠it¬≠ed, email, file trans¬≠fers and appli¬≠ca¬≠tions used, are surg¬≠ing in sales. So are sales for TSheets, which work¬≠ers down¬≠load to their smart¬≠phones so that employ¬≠ers can track their loca¬≠tion. Anoth¬≠er prod¬≠uct, called¬†Time Doc¬≠tor, down¬≠loads videos of employ¬≠ees‚Äô screens and uses a¬†com¬≠put¬≠er‚Äôs web¬≠cam, which can take a¬†pic¬≠ture of the employ¬≠ee every¬†10¬†min¬≠utes. As one work¬≠er who was sub¬≠ject¬≠ed to Time Doc¬≠tor¬†told¬†NPR,¬†‚ÄúIf you‚Äôre idle for a¬†few min¬≠utes, if you go to the bath¬≠room or to the kitchen, a¬†pop-up comes up and says,¬†‚ÄėYou have¬†60¬†sec¬≠onds to start work¬≠ing again or we‚Äôre going to pause your¬†time.‚Äô‚Ä̬†

Anoth¬≠er sys¬≠tem, Inter¬≠Guard, can be¬†secret¬≠ly installed on work¬≠ers‚Äô com¬≠put¬≠ers. As the¬†Wash¬≠ing¬≠ton Post¬†notes, it¬†‚Äúcre¬≠ates a¬†minute-by-minute time¬≠line of every app and web¬≠site they view, cat¬≠e¬≠go¬≠riz¬≠ing each as¬†‚Äėpro¬≠duc¬≠tive‚Äô or¬†‚Äėunpro¬≠duc¬≠tive‚Äô and rank¬≠ing work¬≠ers by their¬†‚Äėpro¬≠duc¬≠tiv¬≠i¬≠ty score.‚Äô‚ÄĚ Oth¬≠er employ¬≠ers are using a¬†low¬≠er tech approach, requir¬≠ing work¬≠ers to stay on a¬†tele¬≠con¬≠fer¬≠ence like Zoom all day so they can be con¬≠tin¬≠u¬≠al¬≠ly¬†watched.

Since the Covid-19¬†out¬≠break, one sur¬≠veil¬≠lance com¬≠pa¬≠ny, Aware¬≠ness Tech¬≠nolo¬≠gies, Inc., says it has seen its sales triple. Exec¬≠u¬≠tives at¬†Hub¬≠staff¬†and¬†Tera¬≠mind¬†also say demand for their com¬≠pa¬≠nies‚Äô mon¬≠i¬≠tor¬≠ing prod¬≠ucts have tripled. One web¬≠site show¬≠ing¬†‚ÄúEmploy¬≠ee Mon¬≠i¬≠tor¬≠ing Soft¬≠ware in the USA‚ÄĚ lists near¬≠ly¬†70¬†com¬≠pa¬≠nies with prod¬≠ucts for¬†sale.

Out¬≠dat¬≠ed laws keep it legal

Online sur¬≠veil¬≠lance of employ¬≠ees may seem inva¬≠sive and creepy, but it is a¬†legal prac¬≠tice in the Unit¬≠ed States. Indi¬≠vid¬≠ual state laws vary over whether com¬≠pa¬≠nies must inform work¬≠ers that they‚Äôre using track¬≠ing soft¬≠ware, but in real¬≠i¬≠ty¬†‚Äúwhen you‚Äôre on your office com¬≠put¬≠er, you have no pri¬≠va¬≠cy at all,‚ÄĚ Lewis Malt¬≠by, pres¬≠i¬≠dent of the Nation¬≠al Workrights Insti¬≠tute,¬†told¬†CNBC.¬†‚ÄúAny¬≠thing and every¬≠thing you do is prob¬≠a¬≠bly mon¬≠i¬≠tored by your¬†boss.‚ÄĚ

Cur¬≠rent laws are vast¬≠ly out¬≠dat¬≠ed, as they are based on the Elec¬≠tron¬≠ic Com¬≠mu¬≠ni¬≠ca¬≠tions Pri¬≠va¬≠cy Act of 1986, when the pri¬≠ma¬≠ry form of elec¬≠tron¬≠ic com¬≠mu¬≠ni¬≠ca¬≠tion was the tele¬≠phone. That was a dis¬≠tant time when desk¬≠top com¬≠put¬≠ers were first becom¬≠ing pop¬≠u¬≠lar, and smart phones were not yet a glint in Steve Jobs‚Äô eye.

And now, in response to the coro¬≠n¬≠avirus out¬≠break, com¬≠pa¬≠nies such as Price¬≠wa¬≠ter¬≠house¬≠C¬≠oop¬≠ers (PwC) and Sales¬≠force¬†have devel¬≠oped intru¬≠sive appli¬≠ca¬≠tions¬†that enable com¬≠pa¬≠nies to con¬≠tin¬≠u¬≠ous¬≠ly track the health sta¬≠tus of their employ¬≠ees. Often they include a¬†sys¬≠tem for track¬≠ing con¬≠tacts between employ¬≠ees with¬≠in an office, and a¬†mobile app for col¬≠lect¬≠ing infor¬≠ma¬≠tion about their health sta¬≠tus. A¬†num¬≠ber of large U.S. employ¬≠ers, includ¬≠ing¬†Ama¬≠zon,¬†Wal¬≠mart, Home Depot and Star¬≠bucks, are tak¬≠ing the tem¬≠per¬≠a¬≠tures of their employ¬≠ees before they are allowed to work. Cer¬≠tain¬≠ly, employ¬≠ers have a¬†legit¬≠i¬≠mate need to col¬≠lect the nec¬≠es¬≠sary data to safe¬≠guard their work¬≠places, espe¬≠cial¬≠ly in response to a¬†pan¬≠dem¬≠ic. But what is the appro¬≠pri¬≠ate lev¬≠el of¬†‚Äúhealth intru¬≠sion‚ÄĚ? How vol¬≠un¬≠tary is the par¬≠tic¬≠i¬≠pa¬≠tion of work¬≠ers, and who gets to¬†decide?¬†

The real¬≠i¬≠ty of this con¬≠stant Big Broth¬≠er dig¬≠i¬≠tal spy¬≠ing in people‚Äôs homes is that dozens of remote work¬≠ers are start¬≠ing to com¬≠plain that¬†they feel burned out¬†by this pres¬≠sure. A¬†recent Fish¬≠bowl sur¬≠vey of major com¬≠pa¬≠nies‚Äô employ¬≠ees found that¬†three-quar¬≠ters of those polled¬†were opposed to using an app or device that allows their com¬≠pa¬≠ny to trace their con¬≠tacts with col¬≠leagues. Yet many fear they will be brand¬≠ed as trou¬≠ble¬≠mak¬≠ers or lose their jobs if they speak out. And since remote work¬≠ers hard¬≠ly see each oth¬≠er‚ÄĒand increas¬≠ing¬≠ly may not even know many of their cowork¬≠ers‚ÄĒthese fac¬≠tors will make labor orga¬≠niz¬≠ing and col¬≠lec¬≠tive work¬≠er empow¬≠er¬≠ment increas¬≠ing¬≠ly¬†challenging.

U.S. labor unions have been slow to advo¬≠cate for updat¬≠ing these out¬≠dat¬≠ed laws. One union, the Unit¬≠ed Elec¬≠tri¬≠cal, Radio, and Machine Work¬≠ers of Amer¬≠i¬≠ca, has been work¬≠ing to blunt the worst of the abus¬≠es. Labor-friend¬≠ly media have been miss¬≠ing this sto¬≠ry as well. Not only should unions advo¬≠cate to update the laws and lim¬≠it dig¬≠i¬≠tal spy¬≠ing, but why not also demand that home-based work¬≠ers be com¬≠pen¬≠sat¬≠ed by employ¬≠ers for use of their house, util¬≠i¬≠ties and the inter¬≠net? And that the employ¬≠er remains respon¬≠si¬≠ble to pro¬≠vide equip¬≠ment and a safe work¬≠place, even in the home?

Remote work¬≠force growth‚ÄĒthe new¬†normal?

As the num¬≠ber of remote work¬≠ers ris¬≠es, con¬≠cerns are grow¬≠ing among labor advo¬≠cates that this is quick¬≠ly becom¬≠ing the¬†‚Äúnew nor¬≠mal.‚ÄĚ One sur¬≠vey found that¬†74% of com¬≠pa¬≠nies¬†intend to keep some pro¬≠por¬≠tion of their work¬≠force on a¬†per¬≠ma¬≠nent remote sta¬≠tus, with near¬≠ly a¬†quar¬≠ter of respon¬≠dents say¬≠ing they will move at least¬†20% of their on-site employ¬≠ees to per¬≠ma¬≠nent remote sta¬≠tus. Google, whose par¬≠ent com¬≠pa¬≠ny is Alpha¬≠bet, recent¬≠ly announced it will keep its¬†200,000¬†full-time and con¬≠tract employ¬≠ees¬†home until at least July¬†2021, and Mark Zucker¬≠berg pre¬≠dicts half of Face¬≠book employ¬≠ees will work from home over the next decade. HUB Inter¬≠na¬≠tion¬≠al, a¬†glob¬≠al insur¬≠ance bro¬≠ker¬≠age,¬†has shift¬≠ed¬†90% of its¬†12,000-plus employ¬≠ees¬†to remote sta¬≠tus. Teleper¬≠for¬≠mance, the world‚Äôs largest call-cen¬≠ter com¬≠pa¬≠ny, esti¬≠mates that near¬≠ly¬†155,000¬†of its employ¬≠ees‚ÄĒalmost half its glob¬≠al work¬≠force‚ÄĒwill not return to a¬†phys¬≠i¬≠cal work¬≠site. A¬†sur¬≠vey of firms bythe¬†Sur¬≠vey of Busi¬≠ness Uncer¬≠tain¬≠ty¬†found that the share of work¬≠ing days spent at home is expect¬≠ed to increase four¬≠fold from a¬†pre-Covid-19¬†lev¬≠el of¬†5¬†per¬≠cent to¬†20%. Post-pan¬≠dem¬≠ic, many employ¬≠ees will work from home one to three days a¬†week, and come into the office the rest of the¬†time.

But not all at-home work¬≠ers are cre¬≠at¬≠ed equal. Stan¬≠ford econ¬≠o¬≠mist Nicholas Bloom¬†says¬†‚ÄúThis is gen¬≠er¬≠at¬≠ing a¬†time bomb for inequal¬≠i¬≠ty.‚ÄĚ More edu¬≠cat¬≠ed, high¬≠er-earn¬≠ing employ¬≠ees are far more like¬≠ly to work from home, con¬≠tin¬≠u¬≠ing to get paid and advance their careers. But many oth¬≠ers are unable to work from home, often because they lack suit¬≠able space or fast, afford¬≠able inter¬≠net con¬≠nec¬≠tions, and they are being left behind.¬†‚ÄúThey face bleak prospects if their skills and work expe¬≠ri¬≠ence erode dur¬≠ing an extend¬≠ed shut¬≠down and beyond,‚ÄĚ says¬†Bloom.

The future of work has become more uncer¬≠tain than ever. In this¬†‚Äúbrave new world,‚ÄĚ labor unions and advo¬≠cates must ensure that the pan¬≠dem¬≠ic is not mis¬≠used by busi¬≠ness¬≠es as an excuse to wors¬≠en con¬≠di¬≠tions for employ¬≠ees who work out of the office. It is easy to imag¬≠ine how the lines between¬†‚Äėremote‚Äô work and¬†‚Äėplat¬≠form‚Äô work could blur, lead¬≠ing to more¬†‚ÄėUber¬≠iza¬≠tion‚Äô as work devolves into¬†‚Äėinde¬≠pen¬≠dent‚Äô con¬≠tracts, bogus self-employ¬≠ment and¬†‚Äėpay-by-project‚Äô arrange¬≠ments that can be eas¬≠i¬≠ly out¬≠sourced to remote (and low¬≠er cost)¬†destinations.

Work¬≠er advo¬≠cates must push for a strong and mod¬≠ern legal data pro¬≠tec¬≠tion frame¬≠work. And that should include an effec¬≠tive enforce¬≠ment sys¬≠tem against pri¬≠va¬≠cy abuse that cre¬≠ates a dis¬≠in¬≠cen¬≠tive against ille¬≠gal spy¬≠ing behav¬≠ior. Remote work should not become a down¬≠ward slide toward a Big Broth¬≠er panop¬≠ti¬≠con that pen¬≠e¬≠trates into soci¬≠ety ever more deeply, includ¬≠ing into our homes.

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on September 23, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Steven Hill is the author of Raw Deal: How the ‚ÄúUber Econ¬≠o¬≠my‚ÄĚ and Run¬≠away Cap¬≠i¬≠tal¬≠ism Are Screw¬≠ing Amer¬≠i¬≠can Work¬≠ers and The Start¬≠up Illu¬≠sion: How the Inter¬≠net Econ¬≠o¬≠my Threat¬≠ens Our Wel¬≠fare.

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Corona-fied: Employers Spying on Remote Workers in Their Homes

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The future of work is here, ushered in by a global pandemic. But is it turning employment into a Worker’s Paradise of working at home? Or more of a Big Brother panopticon?

Disturbing increases in the use of digital surveillance technologies by employers to monitor their remote workers are raising alarm bells. With the number of remote workers surging as a result of the pandemic‚ÄĒ42 percent of U.S. workers are now doing their jobs from their kitchens, living rooms, and home offices‚ÄĒa number of employers have begun requiring their workers to download spying software to their laptops and smartphones. The goal is for businesses to monitor what their remote employees do all day, to track job performance and productivity, and to reduce so-called ‚Äúcyber-slacking.‚ÄĚ

Business software products from Hubstaff, which tracks a worker‚Äôs mouse movements, keyboard strokes, webpages visited, email, file transfers and applications used, are surging in sales. So are sales for TSheets, which workers download to their smartphones so that employers can track their location. Another product, called Time Doctor, ‚Äúdownloads videos of employees‚Äô screens‚ÄĚ and uses ‚Äúa computer‚Äôs webcam to take a picture of the employee every 10 minutes,‚ÄĚ NPR reports. One employee told NPR, ‚ÄúIf you‚Äôre idle for a few minutes, if you go to the bathroom or‚Ķ [to the kitchen], a pop-up will come up and it‚Äôll say, ‚ÄėYou have 60 seconds to start working again or we‚Äôre going to pause your time.‚Äô‚ÄĚ

Another system, InterGuard, can be secretly installed on workers‚Äô computers. The Washington Post reports that it ‚Äúcreates a minute-by-minute timeline of every app and website they view, categorizing each as ‚Äėproductive‚Äô or ‚Äėunproductive‚Äô and ranking workers by their ‚Äėproductivity score.‚Äô‚ÄĚ Other employers are using a lower-tech approach, requiring workers to stay logged in to a teleconference service like Zoom all day so they can be continually watched.

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, one surveillance company, Awareness Technologies, says it has seen its sales triple. Executives at Hubstaff and Teramind also say demand for their companies‚Äô monitoring products has tripled. One website showing ‚ÄúEmployee Monitoring Software in the USA‚ÄĚ lists nearly 70 companies with products for sale.

Outdated Laws Keep It Legal

Despite this surge in online surveillance activity, currently, it is a legal practice in the United States. Individual state laws vary over whether companies must inform workers that they‚Äôre using tracking software, but in reality, ‚ÄúWhen you‚Äôre on your office computer, you have no privacy at all,‚ÄĚ says Lewis Maltby, president of the National Workrights Institute. ‚ÄúAnything and everything you do is probably monitored by your boss.‚ÄĚ

Current laws are vastly outdated, as they are based on the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986, when the primary form of electronic communication was the telephone. That was a distant time when desktop computers were first becoming popular, and smartphones were not yet a glint in Steve Jobs’ eye.

And now, in response to the coronavirus outbreak, companies such as Pricewaterhouse Coopers and Salesforce have developed intrusive applications that enable companies to continuously track the health status of their employees. Often they include a system for tracking contacts between employees within an office, and a mobile app for collecting information about their health status. A number of large U.S. employers, including AmazonWalmart, Home Depot and Starbucks, are taking the temperatures of their employees before they are allowed to work. Certainly, employers have a legitimate need to collect the necessary data to safeguard their workplaces, especially in response to a pandemic. But what is the appropriate level of ‚Äúhealth intrusion‚ÄĚ? How voluntary is the participation of workers, and who gets to decide?

The reality of this constant Big Brother digital spying in people‚Äôs homes is that dozens of remote workers are starting to complain that they feel burned out by this pressure. A recent Fishbowl survey of major companies‚Äô employees found that three-quarters of those polled were opposed to using ‚Äúan app or device that allows their company to trace their contacts with colleagues.‚ÄĚ Yet many fear they will be branded as a troublemaker or lose their job if they speak out. And since remote workers hardly see each other‚ÄĒand increasingly may not even know many of their coworkers‚ÄĒthese factors will make labor organizing and collective worker empowerment increasingly challenging.

U.S. labor unions have been slow to advocate for updating these outdated laws. One union, the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America, has been working to blunt the worst of the abuses. Labor-friendly media have been missing this story as well. Not only should unions advocate to update the laws and limit digital spying, but why not also demand that home-based workers be compensated by employers for use of their house, utilities and the internet? And that the employer remains responsible to provide equipment and a safe workplace, even in the home?

Remote Workforce Growth‚ÄĒThe New Normal?

As the number of remote workers rises, concerns are growing among labor advocates that this is quickly becoming the ‚Äúnew normal.‚ÄĚ One survey by Gartner, Inc. found that 74 percent of companies intend to keep some proportion of their workforce on permanent remote status, with nearly a quarter of respondents saying they will move at least 20 percent of their on-site employees to permanent remote status. Google/Alphabet recently announced it will keep its 200,000 full-time and contract employees home until at least July 2021, and half of Facebook employees will work from home over the next decade. Hub International, a global insurance brokerage, has shifted 90 percent of its 12,000 employees to remote status. ‚ÄúTeleperformance, the world‚Äôs largest call-center company, estimates that around 150,000 of its employees [nearly half its global workforce] will not return to a physical worksite,‚ÄĚ according to Social Europe.

Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom says:

‚ÄúA recent separate survey of firms from the Survey of Business Uncertainty that I run with the Atlanta Federal Reserve and the University of Chicago indicated that the share of working days spent at home is expected to increase fourfold from pre-COVID levels, from 5 percent to 20 percent.

‚ÄúOf the dozens of firms I have talked to, the typical plan is that employees will work from home one to three days a week, and come into the office the rest of the time.‚ÄĚ

But not all at-home workers are created equal. Bloom continues:

‚ÄúTaken together, this is generating a time bomb for inequality. Our results show that more educated, higher-earning employees are far more likely to work from home‚ÄĒso they are continuing to get paid, develop their skills and advance their careers. At the same time, those unable to work from home‚ÄĒeither because of the nature of their jobs, or because they lack suitable space or internet connections‚ÄĒare being left behind. They face bleak prospects if their skills and work experience erode during an extended shutdown and beyond.‚ÄĚ

The future of work has become more uncertain than ever. In this ‚Äúbrave new world,‚ÄĚ labor unions and advocates must ensure that the pandemic is not misused by businesses as an excuse to worsen conditions for employees who work out of the office. It is easy to imagine how the lines between ‚Äėremote‚Äô work and ‚Äėplatform‚Äô work could blur, leading to more ‚ÄėUberization‚Äô as work devolves into ‚Äėindependent‚Äô contracts, bogus self-employment and ‚Äėpay-by-project‚Äô arrangements that can be easily outsourced to remote (and lower-cost) destinations.

Worker advocates must push for a strong and modern legal data protection framework. And that should include an effective enforcement system against privacy abuse that disincentivizes illegal spying behavior. Remote work should not become a downward slide toward a Big Brother panopticon that penetrates into society ever more deeply, including into our homes.

This blog originally appeared at Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute, on September 23, 2020.

About the Author: Steven Hill (www.Steven-Hill.com) is the author of Raw Deal: How the Uber Economy and Runaway Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers and Expand Social Security Now: How to Ensure Americans Get the Retirement They Deserve.

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The Parent Trap

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Covid-19 has exacerbated capitalism’s impossible demands on¬†mothers.

Having children is one of the great mysteries of life. Like having sex, or falling in love, or developing faith in a higher power, it’s an experience that falls short of any description.

Also like sex, love and religion, having children sucks about half the time, and it particularly sucks now, thanks to the coronavirus.

I‚Äôm in a best-case situation‚ÄĒtwo employed work-from-home parents, taking care of one relatively well-behaved 2-year-old‚ÄĒand still, parenting under lockdown is a gauntlet, a months-long Kobayashi Maru test in which the only way to win is to realize the game is unwinnable. School is out, and may or may not reopen in the fall. Many summer camps and day cares are shut down. Playgrounds are cordoned off. The only safe place is the house, and while you‚Äôre in that house, you‚Äôre expected to do your job. It is impossible to be both continually available to one‚Äôs boss and continually available to one‚Äôs child. The things that seem ‚Äúcute‚ÄĚ at first, like tiny toddler voices announcing their need to potty during a call, quickly become irritants. Emails go unanswered; basic tasks are forgotten; Screen Time, the parent‚Äôs nemesis, comes to dominate your child‚Äôs waking hours. I woke up a few weekends ago to hear my neighbor, whose toddler is the same age as mine, standing on his porch and screaming ‚ÄúI NEVER SHOULD HAVE HAD A KID.‚ÄĚ

I have little sympathy for my neighbor, mostly because his wife was indoors, caring for the child he did have. Talking about ‚Äúparenting‚ÄĚ under COVID is a bit of a dodge. What we‚Äôre talking about, most of the time, is mothering. The amount of mothering being asked of women under coronavirus is triggering a generational reset in gender roles, one which reveals that much of our 20th-century ‚Äúprogress‚ÄĚ was an illusion.

Women are the ones hit hardest by this pandemic in nearly every respect ‚Äď more likely to lose their jobs during the shutdown, more likely to be deemed ‚Äúessential‚ÄĚ workers and put on the frontlines, more likely to be single parents, and more likely to be poor. In particular, Latinas, who are overrepresented in sectors like childcare and domestic work, are the most unemployed demographic in the country (19% were unemployed as of June, an all-time high). And 74% of Black moms are the primary wage-earners for their households, meaning that they are hurt first and worst by job losses and the unavailability of childcare. Since stay at home orders began, the average Black mom has done 12 more hours of childcare per week than the average white mother. 

With no safety net in place, the virus can set off devastating chain reactions. Consider the Ohio family where both parents‚Äďa nanny and a construction worker‚Äďlost their jobs for taking time off work while one of them was hospitalized, or the single mom and tattoo shop owner interviewed by CNN whose shop was shut down indefinitely, leaving her to care for a small child on her life savings of $2,000.

This would be hard enough without the dread hand of Gender Roles descending, but Gender stops for no virus: When women are partnered with men, they are expected to keep doing the majority of the childcare. That division of labor appears immune to class differences: A joint study from the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge and Zurich found that women did more childcare than men at every income level, though the type varied‚ÄĒin the lowest income brackets, women did nearly twice as much routine childcare as men, whereas in higher-income households, men and women split childcare more equally, but women did over twice as much homeschooling.

The typical excuse for this is that women ‚Äúchoose‚ÄĚ to take low-paying employment; their incomes are expendable, hence they can step back from work more easily. Yet the division of labor persists even when it‚Äôs comically inappropriate, as in the case of Aimee, a former tech company CEO recently profiled by The Lily, who resigned from her job mid-pandemic simply because her unemployed husband found childcare too tiring. Though Aimee claims she ‚Äúchose‚ÄĚ unemployment, the Lily profile clearly details the coercion her husband employed: When she tried to keep working, he relentlessly badgered her to ‚Äúget off the computer,‚ÄĚ and eventually instructed their son to stop calling her ‚ÄúMom.‚ÄĚ She‚Äôs unsure if or when she will find a new job.

It stands out that Aimee‚Äôs family has enough savings to live on during a period of long-term unemployment. But 28% of Americans have no savings at all. And while #NotAllMen are as hideously oppressive as Aimee‚Äôs husband, everyone, in capitalism, needs a wife. The demands of a full-time job are incompatible with parenting, and this is by design; it‚Äôs assumed that every full-time worker will have a shadow partner who does their domestic work for them. Historically, white-collar families have outsourced the labor of wifing to lower-paid women‚ÄĒhousekeepers, nannies, day care workers‚ÄĒwhich gives middle- and upper-class women some measure of autonomy and upward mobility. Yet, with the coronavirus stripping away access to outside support, that mobility has been revealed to be an illusion. When outside support isn‚Äôt available, white-collar wives are coerced, guilted or bullied out of the workforce and into doing wife-work once again. It‚Äôs such an ingrained pattern that men don‚Äôt even realize they‚Äôre doing it: In one survey by the New York Times, 45% of fathers said they were doing the majority of the home-schooling in their households. Only 3% of their wives agreed.

Meanwhile, working-class women, who were already less able to access outside support, are forced into situations that are untenable, draining or dangerous. White-collar women are, to say the least, not helping: Consider the case of the nanny, interviewed by The Cut, who was commanded to pack up and move into her employer‚Äôs country house during lockdown. When she had to bring her grandchild, her pay was cut by over 50%, supposedly to cover the cost of his meals.

The coronavirus isn‚Äôt creating new problems so much as revealing the ones that were already there. Without the feminization of poverty, women would not be so vulnerable to economic catastrophe. If ‚Äúprogressive‚ÄĚ middle- and upper-class marriages were founded on genuine egalitarianism, rather than outsourcing the women‚Äôs work to less privileged women, then Aimee might have been able to keep her job. The impossible schedules designed to edge parents out of the workforce, the lack of universal basic income for parents who need or want to stop working, the absence of universal childcare that would provide real support to single mothers and even the domestic playing field for women with male partners‚ÄĒthose were all present before the virus. We were living in a house of cards, and our present situation is just what it looks like when that house falls down.

Universal basic income‚Äďwhich would allow parents more time for child care, and benefit non-parents as well‚Äďhas started to seem a lot more feasible in recent months, and¬†a wave of op-eds has called for more and better childcare. Yet these problems are too entrenched to be fixable with quick solutions. No matter what we tell ourselves about progress, our economic system still¬†operate on the assumption that some woman, somewhere, will pick up the domestic slack. The solution is not to get back to ‚Äúnormal,‚ÄĚ especially not if ‚Äúnormal‚ÄĚ means endangering and exploiting more working-class women. It‚Äôs to look at this impossible, maddening Kobayashi Maru of a situation and decide that no one deserves it, and use that insight to create a better world.

This blog originally appeared at In These Times on July 13, 2020. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Sady Doyle¬†is an¬†In These Times¬†contributing writer. She is the author of¬†Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear… and Why¬†(Melville House, 2016) and was the founder of the blog¬†Tiger Beatdown.

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Should Work-From-Home be Mandatory Even after the COVID Pandemic?

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As the pandemic wanes and the world fights to claw its way out of the economic drain, leaders and company executives are trying to figure out how to change with the changing economy. To put the situation in perspective: In 2019, only 3.4% of employees worked remotely. Working from home was considered a job perk and only a select few enjoyed this privilege. Fast-forward to 2020, the percentage of individuals working remotely is now more than 43%. This has been an unanticipated change. People had to adapt as quickly as possible because many businesses were at risk of failing, and leaders needed to act fast!

Adapting to the Setbacks of the Pandemic by Promoting Remote Work

As companies and employees adapt to this new world, executives and team leaders are faced with a harsh truth: the office is not needed after all! A lot of tasks can be accomplished remotely. This realization placed many traditionalists in a tight spot. A decade ago, team leaders countered the idea of remote working by saying workers needed constant supervision for them to be productive. The opposite has now been shown to be true. Remote workers are happier and more productive than their counterparts who commute to the office. With productivity tools readily available, a lot of team leaders now use time tracking apps to monitor their employees remotely. Technology has made it clear that employees do not need an office to be productive.

Should Companies Continue to Pursue Remote Work?

While it’s true that some jobs require physical presence and can’t be done remotely (think of delivery personnel and field workers), the figures are clear on this one, with 77% of remote workers saying they want to continue working from home after the pandemic. Companies are now making policies to accommodate remote working. Workers who can work remotely should be allowed to do so.

Tech giants like Facebook, Twitter, and Google are setting the pace in this regard. Google and Facebook are looking for ways to create a hybrid environment that will allow workers to choose when to commute or telecommute, while Twitter is going for a wholly remote-working team. Other companies are following this path or at least they are considering the possibility. The logic is simple: why waste money on renting office space and paying for employee transport if the job can be done from anywhere? Allowing for remote work also means employers have the advantage of hiring talent from different parts of the globe.

However, not everyone is suited for remote work. 23% of individuals currently being forced to work out of office because of the pandemic cannot wait to resume commuting to the office. This group of people consider themselves to be more productive when in the office and they are eager to leave the house post-pandemic. Trying to figure out how to manage time while working from home isn’t the best idea for this set of individuals. This creates a question: How can companies create a balance and allow for diversity?

Offering Job Flexibility Even After Lockdown Restrictions

The answer to this question is not far-fetched. Building a hybrid team is a great way to create a balance between remote and office work. By giving people the option to choose when to work from home and when to be in the office, companies can build flexibility and make themselves more attractive to their workforce. One way to boost productivity for remote work is to realize that flexibility is important to employees. Even if some of them choose to commute to work daily, knowing they have the option to work remotely whenever they want will increase their loyalty for the company. A research conducted by Owl Labs shows that remote workers stay longer with a company than their counterparts who commute to the office. Individuals who have no option to telecommute are more likely to look for new jobs sooner than later. This means employers who do not allow telecommuting tend to lose more employees. They will also spend extra time and resources trying to hire new talent to fill the vacancy.

In the end, making it mandatory to either work from home or the office is not the answer. Instead, company leaders should look towards implementing policies that can allow employees to choose what works for them. Every employee should have the option to choose when to work from home and when to go to the office. It is time to embrace the new and let go of the old.

About the Author: Ikechukwu Nnabeze is a tech expert and a successful freelancer whose main area of interest is to improve people’s lives with the help of modern technology. His interest in providing practical solutions to real-life tech problems has led him to a successful career in creating content for Traqq. His passion is to help individuals and organizations from all over the world to embrace the life-changing beauty of modern technology. He enjoys poetry in his spare time.

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Why You Should Let Your Employees Work from Home

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To achieve a better work-life balance, a growing number of people are looking for flexible work arrangements.

From an employee’s perspective, working from home has several perks that make their lives easier.

Numerous studies show that remote employment results in a win-win situation for both employee and employer.

Here are six reasons you should explore the option of letting your employees telecommute regularly.

It Increases Worker Productivity

Surprisingly, most workers tend to be more productive in work from home arrangements than in an office environment.

Remote workers tend to be more productive because they are spared the myriad of distractions present in a busy office environment.

Productivity killers that range from loud colleagues, endless meetings, office politics, heavy foot traffic, walk-in clients, and more are rife in most office environments.

For employees whose jobs call for deep concentration, a quiet home environment eliminates distractions to allow them more time to crush their tasks.   

It Makes Your Workers More Committed

Telecommuting comes with the risk of workers binging on Netflix or embarking on long shopping trips when they should be working.

Surprisingly, only a small portion of remote workers get suckered in by the newly found freedom.

Allowing workers to telecommute sends a strong message that you value and trust them enough to afford them such privileges.

Research shows that workers who enjoy work from home employment are not only innovative and productive but also tend to be fiercely loyal to the company.

You Get to Streamline Your Workflow

A smooth workflow is central to the success of your business.

Embracing a telecommuting business culture forces you to take a deeper look at your workflow.

With deep insights into the amount of work that needs to be done, you can eliminate bottlenecks and optimize the execution plan.

A smooth workflow improves business productivity and efficiency while letting you increase your turnaround time as well as the quality of service.

You Get to Lower Your Overhead Costs

Utility bills alongside the payroll take a massive chunk out of monthly revenue, drastically reducing your net profit.

Switching to a telecommuting model lets you cut down on each of these costs and grow your profit margins.

For starters, it eliminates the need to rent a vast office space since you only need to accommodate a few essential personnel or none at all.

Secondly, you can switch your hiring models and strictly work with independent contractors instead of full-time employees.

Working with freelancers and independent contractors eliminates some payroll obligations such as medical insurance, retirement benefits, overtime, and more.

You Get to Hire the Best Talent

Skilled workers routinely turn down lucrative job offers if the position entails uprooting their entire life and relocating to a new city.

You can hire the best workers without forcing them to abandon their friends and family in the pursuit of their dream jobs.

Better yet, hiring remote workers lets you tap into the global workforce and staff your company with skilled experts from around the world.

A diverse workforce comprising of top experts from around the world lets you come up with innovative products and increases your global appeal.

You Can Cherry Pick Your Clients

During the growth phase, it’s only natural to go after every client who promises you a payday.

Problem clients tend to be too demanding, slow to pay and dispute every invoice, all of which can suck the joy right out of your work.

They can take up so much of your time with endless complaints to the point of leading you to neglect your other clients, negatively impacting revenue generation and customer satisfaction.

High caliber clients trust your capabilities and won’t set impossible deadlines or try to micromanage your operations.

Don’t Get Left Behind, Let Them Work from Home

In addition to saving time and money on the commute, remote workers are able to tend to their personal needs without asking for time off.

At first glance, it seems working from home skews in favor of the employee, which, naturally, is likely to put employers on edge.

However, you stand to reap benefits by the boatload if you allow your employees the option to work from home.

Printed with permission.

About the Author: Katrina McKinnon is the founder of Small Revolution, which started as a knowledge base for online store owners and has now expanded into offering training for virtual assistants and copywriters. Through Small Revolution, you will learn the skills in a fun and practical way.

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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 ‚Äúwin-win‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôs 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 ‚Äúpersonal time‚ÄĚ communications ‚Äď they must honor your work boundaries as well.¬† And, don‚Äôt 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 ¬Ĺ day, you take the other ¬Ĺ 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 ‚Äúoffice sanctuary‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúmust haves‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúplugged in‚ÄĚ to your employer. The adage ‚Äúout of sight, out of mind‚ÄĚ is sometimes applicable to employees working remotely ‚Äď 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 ‚Äústay in the loop‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúworking mood‚ÄĚ when showered and dressed, than you are if working in your pajamas.
  4. Offer to ‚Äúmake up‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äúgiving back‚ÄĚ to employers with some complimentary employer time. For most of us, working from home translates to a considerable reduction in commuting time to one‚Äôs employer.¬† Consider offering your employer an extra 30-60 minutes of work time ‚Äď 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 ‚Äúwin-win‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äď particularly millennials and contract workers in the ‚Äúgig‚ÄĚ economy ‚Äď 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 ‚Äúremote‚ÄĚ 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 ‚Äď 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‚Äôs 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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How People with Disabilities Can Find the Best Job Opportunities Out There

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Though the number of people with disabilities in the workforce is still lower than the number of those without, things are changing. There are now more good job opportunities for people with disabilities than ever before. As the Brookings Institute notes, ‚Äúthe number of people who cite disability as a reason for not working has recently fallen, reversing a decades-long trend.‚ÄĚ If you‚Äôre looking to be a part of the workforce, here are some things you need to know.

Consider home-based employment if your disability demands it

Only you can know if your particular disability more or less necessitates that you work from home, but if it does, you should know that the options for this type of employment are better now than they have ever been. One option is to turn your existing skills into an online venture. This could be writing, editing, accounting, consulting, or any number of highly-marketable skills you have from previous employment.

Even without prior marketable skills, finding work from home is possible. Setting up your own online store and becoming a ‚Äúprofessional seller‚ÄĚ on auction, craft, or other sales sites is a good option. As is work with affiliate marketing, call centers, and survey work.

Don’t let a disability prevent you from a career outside the home

If your particular disability isn’t debilitating enough to require working from home, it’s important to know that mobility issues should not preclude you from a rewarding career outside the home (nor does it, as over 10 million Americans with disabilities find this type of work). Jobs in administration, pharmacy services, and paralegal work are good career options for those with mobility issues or visual or hearing impairments.

Hone your networking skills

¬†Monster.com says your primary objective when job hunting is to alert others that you‚Äôre seeking employment and to opt for a targeted networking campaign to make inroads. To this end, you need to cast wide nets. First sit down and make a list of any business or personal contacts you know that could possibly be a lead on a quality job. You need to contact as many as possible and inquire about potential openings. It‚Äôs also smart to develop relationships with hiring managers and HR professionals at companies and in fields you desire to work ‚ÄĒ even if they‚Äôre not currently hiring. That‚Äôs networking at its finest.

Impress with your resume

A good resume will be flawless, will contain a concise but informative executive summary, won’t be too long (but will contain all pertinent information), and will contain specific keywords that hiring managers want to see.

You should try an online resume template even if you have resume-building experience. It’s smarter to have a guide that’ll help you create the perfect, eye-catching resume. You don’t want to miss anything and you want it to be as professional as possible. This is what will land you that coveted interview.

Don’t forget to check out these great resources

Thanks to the internet, you have a ton of resources out there to help you search for jobs, find information about hiring, develop your skills, and learn about your rights as a person with a disability. Check out the federal government’s USA Jobs site, giant disability jobs search site abilityJOBS, and USA.gov’s disability jobs educational hub for starters.

Don’t think your disability only allows for marginal, bare-bones employment. You can find lucrative and rewarding work either inside or outside the home. With some targeted effort through networking and trying to determine the best fit for you, your dream job could be on the horizon.

About the Author: A former banker with thirty years of experience, Jim uses his knowledge and skills to provide advice and resources to anyone seeking help with their financial literacy.

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