5 ways remote work is changing the economy for the better

remote work
Remote work has been good in many ways.

Now that vaccines and a massive stimulus package are here, the US economy is uniquely positioned for a great new era in the 2020s.

A major factor underlying the great economic potential of reopening lies with how the pandemic ushered in an era of remote work, which is likely here to stay to some extent in a post-pandemic world.

More than two-thirds of professionals were working remotely during the peak of the pandemic, according to a new report by work marketplace Upwork, and over the next five years, 20% to 25% of professionals will likely be working remotely.

Remote working has caused employees to rethink and better accommodate their priorities in life and employers to rethink operations regarding how they can best work with professionals and create teams, the report stated. But it also hasn’t been without some downsides, such as blurring the lines between work-life balance and causing increased stress.

Overall, though, Upwork found the shift to remote work in the past year has ultimately benefited the economy in five key ways.

(1) Remote workers are more productive

Remote and and online collaboration technology are proving to be helpful with hidden benefits like making teams work better together, reported Douglas Quenqua for Insider. Higher meeting attendance rates, more attentive managers, simplified communication, and more breaks are just a few of the positive changes.

It’s made many more productive. Sixty-one percent of workers said their productivity increased from working remotely, according to an Upwork survey. And an Upwork survey of hiring managers found 32.2% of them said they saw overall productivity rise as of late April, compared to 22.5% that felt it decreased.

These productive effects will only further develop as people adapt more to remote work, new technology is invented, and people will start remote businesses, wrote the report’s author, Adam Ozimek.

(2) Remote work has freed up relocation opportunities

Remote work will redistribute opportunity across the US, Ozimek wrote. Upwork estimated that up to 23 million people plan to relocate.

Richard Florida, urban studies theorist and economics professor at the University of Toronto, has a similar mindset. He previously told Insider remote work will accelerate the movement of families out of superstar cities into suburbs and the 1% who are seeking lower taxes.

“I have long said that we will see the rise of the rest, given the incredible expensiveness and affordability of existing superstar cities,” he said. “But it’s not going to be the rise of everywhere. It’s going to be the rise of a dozen or two dozen places.” These places will consequently attract new talent, changing economic development.

Florida predicted that bigger cities will see a resurgence, though, as the US inches closer to widespread vaccination, reshaped by a newfound focus on interpersonal interaction that facilitates creativity and spontaneity.

(3) Employers are hiring more independent talent

Employers have become more inclined to build hybrid teams made up of both full-time employees and freelance workers, Ozimek wrote. A November Upwork survey that asked about plans for hiring freelancers in the next six months found that 36% of hiring managers plan to hire out more independent talent.

Fortune 1000 companies in particular have been tapping into more diverse talent regardless of matter location, found a recent report by Business Talent Group, a marketplace for independent consultants. Independent talent has especially increased in the C-Suite. There has been a 67% increase over the past year in executives seeking independent talent needs, per the report.

This increases the talent pool and opportunities for workers.

(4) Remote workers are saving time and money

Without daily commutes, workers have more hours and bigger bank accounts.

One year of working remotely has saved people on average nine days from commuting, per Upwork’s research. And car commuters saved around $4,350, including costs to public from their driving.

The time and money saved could boost economic growth and productivity, Robert Gordon, economics professor at Northwestern University, said in a recent UCLA Anderson Forecast interview. The labor force has restructured, with high-paid people working from home and making the same income, he said.

“This shift to remote working has got to improve productivity because we’re getting the same amount of output without commuting, without office buildings, and without all the goods and services associated with that,” Gordon said. “We can produce output at home and transmit it to the rest of the economy electronically.”

(5) Pandemic remote work is different from remote work

“Remote work and remote work during a global pandemic are not the same,” Ozimek wrote.

Many of the struggles with remote work were due to pandemic circumstances – like balancing remote work with child care while schools were closed. In a post-pandemic world, these things won’t be a hindrance and remote employees will be able to revel in fewer interruptions, which Upwork found to be one of the most cited benefits of remote work.

Remote work also won’t always be done from home. Florida thinks neighborhoods will reshape as offices.

“Even as offices decline, the community or the neighborhood or the city itself will take on more of the functions of an office,” he said. “People will gravitate to places where they can meet and interact with others outside of the home and outside of the office.”

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Publix offers $125 gift cards to workers who receive the COVID-19 vaccine

Publix grocery store night
  • Employees have to show proof of vaccination and fill out an internal form to receive the gift cards.
  • Publix was among the first to partner with Florida to distribute the Moderna vaccine, a spokesperson told Insider.
  • Workers don’t have to receive the vaccine from Publix Pharmacy.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Publix Supermarkets will offer $125 gift cards to employees who get the manufacturer-recommended doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, the company said.

Employees must show proof of vaccination and fill out an internal form to receive the gift cards, but they don’t have to receive the vaccine at a Publix Pharmacy, according to a press release.

“We care about our associates and customers and believe getting vaccinated can help us take one step closer to getting back to normal,” said Publix CEO Todd Jones in the press release. “We’re encouraging our associates to get vaccinated when they become eligible and doses are available.”

The popular Southern grocery chain has more than 1,200 locations, with the bulk of them in Florida. The company has grown into the largest employee-owned company in the US.

Publix was among the first to partner with the state of Florida after the initial request to distribute the Moderna vaccine, a company spokesperson told Insider.

The supermarket joins a growing list of employers who have offered incentives to workers who receive the two-dose COVID-19 vaccine. 

Target said earlier this month that it will offer four hours of paid time off and pay for Lyft rides for workers to get vaccinated, while Kroger said that it will pay $100 to workers who receive the full manufacturer-recommended vaccine doses.

Other companies have made similar incentives available to employees who get vaccinated.

The two-dose vaccines, including one from Pfizer-BioNtech and another from Moderna, received FDA approval in December. Around 34 million people have received one or more doses since the vaccine approval.

People who are vulnerable to severe COVID-19, like older people, those with other medical conditions, and “essential” workers, including doctors, nurses and grocery workers, have been prioritized, depending on the state.

The vaccine’s initial rollout in the US was laden with delays. The timeline for when COVID-19 vaccines will be available to everyone in the US has slipped into May or possibly June, Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medial advisor, told CNN this week.

Appointments for the vaccine have moved mostly online, but those without internet access or internet savvy are struggling to sign up for their shots, Insider reported Saturday. The people who lack access and time to sign up for the vaccine are the same as those most at risk for contracting and dying from the disease: minorities, homeless, and elderly Americans. 

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Joe Biden can help remake the Federal Reserve so that it actually helps America’s workers

joe biden
President-elect Joe Biden

  • The Federal Reserve is finally starting to take the concerns of average workers more seriously in its monetary policymaking.
  • In order to cement this commitment to workers and full employment, President-elect Joe Biden should nominate Fed Board members with a background in organized labor.
  • There have been a vanishingly small number of labor leaders at the Fed over its long history, this needs to change.
  • Kaleb Nygaard is a graduate student at Yale’s School of Management studying Systemic Risk. He is the Editor in Chief of the central banking education website Centralverse and the host of The Bankster Podcast.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

It’s time for someone to truly represent the voice of workers at the Federal Reserve.

The health and economic one-two-punch of COVID-19 has had a particularly devastating effect on working-class families. It has also made it clear that policymakers need to focus their efforts on helping those families. 

Despite this, not a single person with a background in organized labor has had a vote on the Federal Reserve’s all-important Open Markets Committee (FOMC), past or present. Since it was formalized in the 1930s Banking Acts, there have been 179 people who have served on the committee. 

Adding someone with a background in labor to the leadership of the Fed would help ensure these working-class families have representation at the most important macroeconomic decision-making-table in the country. 

To repeat, not a single one has had a background in Labor. 

In January, President Biden should change that.

A seat at the table and a voice at the Fed

There are two types of participants on the FOMC: seven Governors who work from the Fed office in Washington DC and 12 Presidents who head the Reserve Banks spread across the country. How they are chosen and who does the choosing is very different for the two types. 

The seven Governors are nominated by the US President and confirmed by the Senate in the same fashion that Cabinet Secretaries or Supreme Court Justices are chosen. 

By law, the Governors are supposed to consist of “a fair representation of the financial, agricultural, industrial, and commercial interests, and geographical divisions of the country”. 

One of the seven seats sits empty at the moment. On day one, President Biden should nominate someone with a background in labor to fill the seat, and whichever party controls the Senate should confirm the nominee. 

The selection process for the 12 Presidents is more complicated. Each Reserve Bank is overseen by a nine-member Board of Directors. Three are bankers, elected by banks in the area. Three are non-bankers, elected by banks in the area. And three are non-bankers, appointed by the seven Governors in Washington DC. The six non-bankers are the ones responsible for choosing the Reserve Bank President. 

By law, the non-banker-directors are supposed to consist of “the interests of agriculture, commerce, industry, services, labor, and consumers.” So although the process is more complicated and less democratic for the selection process of the Reserve Bank Presidents, the legal foundation upon which it sits explicitly includes Labor representation.

In the full 106-year history of the Fed, only 45 representatives of labor have been on the Board of Directors of the 12 Reserve Banks. 

Chart 1

And when you look at it as a percentage of the non-banker directors, the lack of labor representation is even more paltry.

Chart 2

Less than 20% of the labor representatives were elected by banks. The remaining 80% plus were appointed by the Governors in Washington DC. The total per district also varies greatly. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York has had the most with nine, and the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has not had a single one. 

Chart 3

In August, the Fed announced the conclusion of their first-ever-public framework review. There were many changes made because of the review, but the overall thrust of the changes was to give greater attention to improving the employment situation of average Americans, with the greatest impact of the changes going to working-class families. 

This focus on the labor market and working families even showed up in 2019, when the Fed made a sharp turnaround and reversed the interest rate increases they had made in the previous few years. They admitted they’d missed the mark on full employment. As Chairman Jay Powell said at the time: “We really have learned that the economy can sustain much lower unemployment than we originally thought without troubling levels of inflation”.

To confirm the spirit of both the Fed’s 2019 admission of misreading the employment situation and the 2020 policy changes, President Biden should nominate someone with a background in labor to fill the empty Governor seat. Going forward, this would ensure that the voices of the tens of millions of working-class families who are struggling through the effects of the pandemic, are heard in the decision-making room of our country’s central bank.

For the same reasons, the Reserve Bank Board of Directors should consider candidates with a background in Labor for future Reserve Bank President positions. 

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