Working remotely: Countries avoiding the post-COVID work trend and why
Two years ago, the COVID-19 health crisis triggered a surge in remote working as most countries had to follow strict security measures to keep businesses running.
But now that most of these measures have been lifted and life has returned to “normal”, many companies are continuing to transform their once in-office roles into fully or partially remote ones.
A recent study job board Indeed found that the number of global job postings with a remote component has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic, nearly tripling from an average of just 2.5% in January 2020 to almost 7.5% in September 2021.
Spain, Ireland and the UK are just some of the countries seeing the biggest increases, and the US is no stranger to the trend either.
Remote opportunities have grown from less than 4% of all well-paying jobs before the pandemic to around 9% at the end of 2020, and over 15% today in North America.
Data scientists at career site Ladders believe remote work is here to stay, with a full quarter of all professional jobs to be available remotely by the end of the year.
“This change in working arrangements is impossible to overstate. As important as it is, it is even more important than people think,” said Marc Cenedella, CEO of Ladders.
“Hiring practices typically move at a freezing pace, but the pandemic has turned the temperature up, so we’re seeing a rapid stream of change in this space. It’s really quite incredible.”
But while much of the world seems to be rapidly embracing remote and hybrid working, some countries just haven’t adapted to the idea yet; whether for cultural, legal or technical reasons.
Czech Republic: Legal uncertainty around the status of remote workers
Although remote working is becoming widespread in most Western European countries, the flexible method has not been fully accepted by Czechs, especially employers, despite the country being just as technologically equipped as its peers. .
The reason is quite simple: the Czech Republic is struggling to give real status to teleworkers, and the law does not specify whether a teleworker is a normal employee or not, so companies prefer to avoid teleworking given the legal uncertainty. .
The Czech Republic is the only country that has never granted legal status to remote workers, and although the government is beginning to debate legislation on their status following the pushes of the younger generations who demand a changethere has not been much progress made so far.
According to an Ipsos survey, 51% of Czech employees questioned were interested in permanent telework and 59% in partial telework.
France: Europe’s bad student
Meanwhile, France stands out as the worst performer in Europe, because according to a study carried out jointly by Ifop and the Jean Jaurès Foundationonly 34% of French people regularly worked remotely during the pandemic, while it was implemented by 61% of Germans, 56% of Italians and 50% of Britons.
The duration of remote work for the French was also lower than that of their European neighbors: 11% of them worked from home four to five days a week, compared to 30% of the Italians.
These low figures are explained by the strong disparity between senior management – the majority of whom can work remotely – and the other socio-professional categories, who largely continue to go to their place of work.
Age is also another factor in these disparities in France, seniors being less comfortable with digital technology than the “digital native” generation.
The French are notorious for their reluctance to change, so the situation might not change any time soon. Moreover, the culture of “presenteeism” – the practice of being present at the office despite illness – is still strongly ingrained in the minds of the older generation.
When asked if they would like more or fewer remote working days, French survey respondents said they would like fewer teleworking days, compared to their European neighbours.
The researchers believe that this low demand is the result of social interactions being a key tool for decision-making in the French office, but also a form of resignation among many French workers who feel that remote working conditions are not for them. not accessible.
Japan: a strong culture of “presenteeism”
Japan, like France, is another country plagued by the culture of presenteeism.
Many Japanese fear a lack of career advancement if they don’t work long hours in the office, and forcing those workers to resort to remote work due to the health crisis has proven to be a disaster.
While most employees say working from home has made them more efficient than they were in the office, Japanese employees have become 20% less productive on average, according to a 2020 study by economist Toshihiro Okubo.
Japan also has a very social work structure, which makes it a poor candidate for remote work, as employees prefer to work in teams and do group reviews, while overseas employees are usually assigned unique responsibilities. and are assessed individually.
Mentorship and dialogue are two core values of the Japanese work system, with senior employees supervising younger peers and informal coffee machine conversations reinforcing contact within teams – something that just didn’t work in Japan. a distant setting.
Lack of access to personal computers is another reason that has made the switch to remote work very difficult for Japanese workers. the nation has one of the lowest rates for personal computer access according to the OECD.
Additionally, home offices are much less common than in the West due to the small size of the average urban apartment and the prices of larger houses in Japan’s highly urbanized society.
China: a difficult transition
Although China was the first country to resort to remote work as it was the first country to deal with the coronavirus, the transition has still been relatively difficult for the Chinese workforce.
At the time, 40% of Chinese workers have been forced to work from home, compared to only 7% of employees who were previously allowed to do so – a rather unexpected cultural shift for a country very attached to presenteeism and hierarchies, according to the consulting firm Bloomberg.
However, once the country started locking down major affected regions, the use of digital technologies – including AI, location tracking, facial recognition, etc. – surged to contain the spread of the epidemic, and some companies began to keep a firm grip on even remote employees.
Employees had to check in with their bosses every morning to tell them where they were and if they had any symptoms of the virus.
China’s communist history may also explain the difficulty for the Chinese to embrace remote working, with employees being forced to collectively negotiate agreements.
But despite the country’s strong collectivist culture, the new habits developed during the pandemic are slowly developing among Chinese workers and further development could be seen in the years to come.
High-speed broadband access in developing countries
For many countries, the pandemic has brought to light inequalities in digital access, another obstacle to successfully transitioning to hybrid forms of work.
Unsurprisingly, developing countries are the most vulnerable, but many have taken positions at odds with their internet resilience.
For instance, Mexico and Brazil are more internet resilient than Indonesia or Indiaaccording to economic consultants Bhaskar Chakravorti and Ravi Shankar Chaturvedi.
Angola also stood out as the least remote working friendly country in the world, with only 0.70 out of 100 people in the country having broadband access with a landline in 2020, compared to 36.41 in the states. -United, according to the World Bank.
The number of remote workers in the country this year remains difficult to estimate, as few figures have been reported to the International Labor Organization (ILO) by government institutions.
Overall, most countries around the world have seen an undeniable shift in the ability to work beyond the confines of a traditional office, with many employees now equipped to log on from home after learning how to do so. at the height of the pandemic.
Companies are now navigating between the pros and cons of remote and hybrid working, picking and choosing which aspects suit the particularities of their unique cultures.
So while some countries like France, Japan or China have been slower to adapt to remote working than the US or UK, the hybrid and remote trends are here to stay – but so are the joys of chatting with colleagues in the office. .