Work life | Who still benefits from teleworking in 2024?

Widespread teleworking appeared in the United States virtually overnight: with the pandemic in March 2020, more than half of workers switched to working from home at least some of the time, according to Gallup. But the transition to permanent hybrid work happened little by little, with periods of tension when white-collar workers rebelled against the order to return to the office.

These clashes are essentially settled, and a hybrid work measure has remained. About 10% of workers combine office and teleworking, and a similar proportion always work from home.

The typical American teleworker is not entirely representative of the average worker: according to government statistics, they are more likely to be white, Asian and more educated.

The pandemic has exposed inequalities in the American economy. White-collar workers have been able to work from the safety of home, but low-income workers have often had to continue going to work, even during the worst of the pandemic. Now that the health emergency has passed, this divide over the possibility of working from home has become entrenched and is a mirror of the country’s racial inequalities.

Because white and Asian workers are more likely to have office-based jobs, they are more likely to have access to telecommuting. Black and Hispanic workers are more prevalent in restaurants, construction, retail, health care and other fields where you need to be on-site.

When employers began demanding a return to the office, it was expected that resistance would come mainly from younger people. However, the proportion of young people who work face-to-face is higher than the workforce average.

This is, among other things, because a smaller share of Americans under 25 have completed postsecondary education. Many have 100% face-to-face jobs, such as in catering. And even among graduates, workers in their 20s are more likely to be in the office full-time than their older colleagues. This suggests that young people value the benefits of in-person work: socialization, mentoring, and direct contact with the boss. In addition, for them, the disadvantages of the 9 to 5 matter less: in general, fewer young workers have to care for children or elderly parents, so the flexibility of teleworking is less of a priority.

Gender gaps

There are also gender gaps in teleworking.

Basically, women benefit more from teleworking than men: more women have a post-secondary diploma, so more of them hold professional jobs where flexibility has become the norm. Even in the unqualified workforce, women are more often white-collar workers in administration or customer service. Men are over-represented in construction, manufacturing and other jobs where you have to be on-site.

If we limit ourselves to graduates, teleworking is more evenly distributed between men and women (men, a little more). But there is one big exception: among parents of young children.

Parents are among the big winners in the era of flexible working. Teleworking has made work-life balance enormously easier. But it is mothers, not fathers, who benefit the most, by choice or necessity.

Among graduates, mothers of young children are much more likely to work remotely than women without children or mothers of older children. Among men, there is no big difference between fathers and those who do not have children.

Teleworking and hybrid work

We do not always distinguish teleworking from hybrid work; however, in some cases the implications are different.

For many people with disabilities, the normalization of remote work has avoided grueling commutes and offices poorly suited to their reality. For others, it has opened the way to areas that were previously almost off-limits.

But these gains mainly come from full teleworking, not from hybrid work which is now the norm in certain sectors. According to the Economic Innovation Group, workers with disabilities are 22% more likely to be fully telecommuting than their colleagues without disabilities, but only slightly more likely to work a hybrid schedule. Workers in wheelchairs particularly benefit from the ability to work entirely from home, since this solves the mobility problem.

Employers would benefit from “understanding the important difference between full teleworking and hybrid work,” write the researchers. “A job market where there are more full teleworking jobs opens the door to many more qualified workers. »

This article was published in the New York Times.

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