With the current coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world, even many of the ‘complacent’ Brits are choosing to work from home where possible. Across Europe, USA and Asia, self-isolation and the attempt to ‘flatten the curve’ in terms of infection rate has meant that many are being forced into setting up their spare room into a home office of some description.
In fact, in the short term at least, the microscopic pathogen that is the coronavirus may have done more for the environment than many a prime minister or president has managed to achieve in recent decades. Albeit, at staggering expense to the economy – with many industries such as airlines expected to go bankrupt in coming weeks and months.
If there is any way to put a positive spin on the pandemic however, the short-term positive impact on the environment is definitely where to find it. The carbon emissions in China for example, were down by 25% in February, with the European Space Agency sending back images of a relatively smog free China. Italy has also had a similar reduction in harmful emissions.
If we are to look back on the current situation in a favourable light in years to come, the positive impact that it has had on the environment will be it. The fear is that the downturn in the economy and the fall in oil prices could result in a medium to long term increase in oil consumption and a reduction in funding for green-startups. In addition, China, which has been practically shut down in some major industrial cities is a big producer of renewable energy equipment including solar panels and cable.
If we for one moment remain optimistic and assume that the economy will recover in some form or another and that remote working becomes more of a norm, than an exception – the reduction in carbon emissions from vehicles could result in a significant reduction in greenhouse gases. Something that as a country, we have failed to make significant inroads into previously.
Remote Working in Scotland
In Scotland, at least two people have died from the virus, with just under 200 reported as being infected; postponing all mass gatherings for up to four months.
Remote working has many benefits for employees as well as employers. For the employer, hiring someone on a remote-basis would mean that there is no need to invest in additional, often expensive office space and equipment; whilst the employer can enjoy avoiding the rush hour every morning.
The market for remote jobs is set to rise in the near future, with nearly 3,000 remote jobs being advertised in both Glasgow and Edinburgh at the time of writing; if the current, enforced experiment in working-from-home is a success, the number of remote working jobs on the market is bound to rise. There are currently around 80,000 positions across the UK advertised as remote working opportunities. This will no doubt rise in the coming months, provided that the current trend of home-based working proves successful.
Offshoring & Outsourcing Set to Increase
Outsourcing could also see an increase, which wouldn’t necessarily be a positive thing for the local economy. A rise in remote working and video conferencing for example, could encourage employers and entrepreneurs to move specific teams and even departments overseas. If a team member can remote work from a few miles away; it opens the question – “could we hire people few thousand miles away, for a much lower cost?”.
In recent years, India’s economy has developed thanks partly to the high percentage of English speaking, well-educated and highly skilled individuals that reside within the country. With a large number of technology related roles not requiring a physical presence in the office, the utilisation of the highly talented, relatively ‘affordable’ job market is likely to increase if remote working remains more commonly adopted.
A growing number of UK organisations are already set up specifically to assist those working from home. UK and now US based company, Moneypenny virtual receptionists for example, enable entrepreneurs to work from a home office whilst enjoying all the benefits of an in-house receptionist.
There is also a 24-7 service that can literally allow business-owners to switch off in the evenings, without having to be constantly alert to the possibility of incoming work-related-calls.
Another UK-based organisation, Virtalent offer virtual assistants to businesses and entrepreneurs. Outsourcing repetitive administrative jobs, or even digital marketing projects is often more efficient, especially if the type of work is seasonal – it often doesn’t make financial sense to take someone on full time.
PeopleperHour and UpWork have also provided a platform for freelancers to sell their services to people across the world. You can hire people from across the world. This is often advantageous because people in different time zones are able to cover tasks, such as telephone answering or email filtering, for you whilst you sleep.
Isolation is bad for Mental & Physical Health
Whatever happens in the coming months, if you are working from home or isolated remember to keep in touch with family and friends using remote technology. Try and get some exercise too and where possible, sunlight and fresh air.