Is COVID-19 helping to rise digital platforms and advanced technologies for working from home?

In current years, there has been increasing focus on the question of how to balance work and life commitments in both academic and political debates. Working from home is one resourcefulness that has been encouraged as a way of enlightening the work–lifecycle sense of balance and to reduce the fast spread of the new epidemic of Coronavirus that has increasingly affected all companies worldwide leading to many deaths of people who are employees and company owners as well as an economic downfall in all countries all around the world since its wide spread in the early months of the year 2020. Its wide spread, led to invention of new policies and guidelines by governments to people, organizations and companies in most countries, for example, that involved closure of schools and lockdown of hangout places like bars and clubs, as well as a policy to step up work and businesses to remote management adapting digital platforms for working from home.

The Advanced Technologies

If some mass media intelligences are to be believed, the world of work is set to be hit by an absolute digital tsunami, devastating our present prejudices about employment. A considerable percentage of the jobs we know today will be concentrated obsolete by the latest generation of robots and their newfound dimensions to achieve tasks such as printing 3D objects, translating documents, drafting insurance policies, taking care of elderly people in their homes, telling doctors what might be wrong with patients and many more, each more surprising than the last. The very concept of a ‘job’ may become old-fashioned and swapped by an ever-shifting portfolio of commissions and projects assigned through online platforms, with the ‘Urbanization’ of work lying just around the corner. Similar dissertations about the inferences of mechanization for jobs – whether pessimistic or optimistic in tone – have been articulated many times before, with the argument often rekindled by ground-breaking technological progresses. In the early 1980s, as the Fordist model of the economy became ever more deeply engulfed in controversy, the appearance of the first microprocessors and personal computers in workplaces waved the flames of speculation about job losses. Around the turn of the epoch, the explosion in use of the Internet – at the same time as the bubble of interest in the somewhat vaguely titled ‘e-economy or electronic economy’ – led to imagining about the pick-up in growth which would call for unparalleled levels of elasticity on the part of workers. Prodigious leaps made recently in the fields of robotics, communicating objects, big data processing and virtual platforms have placed a question mark over the significance and endurance of the social model of paid employment. In the meantime, digital technologies have become an integral and familiar feature of our day-to-day lives at work and at home; the Manichean view of technology as either a blessing or a curse which was popular 30 years ago has fallen out of favor, particularly among younger people.

Computerization, digital platforms, and other modernizations are shifting the indispensable nature of work. Understanding these modifications can help policy makers, business leaders, and workers move forward. The advance of computerization enabled by technologies including robotics and artificial intelligence conveys the potential of higher productivity (and with productivity, monetary growth), increased productivities, wellbeing, and expediency. But these technologies also raise problematic interrogations about the broader impact of automation on jobs, skills, wages, and the nature of work itself. Many activities that workers carry out today have the potential to be computerized. At the same time, job-matching sites such as LinkedIn and Monster are changing and expanding the way individuals look for work and companies recognize and recruit talent. Independent workers are increasingly choosing to offer their services on digital platforms including Upwork, Uber, and Etsy and, in the process, challenging unadventurous ideas about how and where work is undertaken.

For policy makers, business leaders, and workers themselves, these shifts create considerable uncertainty, alongside the potential benefits. This briefing note aims to provide a fact base on the multiple trends and forces pounding the world of work drawing on recent research by the McKinsey Global Institute and others.

How computerization and technology are affecting work

New technologies have the potential to upend much of what we know about the way people work. But disruption is an opportunity as well as a challenge given the aptitude of digital talent platforms and new options for autonomous work, for example, many activities that workers carry out today have the potential to be computerized.

Technological transformation has restructured the workplace repeatedly over the past two centuries since the Industrial Revolution, but the speed with which computerization technologies are emerging today, and the gage at which they could disrupt the world of work, are largely without model.

How technology will change the way we work

Since the dawn of time, humans have developed tools and technology to assist in the pursuit of our goals. Large shifts in technology have resulted in large shifts in social structures, and how individuals both contribute to society and make a living. The Industrial Revolution, for example, brought large-scale changes to our socio-economic structures and the kinds of work people did. Today, technological advances are rapidly making it possible to automate much of the work currently carried out by humans. This applies to both blue-collar jobs, through robotics and the Internet of Things, and white-collar work, through artificial intelligence. The wide applicability of these technologies has led to broad concern about the destruction of jobs. Indeed, according to a 2014 Oxford study, 47% of jobs in the US could be replaced by automated processes in the next two decades.

As many have noted, while technology has always removed the need for some types of jobs, it also creates new ones. Technology is a set of tools that we use in different ways to increase efficiency. The Industrial Revolution destroyed some jobs but created many more. It also increased the aggregate wealth of society and began to create a middle class who could enjoy health, education and other benefits that previously had been available only to the wealthiest. It can be challenging to predict the kinds of jobs that this new revolution will create and in what quantities, which makes the situation seem worse than it actually is. But nine of the top ten most in-demand jobs of 2012 did not exist in 2003, suggesting that this latest revolution is creating new employment opportunities for people come 2021. For many, this picture is overly optimistic. The new jobs require a completely different skills set – you can’t turn an assembly plant worker into a data scientist overnight, if at all. The Industrial Revolution played out of several decades and yet still caused massive social upheaval, unrest and widespread deprivation for many. The digital revolution may happen much faster, across large areas of a complex, interconnected economy that has very tight in-built feedback loops.

Technology is ready to define the future of the workplace

State-of-the-art technologies and waged habits are lashing traditional workplaces to renovate. Statistics Age explores the imminent of work. In a digital age that is defined by swiftness, teamwork and research, courageous new tactics are called for to drive digital modernization at scale. Some companies and organizations, for example, are building interior propel initiatives to aid in-house shareholders and their teams develop state-of-the-art ideas.

Expertise and globalization have entirely rehabilitated the workplace. In the 20th century, the workplace was a stationary, physical place. Employees were required to be contemporary in that place for a set number of hours and work was constrained within those walls. Work, roles and everyday jobs were well defined into functional areas with classified management structures. People learned the knowledge or skills of their profession at the beginning of their career and that knowledge was adequate to span their entire career. Today, technology has enabled people to work from anywhere, and the lines between working hours and personal time have blurred. Roles and responsibilities change frequently, and skills that aren’t constantly maintained become out of date. “Organization structures are shifting from the old model of complex functional hierarchies designed for efficiency and effectiveness to flexible team-based models designed for speed, agility and adaptability,” says Sarah Andresen, head of people science at Fair sail. ‘And the definition of “worker” or “employee” has changed, with the Uber model of fluid employment redefining who is working.’

In the past year, there has been a substantial intensification in the sum of businesses offering flexible working. Three in four companies worldwide now provide staff with the option to vary their hours and work from home, according to research published by Vodafone. As the cost of the technology that enables flexible working lingers to reduce, such as cloud-based services, this number is expected to rise supplementary. But technology isn’t the only influencer. With a third of employees claiming that they’d prefer flexible working to a pay rise, it has become a key factor in attracting and retaining talent.

Aptitude platforms improve matching between workers and jobs.

Digital talent platforms have the potential to advance the ways workers and jobs are harmonized, creating transparency and proficiency in labor markets, and in theory raising GDP. They can raise labor involvement and working hours; indication from around the world suggests that some people would work more hours if they could. A United States survey, for example, reports that three-quarters of stay-at-home mothers would be likely to work if they had flexible opportunities. Even if a small portion of sluggish youth and adults use these platforms to work a few hours per week, the economic impact would be significant. By means of their prevailing search proficiencies and sophisticated screening algorithms, online talent platforms can also speed the hiring progression and cut the time individuals spend searching between jobs, reducing being without a job. By accumulating data on candidates and job openings across entire countries or regions, they may address some topographical divergences and enable matches that otherwise would not have come about.

Finally, online talent platforms help put the right people in the right jobs, thereby increasing their throughput along with their job gratification. They can draw people who are engaged in informal work into formal employment, especially in emerging economies. Both of these effects could increase output per worker, raising global GDP.

Digitally-enabled self-regulating work is on the rise

While self-regulating work is nothing new (and self-employment is still the principal form of work in emerging economies), the digital enablement of it is. MGI research finds that 20 to 30 percent of the working age population in the United States and the European Union is engaged in independent work. Just over half of these workers complement their income and have traditional jobs, or are students, retirees, or caregivers. While 70 percent choose this type of work, 30 percent use it out of stipulation because they cannot find a traditional job at all, or one that meets their income and flexibility needs. The percentage of independent work that is conducted on digital platforms, while only about 15 percent of independent work overall, is growing rapidly, driven by the scale, proficiency, and effortlessness of use for workers and customers that these platforms enable. Such platforms include Uber, Etsy, Didi, and others. While those who pursue independent work (digitally enabled or not) out of preference are generally satisfied; those who pursue it out of necessity are unsatisfied with the income inconsistency and the lack of benefits typically associated with traditional work. Policy makers and innovators will need to grapple with solutions to these challenges.

Technology creates new jobs and income possibilities

A 2011 study by McKinsey’s Paris office found that the Internet had destroyed 500,000 jobs in France in the previous 15 years—but at the same time had created 1.2 million others, a net addition of 700,000, or 2.4 jobs created for every job destroyed. The growing role of big data in the economy and business will create a significant need for statisticians and data analysts; we estimate a shortfall of up to 250,000 data scientists in the United States alone in a decade.

Even while technologies replace some jobs, they are creating new work in industries that most of us cannot even picture, and new ways to generate income. One-third of new jobs created in the United States in the past 25 years were types that did not exist, or barely existed, in areas including IT development, hardware manufacturing, app creation, and IT systems management. The take-home impact of new technologies on employment can be strongly optimistic.

Digital technology also can enable new forms of tactical activity. Workers in small businesses and self-employed occupations can benefit from higher income earning opportunities. A new category of knowledge-enabled jobs will become possible as machines embed intelligence and knowledge that less-skilled workers can access with a little training. In India, for example, Google is rolling out the Internet Saathi (Friends of the Internet) program in which rural women are trained to use the Internet, and then become local agents who provide services in their villages through Internet-enabled devices. The services include working as local distributors for telecom products (phones, SIM cards, and data packs), field data collectors for research agencies, financial-services agents, and Para technicians who help local people access government schemes and benefits through an Internet-based device.

We are only starting to capture the opportunities from digitizing economies at the sector and company level

Digital technologies are creating major new opportunities for workers and companies, in both advanced and developing economies, but there are significant variations within and across countries and sectors. Our use of the term digitization (and our measurement of it), encompasses:

    1. Digitization of assets, including infrastructure, connected machines, data, and data platforms;
    2. Digitization of operations, including processes, payments and business models, and customer and supply chain interactions; and
    3. Digitization of the workforce, including worker use of digital tools, digitally skilled workers, and new digital jobs and roles.

In measuring each of these various aspects of digitization, we find relatively large disparities even among big companies Based on these measures, a few sectors are highly digitized—for example, financial services, media, and the tech sector itself. These tend to be among the sectors with the highest productivity growth and wage growth. Many others are much less digitized, including healthcare, education, and even retail. These tend to be the largest share of the low-cost in terms of GDP and the lowest-productivity sectors. Similarly, companies are digitizing unevenly. International University of East Africa is one of the digital leaders in their sectors have faster revenue growth and higher productivity. Companies can increase their profits and margins, can increase three times as fast, and workers within these companies enjoy double the wage growth. Digitization will continue to change how companies organize work, as well as the mix of work in any given sector. All this will require ongoing adaptation and transition by workers in terms of skills, activities, companies, and even the sectors they work in.

Clearly, we are still in the early stages of how sectors and companies use digital technologies, and there is considerable unevenness. From country to country, too, there are significant divergences. Overall, for example, we estimate that the United States has captured only 18 percent of its potential from digital technologies, while Europe has captured only 12 percent. Emerging economies are even further behind, with countries in the Middle East and Brazil capturing less than 10 percent of their digital potential.

How The COVID-19 Pandemic Is Accelerating Digital Change in Companies, organizations and industries worldwide.

If “necessity is the mother of invention,” coronavirus (COVID-19) forced many around the world to rethink our daily lives from work to school to entertainment. In retort to travel bans, school closures, and sanctions to not gather in large groups, stop wedding, cultural and political gatherings and keep our distance from fellow humans to limit the spread of the virus, many people turned to digital tools to keep some impression of familiarity. It has been authoritative to digitally transform our places of work and education to be able to operate efficiently. The companies and organizations will now use technology well to keep going and rethink their business model for the future by fast embracing digital transformation ahead of their usual competition.

Ability to Work from Home

The notion of distributed workforce has enforced all companies and organizations that were resilient to change now to working from home, accepting the fact of evolution that work can still be done while taking precautions to stop the spread of the virus. While the ability to work from home is a benefit to employees’ value, many companies lack the technology infrastructure structure to offer that capability without some sacrifices to “business as usual.” However, one unexpected outcome of COVID-19 is that companies realize the benefits of fast-tracking digital transformation.

Social media platform for example, Twitter has urged its employees to work from home, as part of its efforts to limit the further spread of the coronavirus. Tech giant Google and investment bank JPMorgan are also among the companies allegedly testing out remote working policies as a precaution. Only a third of people in the United states of  

America currently work remotely, according to a survey of 2,613 full-time workers in America by platform Workhuman (workuman, 2019). However, a global poll from 2018 by data and insights company Kantar found that of 33,000 people, 32% valued a job where they could work from home. Joe Hirsh, a leadership and communication expert, communicated to CNBC that he believed the outbreak of the coronavirus has the potential to make working from home more common practice. Continued to argue that if more companies trail in the footsteps of Twitter and Google, this could “shift workplace dynamics.” Jon Addison, vice president of talent solutions EMEA at LinkedIn, agreed that businesses would unavoidably find it more thought-provoking to continue with “business as usual” under the existing situations, if they lack the technology substructure to work remotely or flexible working policies, as well as the computer knowledge of online resource utilization and communication. 

The coronavirus outbreak is a “wake-up call” to enact change and embrace the science and technology. Working from home is advantageous for tasks that require deep focus and privacy to the sensitivity of tasks and efficiency. IUEA community believe the coronavirus given the disruption in the working environments, is one of a number of factors that are to drive the intensification in remote working and one of the factors that will lead to the advance of African countries tech know how given the setbacks brought about by the outbreak economically. The development of cheaper and more widely available video-conferencing technology and collaboration tools also are to play a role.

A review on the company policies, the pressure to offer more flexible working to retain talent and have a greater consideration for individuals’ carbon footprints, were other factors propelling change. However, the outbreak of COVID-19 is to accelerate this trend.  Bob Cordran, partner at international law firm Dorsey & Whitney, said companies may also be forced to become more lenient about working from home, with some workers having to take on childcare duties amid school closures. “This may require some flexibility since homeworking arrangements often stipulate that the employee is not caring for children (particularly young ones) while working from home,” he explained.

After many Chinese cities went under lockdown due to the outbreak of COVID-19, the government and many companies introduced the work from home policy encouraging everyone to stay home, which had them experiencing relief and turmoil of working from home. When many Chinese cities went under lockdown as COVID-19 spread, government and many companies encouraged millions to stay at home, which had them experiencing the joys and turmoil of working from home. Generally, Chinese companies were set up with appropriate technology to allow working from home, but many company cultures were not.


While some companies will eventually go back to rigid work-in-office policies, it’s expected that some will realize the benefits to employees and that in fact, it can be done effectively. If nothing else, they will have valuable experience about what is looked-for and how to accommodate work-from-home needs in the future when it’s required again due to another outbreak or other reasons.

By Edison Kagona: Contributor (International University of East Africa)

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