Laid-off IT and creative workers recently vandalized the websites of Hollywood Reporter and Billboard. Riffing off a theme from a 1978 movie, Animal House, starring John Belushi, the workers changed the copy to read, ““The online Billboard Charts are essentially perfect, so IT staff are no longer needed. Fat drunk and stupid is no way to go through life…” (Matt Novak, Gizmodo)
Well, that’s one way to respond. But it probably won’t convince the employer that a mistake was made…
The rest of us might well keep an eye on these five trends:
1. More jobs, more automation
We are told at Forbes to expect both more jobs and more automation in the post-COVID economy because, surprising as it might seem, the two actually go together:
Most well-known automation technologies never replaced humans; instead they took over tedious, dangerous and onerous tasks. In 1885 William Burroughs, for instance, didn’t wipe out accountants’ jobs with his calculating machine. The new inventions eliminated the long hours of tedious addition. He innovated the machine because he was tired of the long hours it took to do his job. The resulting machine and commercial entity based on this innovation is the DNA of Unisys, the multi-billion dollar IT company.Shahin Farshchi, “Expect More Jobs And More Automation In The Post-COVID-19 Economy” at Forbes
Innovations create markets for new skills, for example, designing, manufacturing, and selling accounting software and teaching people how to use it. These new jobs are usually more interesting and pay better.
2. Stuff to keep an eye on
The current craze for tracking everything we do could get way, way out of hand:
Monitoring, done in the name of optimization, is growing in popularity at the office. Take Crossover Worksmart—software marketed as a tool for keeping tabs on remote workers. It monitors keyboard activity and application usage and takes periodic screenshots and even webcam photos of workers to create what the company calls a “digital timecard” every 10 minutes. “It’s intended to be ensuring that people are getting paid for productive time,” says Crossover founder and CEO Andy Tryba. “And if it’s nonproductive time . . . then you don’t actually get paid for that time.”
Tryba believes that hard metrics can determine how much work is getting done. “Banging away on the keyboard and mouse,” for instance, is an indicator of being productive, he says. Screenshots, meanwhile, take the place of “management by walking around,” so bosses can see exactly what employees are up to.Sean Captain, “This is what our working lives will look like in 2040 ” at Fast Company
If all anyone needs is keystrokes, maybe he is right. But the jobs that can’t be automated aren’t like that. Micromanagement will probably cause more people to see the value of self-employment. Working for The Machine is not an improvement over working for The Man.
Incidentally, in a similar way, the use of location data to track the possible spread of COVID could mainstream the idea that government has a right to know where we are at any given time, even if we are doing nothing wrong or out of the ordinary—all for our own good, of course.
3.Stuff to watch out for:
According to cybsecurity expert Scott Watnik, as many more people work from their homes, cybercriminals who would otherwise target businesses are stalking the remote workers instead:
Businesses need to understand that because the vast majority of the global work force has transitioned from the office to the home, so too have the parameters of a business’ cybersecurity risk.
“Now when people are working from home, they’re distracted,” Watnik explained, adding that he personally has a restless four-year-old running around. “TVs are on; there’s a lot of chaos and no IT personnel to walk into everyone’s office, look at their computers and remind them of what’s going on. People are afraid and panicked due to the global environment right now, and that just makes them more susceptible to lowering their cybersecurity defenses.”Ginger Hill, “Cybercriminals target remote workers during pandemic” at Security Systems News
Cyberattacks are much more likely to be fatal to small concerns than large ones. Post-COVID, we may still be working at home much more, so businesses need security plans and policies that seriously include their remote workers.
4. Stuff that just wasn’t happening at the office
Internet trolls were not typically much of a problem back in suit world. But it hasn’t taken trolls long to discover the fun of Zoombombing:
Jerks are using Zoom’s screensharing feature to blast other viewers with the most awful videos from across the internet, from violence to shocking pornography.
That’s just what happened today on the WFH Happy Hour, a popular daily public Zoom call hosted by The Verge reporter Casey Newton and investor Hunter Walk. Suddenly, dozens of attendees were bombarded with disturbing imagery. A troll entered the call and screenshared… horrifying sexual videos. Attempts to block the attack were thwarted as the perpetrator simply re-entered the call under a new name and screenshared more gross-out clips. The hosts ended the call rather than subject viewers to the assault until they could stop it.Josh Constine, “Beware of ‘ZoomBombing’: screensharing filth to video calls” at TechCrunch (March 17, 2020)
And these were tech mavens too…
Zoom, a comparatively informal service, was more vulnerable to trolls than competitors were (a fact that competitors have encouraged the world to know, of course). But Zoom, facing a backlash and threatened lawsuits, has since taken steps to correct the problem.
The takehome point is that, while vulnerable systems can be tweaked, remote work styles will continue to create opportunities for trolls and other disruptors just as they do for cybercrime. It’s only funny when it is happening to someone we don’t know.
5. Saving the best for last, the COVID-19 crisis has tended to reward creative and innovative thinkers.
For example, some librarians offer parking lot wi-fi and Zoom storytime when the library is shut. Innovative filmmakers find ways to shoot scenes entirely in quarantine. Small animal vets greatly expanded telehealth services—just ahead of the discovery that cats are vulnerable to COVID. Innovations don’t just go away; we can continue to build on them because there will always be people who need an alternative strategy even after the rest of us don’t. And we know that we can develop those innovations. This is a good time to be a creative thinker and innovator.
But what if you find you can’t live without the clatter and clutter of the office? You can reproduce the sounds in the background at home for free:
Yes indeed. Have it all. Though not all at once.
Further reading: Five possibly unexpected ways the post-COVID office will change. We’ll all know more about working at home than we ever thought we would. Some managers worry that remote employees will not be productive. They don’t always consider that the remote worker is the person in charge if something affects her work. For example, in an office building, if the water is shut off due to a street repair, a manager would likely co-ordinate. But at home, the worker must decide for herself how best to deal with it, while remaining productive. A level playing field would recognize overall long-term output vs. costs in either case.