By Alfredo Fernandez
HAVANA TIMES – Remote working is the greatest benefactor of this pandemic worldwide. According to different news outlets, at least 30% of jobs have disappeared. Most of these have been replaced by working from home. The Internet has made this possible, which was inconceivable a few years back.
The reality is that many companies discovered remote working and decided to save on renting offices, supervisors of worker efficiency, office supplies, and a long etc. Stated like this, the above might seem good and even sensible. However, remote working also reveals the flip side of this new mode of working.
Many companies have laid off their staff and are now only hiring freelancers. These digital workers are normally very efficient because they don’t have an employment contract. In order to get a new project, they have to hand in the work on time. So, they work restlessly, and they earn a lot less than traditional workers, on the whole. On top of that, you don’t have to pay for their medical insurance or holidays, much less overtime.
If a digital freelancer is a mother, then things are even more complicated. Generally-speaking, children at home are also receiving classes online. She must first make sure her kids are paying attention to the class they receive from a faraway professor. Not to mention that she must prepare meals, snacks and do chores around the house.
Before, leaving the house and going into the office represented an escape to another reality for this woman. It wasn’t any better or worse, but it was different. Maybe going out to work was her least regular trip and maybe the most important.
This is no longer the case anymore. Now she may have to work twice as hard and earn less than before. Plus, she is far from those achievements that workers fought decades for: health insurance, holiday and Christmas pay and bonuses. Socializing with workmates is also a thing of the past, which is key for individuals and their life in community.
While I do think remote working is a positive thing, it will also have to take on the benefits that traditional workers fought for, so that offices of laptops don’t become the new cover-up for exploiting a worker in need and struggling to get to the end of the month.
I say all of this as somebody who has experienced this firsthand. I have taken on some freelance digital work in recent months. All of these projects paid very little; sometimes it was even ridiculous. Sometimes it was impossible not to think that the person hiring thought I was intellectually and developmentally disabled. Of course, I turned those projects down.
I don’t believe that the problems I’ve described here have a short-term solution. But the corresponding authorities – I don’t know which – must take this matter into their hands and establish minimum fees for this new form of work.