How will remote work change the employee – employer relationship?

 The American workforce has been operating in a post-Organization Man https://www.amazon.com/Organization-Man-William-H-Whyte/dp/0812218191 manner since the 1990s when outsourcing ended the job security paradigm. 

The current ‘millenial’ paradigm (1990-2020), expects workers to work for a single company at a time. The corporation provides the buildings, furnishes the offices, provides all the tools and requires everyone to work from the comforts of the corporate office. Middle managers accompany the workers sharing out of touch jokes and ensuring that the office is a place of work. 

Workers typically have little ‘skin in the game’ they do not have equity in the business and do not have much of a say in how the system is organized. They do not decide what equipment they use, where they use it, or how they use it. For historical reasons workers in the United States acquire health insurance and save for retirement through their employers. Critically, workers do not have any job security. They can be fired at any time except for a certain set of reasons including racism, sexism, etc. Workers also do not get pensions which cannot be transferred in between employers instead workers are encouraged via tax breaks to invest on their own in the stock market. 

Employees are classified differently from ‘contractors’ based on several criteria. But typically questions are asked like “Does the company control how the worker does his job?” and “Does the business control the tools and expenses of the worker?”. 

The contractor classification is interesting because remote work changes the answers to these questions. It is a lot harder to control how I do my job from my home office than it is to control how I do my job with a middle manager looking over my shoulder. Likewise as a permanent remote software engineer I provide my own office and equipment. This really leaves only the third criteria which is “Are there written contracts or employee type benefits (i.e. pension plan, insurance, vacation pay, etc.)? Will the relationship continue and is the work performed a key aspect of the business?” – https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/independent-contractor-self-employed-or-employee

I don’t know what will happen but I expect to see even more workforce mobility. Switching jobs only requires that you join a different slack and connect to different Zoom meetings. Does it still make sense to have company provided computers? I’m providing all of my other equipment, why is the computer an exception? Since I am building my own office I can accommodate any disabilities or other needs that I have. 

One thing that I could see happening is employers requiring remote employees meet some equipment standard of audio equipment, private office, etc to qualify to work for them.

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