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Fox News
Fox News
31 Aug 2023


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The nature of employment has changed in the last decade more than many people might realize. More of us work from home. More of us work for ourselves, choosing assignments when it suits us. More of us negotiate these arrangements on our own with employers.

On the whole, this is a good thing, a result of people being better able to balance their work and private lives. People have more opportunities to pursue the type of work they would ideally like to do. These changes happened in part because of new technology. 

Once upon a time, just making a long-distance telephone call was prohibitively expensive, and traveling was a major part of many white collar professions because there was no great substitute for being physically face-to-face. Now we can, with a few clicks on our mobile devices or computers, video-chat people near or far, even on other continents, for as long as we need.

REMOTE WORKERS RESIST MONDAY OFFICE HOURS, BUT BUILDING 'ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE' IS KEY, SAYS EXECUTIVE

The culture has shifted, too. Workers are more assertive now in demanding these new arrangements. The two-year COVID-19 pandemic lockdown was a catalyst for change. People who had never worked remotely before the pandemic were suddenly thrust into doing that. In many cases, they and their managers found it was as good as having an office – or at least quite doable. Some will never go back. Only 7 percent of workers worked remotely before the pandemic, compared to about a third of workers now, according to a Pew Research Center poll this year. And even more do a hybrid arrangement.

Business man vacation

Today, with a few clicks on our mobile devices or computers, we can video-chat with people near or far, even on other continents, for as long as we need to. (iStock)

The changes have been for the better for most workers. For most of the workforce, walking away from traditional work arrangements does not mean walking away from work itself. The official unemployment number hovers around 3.5 percent, as low as it has ever been in U.S. history. Wages are rising too, up 4.4 percent in the last year, according to Labor Department numbers.

That increase was not the result of any minimum wage hike. The numbers have been steadily rising on their own due to increased competition for workers. Even at 3.5 percent unemployment, employers still claim to be scratching to fill positions, and they’ve been obliged to offer more wages and benefits.

Most recent proposed legislation, such as the Biden administration’s efforts to crack down on so-called "worker misclassification," tries to limit these new freedoms. The supposedly misclassified workers are in most cases people electing to do freelance work for so-called "gig economy" companies. This is inconvenient to the industries, unions, and regulators that monitored the old system, when people were employed by a single employer with set hours. Rather than adapt to the changes, the old guard has doubled down, trying to force workers to operate under old, unsuitable rules and regulations.

There is still some labor strife, but that is largely because unions see this as an opportune moment to push for more. With demand for workers this tight, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters calculated that UPS would give into their demands. The Teamsters were correct. The autoworkers are putting similar pressure on car manufacturers.

People have more opportunities to pursue the type of work they would ideally like to do. These changes happened in part because of new technology. 

As of late August, Hollywood’s actors and writers are currently on strike because the shift away from traditional broadcast and home video outlets to subscriber-based streaming services has not been lucrative for them. 

Television seasons are often much shorter, with many series doing ten episodes per season instead of more than 20, so many are working less. They’ll reach a new deal with the studios eventually; but at some point, the writers and actors will have to accept that the times have changed. Love it or hate it, we must all adapt.

That said, most of the changes in the nature of work over the last decade have benefited the individual worker. The Center for Economic Policy Research, for example, estimates that since 2021 the shift to working from home has given the average working American more than 55 minutes in additional free time per week just from not having to commute. That’s another hour to spend with their family or doing whatever else they please. That’s something worth celebrating this Labor Day.

Sean Higgins is a research fellow for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market public policy organization based in Washington, D.C.