Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Many left out as remote work becomes ‘luxury’



Many left out as remote work becomes ‘luxury’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Virtual reality meetings, $7,000 all-in-one kits and digital hot desking: Big Tech is rolling out premium tools as the work-from-home era looks set to last well beyond the pandemic. AFP

Many left out as remote work becomes ‘luxury’

Virtual reality meetings, $7,000 all-in-one kits and digital hot desking: Big Tech is rolling out premium tools as the work-from-home era looks set to last well beyond the pandemic.

But experts warn that while top-of-the-line features may benefit privileged Americans, millions of others can barely access remote work tools already available.

Facebook has unveiled online “workrooms” for users of its Oculus virtual reality gear, and Google showed off interactive conferencing displays, declaring the “hybrid” mix of in-person and remote work is here to stay.

Yet outside of Silicon Valley and other urban centers, basics like a fast internet connection and proficiency in remote tech is beyond the reach of tens of millions in the US.

“For many people, being able to work from home is still a luxury,” said Michelle Burris, a senior policy associate at progressive think tank The Century Foundation.

One reason is access to high-speed connections, with advocacy group BroadbandNow saying in a May report that 42 million Americans – about 13 per cent of the population – cannot get broadband internet.

Another problem is equipment as many workers have to buy their own.

Take the example of Patricia McGee in Texas – a 39-year-old mother of four who switched from an Amazon warehouse job to remote customer service work for another company when pandemic lockdowns hit about 18 months ago.

She had to plunk down $2,000 to get a computer, not to mention the price of internet and the process of installing software and updates.

“Not everybody can afford a computer. So it’s taking jobs from people that can’t (buy one) or actually don’t have the skills (to use one),” she told AFP.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A woman works on her laptop from a home office in Los Angeles last month. AFP

Her machine broke a few days ago and because she had exhausted her paid time off, McGee can’t work or make money until her computer is back online.

Risk of being left out

The digital divisions exposed by the pandemic are well-documented with striking examples like families using the wireless internet at fast food restaurants so their children could attend school online.

As schools and workplaces have, in many areas, moved gradually back toward in-person activity, some inequalities have been eased.

But a percentage of workers have come to appreciate the flexibility and utility of a “hybrid” mix where they can work from home sometimes.

“It’s one of these innocuous seeming things that looks like it’s convenience but it can be – unless we really address and acknowledge it – another tool for increasing inequality,” said Monica Sanders, a Georgetown University professor.

Sanders noted that this is different than other technological developments, like the latest smartphone or even having a videocassette player when the machines revolutionised home entertainment.

They didn’t “impact your earning power or where you live or how you work,” she said.

The change in how people work has not gone unnoticed for employers, with digital skills for zoom presentation or remote management tools working their way into job ads.

Author and remote work expert Rhiannon Payne said virtual reality will become as normal a part of how people do their jobs as cell phones and laptops.

She agreed the risks of excluding people cannot be ignored, but also that high tech tools can make life better.

“Companies are trying to find ways to make remote work genuinely easier and to help us increase connections with our colleagues,” she said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Prince Norodom Ranariddh passes away at 77

    Prince Norodom Ranariddh, the second son of the late King Father Norodom Sihanouk and former First Prime Minister of Cambodia, has passed away in France at the age of 77. “Samdech Krom Preah Norodom Ranariddh has passed away this morning in France just after 9am Paris-time,”

  • General’s gun smuggling ring busted

    The Military Police sent six military officers to court on November 22 to face prosecution for possession of 105 illegal rifles and arms smuggling, while investigators say they are still hunting down additional accomplices. Sao Sokha, deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and commander of

  • Cambodia, Thailand to discuss border reopening

    Cambodian authorities from provinces along the Cambodia-Thailand border will meet with Thai counterparts to discuss reopening border checkpoints to facilitate travel, transfer of products and cross-border trade between the two countries. Banteay Meanchey provincial deputy governor Ly Sary said on November 22 that the provincial administration

  • More Cambodians studying in US

    The number of Cambodian students studying at US colleges and universities in 2020-21 increased by 14.3 per cent over the previous year despite the Covid-19 pandemic, according to a recent US government report. The 2021 Open Doors report on International Educational Exchange showed that 848 Cambodian students studied

  • Banteay Meanchey gunfight sees 15 Thais arrested, three officers injured

    The Banteay Meanchey Military Police have arrested 15 Thai suspects and their accomplices after a gun battle between two Thai groups caused injuries to three police officers in the early hours of November 21, local authorities said. National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy said that according to

  • PM: Do not defile Tonle Sap swamp forest or else

    Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered police to arrest anyone – including government officials – involved with the deforestation of the flooded forests surrounding the Tonle Sap Lake because it is an area important to the spawning of many species of fish, among other reasons. Speaking in a