Entrepreneur and candidate for US Congress in California’s Fourth Congressional District, Brynne Kennedy, explains how COVID-19 has impacted our economy.
COVID 19 has changed how we work in profound ways. We do meetings in dining rooms instead of conference rooms. We’ve swapped business suits for jeans and yoga pants. We brainstorm over Zoom instead of at coffee machines. Working from home is now suddenly the norm – in just about every part of the country.
In my book Flat, Fluid and Fast, I predicted a shift to much more virtual and distributed work over coming years. When I wrote the book, I saw this shift as gradual, driven by growing demand from workers for more flexibility to balance work and home obligations, greater competition for talent and therefore more long-distance recruiting, and a drive for companies to reduce real estate costs and carbon footprints. But with COVID 19, this shift has been thrust upon us almost instantly. Now it’s here, and much of it is likely to stay, even after the pandemic has passed.
The shift to virtual and distributed work brings many opportunities for businesses, workers and communities. With more distributed work, workers can dynamically juggle work and family needs, supporting more diversity in teams and productivity for companies. Workers can live where they want, and often trade city life for rural or suburban life, a trend we’ve seen accelerate during COVID 19. Often this means living closer to extended families, connecting to local communities and supporting local businesses. It also means access to cheaper housing – and may unlock both home ownership and greater savings for a generation of young people who no longer need to move to expensive cities after graduation and spend the majority of their paychecks on rent. And with more workers living in rural and suburban areas, there’s more demand for local services and shops – from construction and maintenance, to restaurants and coffee shops, to dry cleaners and hardware stores.
But this shift also brings challenges. With employees working from everywhere, companies face new operational burdens to ensure taxes are paid appropriately across distributed locations, invest in technologies to keep workers connected and engaged, and increase communication to ensure everyone stays informed. As we’ve seen through COVID 19, working from home with children at home often places a disproportionate burden on women. As we shift to more regular distributed work in a post-COVID world, we must ensure our society supports the childcare, early childhood education and leave policies that we now lack. Finally, COVID 19 has exposed great disparities in our national infrastructure and healthcare – effectively the foundation for distributed work. We must make it a national priority both to add a Medicare buy-in option that provides those who want it the flexibility to work across employers and locations, and to connect high speed broadband from corner to corner across our nation. Broadband is the highway of our 21st century economy, and too many parts of our country still lack the basic connectivity that fuels the jobs, education and healthcare of our future.
In Flat, Fluid and Fast, I shared a roadmap to transition from traditional work to work of the future, based on nearly 15 years of thinking about these trends. Today I hope this roadmap is more valuable than ever for companies, workers, educators and policy makers. I am bringing these principles into my current campaign for Congress in California’s 4th Congressional District, and into policies to ensure we build a post-COVID economy that works for everyone, everywhere.