The Coronavirus and Your Career Part 1: Remote Work

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It’s happening right now – organizations all over the world are making tough decisions to prevent the deaths of millions. In the short term, it’ll be real tough, there’s a lot of uncertainty as to what will happen, the economy might suffer, but we’ll be stronger if we learn the lesson now.

Of course you already read the title and obviously the decision I’m talking about is the impending global trial-run of companies switching to remote work.

I often like to think of ideas in terms of human lifetimes wasted by their implementation. How many productive American lifetimes are lost to a commute every year? Let’s break it down:

  • Days worked/year (estimated): 260
  • Minutes spent in traffic (average): 54
  • Time spent commuting per year: 234 hours/worker
  • Number of American workers: 157 Million
  • Total time Americans spend commuting per year: 1.53 Billion days
  • Current American life expectancy: 78.69 years
  • American Lifetimes per year spent commuting: 53,296

This would put commuting at #9 in the top ten leading causes of “death” in the U.S., right between kidney failure and the flu/pneumonia.

Sure, the number isn’t perfect. There are some jobs for which you need to be there. Can’t get the metrics for those as they’re pretty subjective – most companies require their employees to come into an office even if it is completely unnecessary. We didn’t even get into the other things that long commutes contribute to in depriving American companies of worker productivity: less sleep, diminished happiness, road rage, car accidents & fatalities, increased automotive maintenance costs, road maintenance costs, emissions… As soon as you start down a rabbit hole, there are always more factors to address.

There are people that enjoy the “downtime” in a commute. I’m not one of them. I’ve been working for myself for the last fourteen years, and one of the things I love most about it is not having a commute. As a New Yorker, when asked where I’d go if I had to live in New Jersey, I figured that I’d like my home office to overlook the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel so I would constantly be reminded of how much I loved not being in traffic. In a recent study, 25% of workers said they’ve quit a job because of a long commute.

The jury is still out on whether remote workers are more productive. Some studies say they are, some say they’re not, but if included in the survey/testing, they’ve always found that the workers are happier.

Two of my friends in Seattle had “internet outages” where they were asked not to come into work in the last few weeks. We wonder what that company lost by not having their employees come in. After giving it a try (against their will but for the optics/safety), we’re guessing this will be a sea change in thinking around remote work.

So, what’s this mean for you? Well, if you’re actively looking:

  1. If you can do just about everything you do remotely, start applying to positions that don’t currently offer remote work opportunities, wherever they are. You’ll be front-running the HR sentiment in that organization. It could be your résumé that gets someone to finally change their perspective on remote work.
  2. Consider setting yourself up as a contractor with an LLC; you’ll open yourself up to more opportunities globally.
  3. Before you accept the job, lobby for a minimum of days working from the home.

If you’ve been asked to work from home:

  1. Don’t just get excited about the opportunity and let that be that – go get yours. Ask your employer for a budget to outfit your home office (desk, second screen, chair, white board, printer).
  2. Make sure the lighting is great in the area where you’ll take your video chats. Get a tiny tripod for your phone or a nice camera and microphone if your computer’s offerings are lackluster. Make sure you’ve got an outfit hanging nearby in case the boss or a client calls (if you think they might care about that stuff), and consider a hairstyle that you don’t have to work too hard on but still looks presentable.
  3. Depending on your situation, you might just consider getting on a plane and trying to work VERY remotely. The flights are super cheap right now. Best to stay around the same longitude, but 1-2 time zones won’t make too much difference.
  4. You are going to get cooped up. Figure out ways to combat this, like working from a library or coffee shop, exploring the lunch spots near your home, or going to the local branch of your bank or your post office because they’ve never been open when you’ve been around.

In the next part of the impact of COVID-19 on the job search, we’ll talk about what you can do to prepare for video interviews.


Hagan Blount – CEO,

P.S.: Here are the links to that data and a pic of the traffic at the Lincoln Tunnel.

Jobs quit because of a long commute:

Days worked/year:

Minutes spent in traffic

Number of American workers:

Current American life expectancy:

Causes of Death in America:

Lincoln Tunnel traffic:

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