By John P. Mello Jr.
Jun 2, 2021 4:00 AM PT
More than 25 million work-from-home jobs could be created in non-technology industries in the coming years, according to the operator of a global marketplace for freelance workers.
“For the first time, companies in industries like manufacturing, agriculture and mining recognized that many of their professional services jobs did not need to be done on-site,” maintained Upwork in its “Not Just Tech: Remote Freelancing Across Industries” report.
“This opens up opportunities for not only people to do remote work, but for people to do remote freelance work for these companies,” it noted.
“In total, there is potential for 25.7 million U.S. jobs to be done by remote freelancers in ‘non-tech industries,'” it continued. “This scale could have large impacts on not only the freelance industry, but on the economy as a whole.”
Upwork reached that conclusion by using Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers to analyze the number of professional services jobs in non-tech industries.
It explained that not all manufacturers today simply make a product. Researchers must figure out what customers want, engineers and industrial designers must design the product and packaging, marketing specialists create ads to sell the product, web developers build the website, and customer service representatives handle customer questions and feedback.
Remote Work Here to Stay
Professional services are involved in essentially every part of the economy, which means that there is widespread potential for remote freelancing, even in companies where most people need to be in person every day, the report continued.
“Even in the construction industry,” it noted, “10.5 percent of workers are in professional services, which is around 1.2 million jobs.”
“Overall, we estimate that 37 percent of jobs in ‘non-tech industries’ are in professional services, which suggests they have the potential of being done remotely or by a remote freelancer,” it added.
While the pandemic gave the use of remote workers a boost, questions have been raised about whether that trend will fade in the post-Covid world. Upwork thinks not.
It noted that among its top 100 non-technical clients, spending on freelancers in the year before the pandemic, 2019, increased 44.2 percent. That growth, it added, was widespread across industries, not concentrated in a few.
During the pandemic year, spending continued to rise, with 80 percent of the top 100 companies increasing their outlays over a variety of service categories.
“This data suggests a diverse growth in the use of remote freelancing among non-tech companies,” the report reasoned. “They are utilizing remote freelancing more, and also across more functions.”
“The breadth of professional services jobs across industries shows the potential for remote freelancing outside of tech, and the growing adoption of remote freelancing over the pandemic shows that this potential is increasingly being realized,” it added.
The new generation of work-at-home jobs need not be confined to professional services work. It could include hardcore manufacturing, too.
For example, Aquiline Drones on Tuesday launched its Agile Manufacturing Pod, a portable, high-tech workstation that allows its drones to be manufactured in the home.
Each pod can transform any area into a manufacturing center in less than a day. The units can house one to three workers and come equipped with a 3D printer, tools, electronic components, hardware, and partitions. All operators receive detailed instructions and guidance through Aquiline’s cloud and an artificial intelligence system that streamlines inventory, quality control and shipping.
All the necessary hardware and software for the pod costs $15,000. It’s installed by a certified technician to ensure it’s set up properly for drone production.
Aquiline will buy drones produced from the pod for $100 to $800, depending on the product model.
“This was conceptualized about three years ago,” explained Aquiline’s founder and CEO Barry Alexander.
“It just happens to be appropriately timed for when working from home is becoming a new societal reality,” he told TechNewsWorld.
“People can work from without having to worry about transportation and childcare,” he said. “They can just walk into a cell and assemble as many clones as they can. The more you make, the more you earn.”
He maintained that work-at-home may hold the key to a manufacturing resurgence.
“We can’t bring back manufacturing the way it was done before,” he observed. “We have to give everybody the opportunity to work from home, which is something Covid ushered in.”
Better Tech Needed
If employers are going to be asking more employees to work remotely, they may want to think about improving the support and tech of those employees.
“When organizations were forced to go remote in early 2020, workers started to rely on their own devices or programs they discovered themselves to make up for their employers’ technology shortcomings,” noted Gartner analyst Whit Andrews at the company’s Digital Workplace Summit in April.
That’s not to say that home workers didn’t have some tech shortcoming of their own to deal with. In a survey of more 1,000 employed Americans conducted by Office Depot/OfficeMax, more than half the workers (59.6 percent) encountered tech problems working at home because they were using old, worn-out technology.
Meanwhile, one in five said they were working with an “extremely and very worn” desktop or laptop computer.
“When we asked whether employees thought their companies would help them out with new tech, the most common answer was ‘not at all likely.’ Most felt their outdated or soiled tech was going to have to be replaced on their own dime,” the survey’s researchers wrote.
Productivity is an issue that’s often brought up in connection to remote work. Gartner’s survey found that more than 70 percent of the workers it polled reported an increase or no change in productivity.
In the Office Depot/OfficeMax survey, researchers found tech problems robbing productivity from both remote and on-premises workers.
Nearly half of on-site workers (45 percent) and 48 percent of remote workers reported wasting more than an hour on tech issues every week. Meanwhile, more than a third of hybrid workers (36 percent) spent more than two hours wrestling with tech problems on a weekly basis.
“One of the findings that we found most surprising was that hybrid workers reported wasting more time per week on tech-related issues than full-time on-site or remote workers,” said Stephen Mohan, business solutions division executive vice president at Office Depot.
“This suggests that some employers may be using a one-size fits all tech solution, when the needs for a hybrid worker differ and require intuitive technology that works seamlessly to enable them to work from anywhere,” he told TechNewsWorld.