How Governments and Agencies Can Support Remote Work for Early-Career Computing Professionals

In this post, we continue sharing the results from a recent survey on the Impact of COVID-19 and Remote Work on Early-Career Computing Professionals. We asked the survey respondents to give their ideas on policy changes that governments and agencies could implement to improve remote work conditions during the public health crisis and beyond. 43.5% (110) of the 253 survey participants responded to this question, suggesting funding initiatives, new regulations, and improvements to government communications. The largest group of respondents suggested that it would be most significant for governments to provide funding and/or financial relief. The next most common suggestion was that the government could improve regulations. The remainder of the responses recommended ways in which the government could improve its communications.

Funding

Participants (33.6%, N=37) suggested a wide variety of activities and programs that the government could fund to improve remote work conditions in the future. For example, nine respondents from five different countries noted the importance of improving infrastructure to ensure reliable internet, power, and access to cloud services. An industry professional in Israel stated that governments need to “make sure power and internet infrastructure are reliable and can handle the load.” In Indonesia, a faculty member noted that “improving internet infrastructure makes it more accessible to many regions, makes the connection cost cheaper so it is more affordable to low economic people.” In the UK, a respondent stated simply that governments need to ensure “better availability and affordability of good broadband.”

Another common suggestion was to subsidize childcare (N=8) to support families that must work remotely while caring for children. An industry professional in the U.S. said,

“I was fortunate my daycare didn’t close and my oldest was mostly ok doing school work with little guidance but the guilt makes it so hard to work.”

Others (N=5) hoped governments would subsidize costs associated with working from home, such as electricity, internet and home office improvements. Five respondents also suggested that the government should incentivize working from home to encourage more of it and “reduce the burden on larger cities.”

Six participants stated that a universal healthcare system would be the most significant policy change a government could make. The remaining six offered a wide array of suggestions, including implementing UBI, making mental health services better and more available, providing relief funds to those affected by a crisis, and instituting four day work weeks. In the U.S., an industry professional suggested,

“Provide a couple mandated mental health days of PTO. They provided 80 hours for taking care of a sick family member or if the individual gets sick, but nothing for the mental well being of all other employees. Stress is running high right now, and a couple days of PTO would go a long way to reducing stress.”

Regulations

In addition to funding, respondents (27.3%, N=30) suggested a variety of regulations that governments could implement to improve remote work conditions. Twelve of these made suggestions involved regulating the labor laws governing treatment of remote workers, ensuring that schedules and pay are reasonable and that appropriate protections are available for employees.

An industry professional in the U.S. suggested that an important policy change would be “limiting companies’ abilities to monitor their employee’s non-work-related data, and ensuring that labor rights and protections continue to be upheld.” Another suggested that governments need to “add remote work protections into the ADA.”

Seven recommended that governments could improve regulations in regards to public health and safety. Six asked that governments better regulate telecommunications companies to ensure fair and equal access to internet services. The remaining five participants noted that the tax laws could be improved to handle unique situations that remote workers may find themselves in, such as providing tax breaks for home offices, or providing better guidance for when workers live and work in a different state or country than their employer. An industry professional in Spain asked governments to “make it easier to work remotely from different countries, right now that is almost impossible due to tax and insurance laws.”

Communications

Some participants (24.5%, N=27) noted ways in which governments could improve their communications to support remote workers. The majority of these (N=24) simply asked that governments better communicate the benefits of working from home to help normalize it. An industry professional in Belgium wrote,

“Remote work should be promoted, and perhaps sponsored. For most people in IT, and many people in other industries, working from home is just as easy and productive as working from the office, if not more. The main hurdle is the mindset of certain companies.”

The remaining respondents (11%, N=3) suggested ways in which governments could improve their digital processes and communications to make it easier to conduct work online. A graduate student in Germany stated that governments and agencies should “accept paperwork digitally so there is no work to print and sign documents.”

Encouraging Equitable Remote Work for Early Career Computing Professionals

Government policy can help to ensure that people have more equitable opportunities when working remotely. The need for such policies is especially clear for families with young children. Many parents find it a challenge to work from home while also watching young children. Throughout the pandemic, with more parents and children at home, we have seen that childcare more often falls on the mother’s shoulders, sometimes requiring them to choose between their careers and family. This leads many women to leave the workforce, which is reversing much of the progress towards diversity in computing and other industries. Government policies such as childcare subsidies and paid family leave can help contain the damage and help support working women with families.

Governments should work to ensure equitable access to internet, improve labor and tax laws, and subsidize child care.
Survey respondents recommended ways in which governments can support equitable remote work.

Conclusion

We are very grateful to everyone who completed our survey and shared their experiences of working from home. This information is invaluable to lawmakers considering how policies affect the lives of remote workers at every career level.

Stay tuned to learn more about the results of our survey and how working from home has affected young computing professionals!

Wellness Team, ACM Future of Computing Academy

Jessica Hair, Software Engineer, SmartFile, jessica@hairsquaredsoftware.com

Jaelle Scheuerman, ACM Future of Computing Academy, jaelle@gmail.com

Gürkan Solmaz, Senior Researcher, NEC Laboratories Europe gurkan.solmaz@neclab.eu

Pamela Wisniewski, Associate Professor, University of Central Florida, pamwis@ucf.edu

Image Credit: Icons Vectors by Vecteezy


How Governments and Agencies Can Support Remote Work for Early-Career Computing Professionals was originally published in ACM Future of Computing Academy on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.