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Remote jobs are here to stay

Over the past two years, many businesses in Los Angeles — and around the world — have shifted to a remote or hybrid work model that is quickly becoming the new norm. But with COVID-19 cases trending down and mandates easing, employers are now reassessing what work should look like in the future and what it could mean for Los Angeles’ tech and business communities.

On Wednesday, local business leaders and stakeholders gathered in downtown Los Angeles to discuss these topics at “The Future of Work: People, Places and Spaces,” a symposium hosted by the Pasadena-based nonprofit Alliance for Innovation SoCal and the Downtown Center Business Improvement. District (DCBID).

Event panelists include Brian Elliott, Senior Vice President of Slack, Natalie Schilling, Senior Vice President of SoCal Edison, Jessica Ku Kim, Vice President of LA Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC), Katherine Perez, Associate Director of ‘Arup and Kian Gohar, CEO of Geolab, among others.

Elliott kicked off the discussion by noting that even Slack — whose online workplace communication software has become ubiquitous during the pandemic — found the initial shift to remote working a shock to its system.

SoCal Edison Senior Vice President Natalie Schilling shares her thoughts on the hybrid work model. Photo by Justin Han

“Less than 3% of our workforce were working remotely [before the pandemic],” he said. “Most people assume that because we’re a tech company, we were already doing [remote work] all along. One bright spot was hiring, Elliott noted, as the new remote work model has made it easier for Slack to recruit and acquire talent from around the world.

Gohar chimed in, pointing out how “the pandemic has really made us reassess all of our assumptions about how we live, how we work, how we socialize, and how we learn.”

While the shutdowns saw society wake up to the importance of ‘essential’ workers in industries like food and healthcare, whose work could not be done from home, there were benefits to making many remote jobs. Workers could save time and money by eliminating commuting, while carbon emissions were also reduced. Working parents with caring responsibilities also generally enjoyed better work-life balance and greater flexibility than they did before the pandemic.

But with office occupancy rates slowly recovering, divides are emerging between those who are more content with the new normal and those who would prefer a return to pre-pandemic habits.

Speakers and attendees of the “Future of Work” event pose for a photo. Photo by Justin Han

Perez said she sees a divide in her design and engineering business between executives — many of whom have families and want to continue working from home — and junior staff who seek the mentorship and collaboration that comes with doing so. to be in the office.

On the other hand, Schilling said employers could risk losing talent if they don’t offer work-from-home options, especially young employees fresh out of college and strapped for savings. , who might be reluctant to pay today’s exorbitant gas prices. in order to commute.

“The biggest concern [at SoCal Edison] is connectivity, productivity and making people want to stay with our company,” Schilling added.

While the conversation around what the “future of work” will look like remains open to debate, most panelists found common ground on Kim’s observation that “one size doesn’t fit all.” — and the feeling that what may work for one business in a post-pandemic world may not be the best for others.

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