Instinctively we have a sense of which jobs were able to move to work from home, and now researchers at the University of Chicago have dug into that. Their study assessing more than 800 occupations found that up to 37% of jobs in the US could be done from home.
Per reporting in the BBC, best suited to going remote were “well-paid, white-collar occupations in big cities, while those in industries like agriculture and hospitality were much harder to switch. This suggests that the economic impact of the pandemic could be highly unequal, severely impacting some industries and regions while leaving others relatively unscathed.
They found jobs involving “knowledge work”, like those done by office managers and accountants, had a much easier time shifting work online compared to manual or customer-facing occupations like construction workers or hospitality staff. While they estimated that about 97% of legal work and 88% of jobs in business and financial operations could be done from home, only 3% in transportation and 1% in farming, fisheries and forestry could.
The work also does have a geographic component: While more than 45% of jobs in San Francisco and Washington, DC could be performed at home, in Las Vegas and Florida’s Fort Myers, the figure was less than 30%. These disparities are also evident on a global scale: in Sweden and the United Kingdom, more than 40% of jobs could go remote, but fewer than 25% in Mexico and Turkey could.
And, per the study, access to technology is a major factor.
Why do we care?
What interested me most about this study was the reinforcement of an idea I’ve been offering repeatedly – going a second level deep with your customers and understanding their market. We in the industry talk all the time about verticals, but that misses the detail about the specialization within those verticals.
Right now, understanding your customers is the key to survival. You need to be close to them to deliver value right now while times are hard, AND you also need to know what they are doing in order to anticipate the struggles coming for them… because those struggles then are coming for you.
We talk all the time about business value – well, here it is. Know their business better than your own. Know their industries. Because doing so will help you position to thrive AND survive.