Two years later, remote work has changed millions of careers

Moving cross country to start a new life

After her job went fully remote, Chelsea Pruitt decided to move from California to Alabama.

Chelsea Pruitt, 31, has lived in California for nearly her entire life. Now, she’s headed to Alabama.

Prior to the pandemic, Pruitt had thought about moving, but it wasn’t until she started working remotely that the decision became a lot easier to make.

“I feel like my chapter in life in San Francisco is changing,” she said. “My perspective on things is changing. The things I want out of life are changing.”

Pruitt started working for long-term housing rental company Zeus Living in January 2020, right before the pandemic hit the US. At the time, she was going into the office five days a week. But once the pandemic began to shut things down in March, she started working remotely full time.

That was just what Pruitt needed to make her decision. She had visited a co-worker in Birmingham, Alabama, a few times and decided that was the place she wanted to live.

“I love the vibe of the city, the change, and I loved [that] it’s more leisurely, slow and less stressful and obviously a lot more affordable [than San Francisco], which I am really excited about.”

The high cost of living in San Francisco meant she always had to have roommates. “In San Francisco, I don’t see myself being able to own a home unless I am married and have a dual income,” she said.

But since her pay will remain the same after the move to Birmingham and the cost of living will be significantly less, she’ll be able to save more, and hopefully buy a home of her own and pay down her student loans.

“I am looking forward to that mental relief knowing that my cost of living is lower and I can save more,” she said.

Finally taking the leap

Carlos Ortiz started his own consulting business during the pandemic.

Carlos Ortiz had been working as an inspector with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for 19 years before the pandemic hit. He had been considering leaving his job for a few years, but was nervous about making such a big change.

“I started re-evaluating life and opportunities,” Ortiz, 48, said of that time. “[But] I was very comfortable getting a paycheck every two weeks.”

But in April 2020, when businesses were shutting their offices down across the country, he realized he wanted more control over his life — especially when it came to his work. So he began planning the launch of his own business.

“A lot of my friends are entrepreneurs and business people and I’ve never worked in the private industry … so I decided, let me give it a shot,” he said.

At the start of 2021, he quit his full-time job and launched a consulting business to advise companies on how to comply with government regulations.

To help provide some financial cushion as he launched the new venture, Ortiz had been saving up unused leave, which he got paid out for when he left his job.

At first, “it was very scary,” he said. Now, he’s making slightly less than he was at his old job, but he’s only working 20 hours a week.

Ortiz said he also has more control over his schedule, and since most of his business is done over the phone and on video calls, he’s been able to work from anywhere. So far, he’s worked from Geneva, Switzerland, San Antonio and Anchorage, Alaska.

“I am getting back into my art and reading a lot more … and exercising a lot more. And I am doing my chores as I’ve always done, but now I am just not exhausted.”

Enjoying the hybrid life

After working from home for two years, John Pearson missed the collaboration and socialization that happens in the office.

John Pearson used to have a hard deadline of 6:00 a.m. in order to be out of his driveway and on his way to work each morning.

“Otherwise, the commute goes from an hour to something much worse,” said Pearson, 55, who is a senior vice president at PTC, an industrial software company in Boston.

But for the past two years, his commute has been a quick walk down the hall to his home office.

At first, he said he was more productive and less distracted when working from home. But now that he has periodically started going into the office, he realizes there are some advantages to in-person work.

“I can get through more complex problem solving much faster in a room with two or three people and a whiteboard than I can through Zoom,” he said.

He also realized he missed talking to people in the office about simple things, like their kids or what they’ve been watching on TV. “When you are jumping from 30-minute call to 30-minute call on video, you just don’t do that as much.”

His company plans to offer a flexible model to its employees — something Pearson prefers. His goal is to be in the office two to three days a week.

And as much as he didn’t like the commute, he started to realize the role it played. “It really is a firm break in which you walk away and you close your laptop.”

The WFH convert

Rashmi Bhankhede used to prefer being in the office five days a week. Now she hopes to work remotely full-time.

Rashmi Bhankhede never really liked the idea of working from home.

“Before the pandemic…I definitely preferred working face-to-face in this open-office environment,” she said. “I thought it was the most productive way for everyone.”

As a senior manager of software engineering at Capital One, she manages two teams. She used to want her teams to come into the office to collaborate, discuss projects, hold feedback sessions and interact on a more social level. But the pandemic has changed her approach.

After two years of working from home, she’s hoping to make remote work permanent. Capital One has said it will be on a hybrid schedule when it reopens its offices.

“It doesn’t matter where you are. If you have good processes to connect with your peers and [direct] reports, working remote can be very productive,” said Bhankhede, 43.

She added that the flexibility helps her manage her time better and that her team has become closer — even though they haven’t seen each other in person for two years.

To better define the boundary between work and her personal life, Bhankhede gets dressed in her work clothes every morning and changes at the end of the day, followed by a relaxing activity like a walk.

Working from home has also meant spending more time with her two sons and learning new hobbies since she no longer has to commute.

“I started growing peppers and tomatoes and cucumbers … and got back into sewing,” she said. “I am still not good at it.”

Turning a hobby into a new career

Cody Irion went back to school and switched careers during the pandemic.

The pandemic hit right as Cody Irion’s busy season was about to start.

In 2020, he owned a horse transportation business in North Carolina. Typically, April through August were his most lucrative months, but when stay-at-home orders started sweeping the US, he quickly decided to close his business, sell the equipment and go back to school to get a degree in computer science.

“I had the choice of going into a massive amount of debt to keep going or change careers,” said Irion, 35. “I had started learning software development as a hobby and I really enjoyed it, so I didn’t hesitate.”

He enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and since the majority of his classes have been virtual, he didn’t have to move closer to campus until his final year, saving him a lot of money.

He also believes he had more internship opportunities last summer since so many companies were still operating remotely.

Irion is set to graduate this May and already has a job lined up at a financial services company.

“I had never even considered software engineering before I started it as a hobby because I grew up in Southern Illinois with race horses,” he said. “I knew nothing about the industry other than I liked computers and I started learning it and realized I was pretty good at it.”

Turning a side business into a full-time job

Mabel Frias (pictured on the left with her sister) left her full-time job during the pandemic to fully commit to her side business, Luna Magic.

Mabel Frias had been juggling two jobs at the beginning of the pandemic, but eventually had to make a decision: stay with the security and safety of her full-time job or pursue a riskier life as an entrepreneur.

In March 2020, Frias was a little more than a year into working what she described as her “dream job” as director of digital merchandising at lingerie brand, Savage X Fenty. Meanwhile, she was also trying to grow Luna Magic, a beauty brand she launched with her sister in 2019.

But as the pandemic forced many workers to do their jobs remotely, Luna Magic started gaining more traction and demanding more of her time.

“Because we were in a Zoom culture, people still wanted from the face up to look good. You still wanted to have a level of presentation while you are on the screen,” Frias, 35, said.

While working two jobs meant long hours during the week and weekends, Frias was nervous about leaving her full-time job and the financial security it brought. So she set certain benchmarks for Luna Magic to hit, including partnerships and business opportunities, before she could feel comfortable walking away.

“Part of the challenges a lot of entrepreneurs have is they jump to soon,” she said. “I don’t like to have economic anxiety. I am also a mother and practical about these things.”

Soon enough, the company was meeting her goals. In 2020, Walmart.com started selling the company’s products, which includes makeup and other cosmetics. And in 2021, Walmart and Target started carrying products in some stores, as well as online.

“I had to trust myself. I liked the idea of growing something from scratch,” she said.

In 2020, Frias applied to be on ABC’s Shark Tank and was accepted. The show, which features entrepreneurs pitching their businesses to a panel of investors, aired in January 2021 — the same day Frias quit her job.

“I love the magic of creating something out of nothing. I saw our company as we get to bring even more beauty into the world at a moment when people are looking for it,” Frias said.

Just graduated and can’t wait to work in person

Rachel Zipfel started her new job working  fully remote, but hopes to eventually be in the office five days a week.

Rachel Zipfel finished her college courses in the same place she started her first full-time job: in a room at her parents’ house.

Zipfel, 23, graduated from the University of Missouri, St. Louis in August 2021 with a degree in marketing. But because of the pandemic, her classes were remote for nearly her last two years of college.

She’s now working remotely for a digital marketing agency and has met her colleagues roughly five times in person. She feels like working from home has made it harder to get acclimated to the working world.

When she first started, she found it challenging to learn the ropes.

“If you are trying to ask someone a question, you don’t know what they are doing on the other side of the computer, so what could be a five-minute question in person [could turn] into maybe two hours of waiting for an answer,” she said.

Zipfel started going into the office about once a week in January, and said she feels more productive. She hopes to eventually be there five days a week.

“I’ve noticed a world of difference,” she said. “There are none of the distractions that are at home. It’s so much easier to get work done. If the person is there that I need to talk to I can get my question answered in five seconds versus two hours. I love being in the office and I cant wait for it to be back open again.”

Quit a job that wanted him back in the office

When Ryan Bernsten found out his employer wanted him to come back into the office, he found a new job.

Ryan Bernsten had only been working at his new job as a copywriter for a few weeks in March 2020 when he was sent home to work remotely.

At the time, he was worried about how it would work. “Work from home? What would that even look like? I am going to miss out on all the social interaction — I am new here,” he recalled.

But eventually he adapted. Now two years later, he prefers remote work.

Working from home, he said, enables him to be more productive and have a better work-life balance. So when he learned he was going to be required to return to the office a few days a week, he started looking for a new job that allowed him to stay remote.

“If they aren’t going to validate that I enjoy working from home, that I am better at home, and I enjoy my lifestyle at home, I need to find a job that will,” he said.

It took him less than a month to get a new, fully remote job.

“I never ever have to go back to the office,” Bernsten, 29, said. “You get to see people at their best. If we fly to San Francisco for a meeting, the adrenaline is there, we are excited to see people, we’re going to make it count. But you don’t have to see people every day … when they have a cold, are in a bad mood or in a fight with their partner.”

And not only did he get added flexibility, he also got a higher salary.

“I don’t believe everyone needs to work from home,” he said. “But some people work better from home. I never wake up dreading work because I am in the comfort of my home.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated how long Mabel Frias worked at her previous employer.

Oil ’emergency’: Work from home and drive slower, IEA says

The energy watchdog detailed a 10-point emergency plan that includes reducing speed limits on highways by at least 6 miles per hour, working from home up to three days a week where possible and car-free Sundays in cities.

Other steps in the emergency plan include increasing car sharing, using high-speed and night trains instead of planes, avoiding business air travel when possible and incentivizing walking, cycling and public transportation.

If fully implemented, the moves would lower world oil demand by 2.7 million barrels per day within four months — equal to the oil consumed by all the cars in China, the IEA said. And the impact would be greater if emerging economies like India and China adopted them in part or in full.

However, the emergency steps would disrupt or even slow down a world economy that remains largely addicted to fossil fuels, especially for transportation. The IEA is suggesting the headaches would be better than the alternative.

“As a result of Russia’s appalling aggression against Ukraine, the world may well be facing its biggest oil supply shock in decades, with huge implications for our economies and societies,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement.

The proposals reflect a recognition that the world has few realistic options to quickly replace oil supplies from Russia, the world’s No. 2 oil producer in 2021.

OPEC has signaled it’s in no rush to ramp up production and the release of emergency oil stockpiles has done little to ease shortage fears.

“The US and other IEA countries now realize that the potential loss of Russia’s oil exports constitutes a bigger supply shock than either strategic stock draws or accelerated OPEC+ production hikes can solve,” said Bob McNally, president of consulting firm Rapidan Energy.

The Russia-Ukraine crisis has sent oil prices surging over the past month, driving up gasoline prices in the United States to record highs. Although oil prices have pulled back from their recent highs, oil soared back above $100 a barrel on Thursday on renewed concerns about the impact to Russian energy supplies.

National Labor Relations Board Becomes Business-Labor Battleground That Could Define The Future Of Work

by Erik Sherman

Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s immediate agenda upon becoming president included delivering Peter B. Robb, general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, with an ultimatum: Quit or you’ll be fired.

Robb, a former management-side attorney, was confirmed for the position by the Senate on November 8, 2017, according to an archived version of his biography on the board’s website. It was deleted before Biden had finished his first full day in office. Robb’s four-year term was slated to last until the fall. The move has generated political blowback and charges of hypocrisy in Biden’s call for unity and healing.

It’s a sign of what observers had been expecting — tensions between unions and big businesses — but they didn’t expect all-out war on Day One. The danger for both employers and workers is uncertainty as old rules quickly fall away, sides take turns grabbing for as much advantage as they can get and no one can know where anyone will stand next week.

Conservatives “shocked”

The ouster of Robb and his deputy, Alice B. Stock, sparked celebrations among unions. A statement from AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called Robb a “union-busting lawyer by trade” who had, in his position on the board, “mounted an unrelenting attack for more than three years on workers’ right to organize and engage in collective bargaining.” Trumka called ousting Robb “the first step toward giving workers a fair shot again.”

Conservatives strongly condemned the change and the way it was undertaken. “This is the biggest attack in labor relations in my entire time practicing,” John Raudabaugh, Ave Maria School of Law professor of labor law and former board member appointed by George H.W. Bush, told Zenger News, describing himself as “shocked.”

“This is an independent, quasi-judicial agency,” said Raudabaugh. “I’m taken aback because the end of the current general counsel’s term is 9 or 10 months away. “This was a really unfortunate choice by whoever is in the White House policy group. They have declared war against labor relations in this country by doing it instantly once the president was inaugurated. The first big thing involved labor relations. And it’s obvious that he is owned and controlled by unions.”

Juscelino Colares, a professor of business law at the Case Western Reserve University School of Law, called it a “first.”

“You can’t have it both ways,” Colares said. “You can’t say that you want peace and harmony, you want the country to be unified again, while at the same time you’re doing things like this. Congress staggered the terms of these individuals to allow some degree off political independence.”

Partisan squabbling

Critics of both Robb and the (currently) mostly right-of-center National Labor Relations Board say they had virtually tossed legal precedent out the window in pursuit of political ends.

“What we saw for the NLRB and the FLRA, the individuals, the political appointees there were not fairly evaluating the law,” said Heidi Burakiewicz, a partner with the federal employment law firm Kalijarvi, Chuzi, Newman & Fitfch. Burakiewicz represents unions and employees and has practiced since the George W. Bush administration.

“They had a mission to crush unions, to crush workers,” she said. “There were cases where they were ignoring precedent. No valid interpretation of the law could support the outcomes in some of the decisions we were seeing.”

Ronald Miller, a senior writer and analyst at Wolters Kluwer Legal & Regulatory U.S., a publisher of specialized regulatory information, agrees with Burakiewicz’s conclusion.

“The NLRB has been really overturning a lot of precedents that have been established,” Miller said. “Some more recently and some maybe 30 years or older. This board will make changes in existing law even if neither of the parties have raised the issue.”

Although not a voting member of the board, Robb had significant influence.

“The general counsel is going to decide what cases are going to be pushed,” Miller said. “It’s up to the general counsel to actually file charges. It doesn’t give you control over the opinions of the board members, but it does give you control over what cases are going to be brought and how they’re going to be presented.”

Ping-pong politics

Recent history shows political and legal volleying by Republicans and Democrats. Biden also asked for the resignation of Kathy L. Kraninger, whom former President Donald J. Trump had appointed to lead Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Although Congress set up that agency with a single director who could be fired only for “inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance,” a Supreme Court decision in June 2020 affirmed that a sitting president could remove the appointee over policy differences.

Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat, said at the time that it showed “fringe legal theories” had moved “into mainstream conservative legal thought.”

The Biden administration and congressional Democrats have also publicly supported a move to pass a bill that union organizers call the PRO Act (”Protect the Right to Organize”), which would codify some far-reaching labor policies. Those include heavy restrictions on using independent contractors, an easier path for labor unions to support each others’ strikes, a ban on restricting employees from joining class actions and a virtual end to the concept of right-to-work state legislation.

But as politicians, unions and large corporate interests wrangle back and forth, regular businesses and employees may find themselves dazed, trying to keep up with the latest changes that make planning and even understanding individual rights difficult.

David Martosko contributed reporting.

LoSasso Integrated Marketing Celebrates a Year of Award-Winning Work

CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–LoSasso Integrated Marketing, a full-service independent marketing agency in Chicago, is excited to celebrate an award-winning year. The agency shared news of several 2020 award wins for videos, brand campaigns and content programs across several clients and industries.

Overall, the agency collected eight accolades across four award programs—including the Telly Awards and Davey Awards.

“It’s been a tough year for everyone—and like many, we’ve had tears, but also triumphs,” said Amanda Callahan, VP of Client Services at LoSasso. “We’ve been extremely fortunate as a business to have remained busy and productive—a testament to innovative clients who have been able to pivot and weather the storm. And as a team, we’re keeping the passion alive and celebrating the good things 2020 brought—including recognition of our hard work.”

LoSasso would like to congratulate its staff and clients on making it through the year—and picking up some exciting wins along the way:

HEIDENHAIN brings home the gold

Longtime LoSasso client, HEIDENHAIN, won three awards for groundbreaking video and brand work:

BrandSmart Awards • Gold: “Brand Momentum Award”

This campaign changed perceptions and launched the brand into new emerging markets. Learn more here.

Telly Awards • Silver: Campaign, business-to-business— “Engineer spotlights”

This video series helped show how much HEIDENHAIN celebrates and supports its engineer customers. Watch a spotlight here.

Association of National Advertisers (ANA) B2 Awards • Content marketing, video (short form)— “Engineer spotlights”

Another win for the same engineer spotlight video series.

Jayco shifts in tough times

COVID put a halt to travel, but Jayco came out on top in the end, thanks to a surge in interest in RVing as a safe way to get away from it all.

The Davey Awards • Silver: Online Film & Video—Travel/Tourism

The “We Were Built for This” campaign tackled the idea that the RVing community was built to withstand tough times—and that everyone will be back together on the campgrounds together in no time. Visit the landing page here and watch the videos here and here.

The Davey Awards • Silver: Online Advertising & Marketing—Video

Before the pandemic hit, the team had success with another Jayco campaign— “Sounds like fun.” Watch the video here.

Telly Award • Bronze: Branded content (budget under $100k)— “50 Years And Still Fun”

Yet another Jayco campaign that received recognition—this for the campaign that celebrated Jayco’s 50th year in business. Watch the video here.

BrandSmart Awards • Gold: “Brand Engagement Award”

Over the years, LoSasso has worked with Jayco to increase customer and prospect engagement through content—to great results. Learn more here.

Lindsay streamlines its brand positioning and architecture

LoSasso worked with agriculture and infrastructure brand, Lindsay, to identify a brand architecture, positioning and a new website that aligned with the business objective to create “one Lindsay,” while still maintaining the autonomy and brand equity of its numerous brands.

The Davey Awards • Gold: Website—Manufacturing

This ambitious endeavor turned 35 disparate websites into a single global site that serves five regions in 11 different languages. Visit the site here.

“I am so incredibly proud of the amazing creative, content and brand strategy that has come out of our team this year—even in the face of extreme challenges,” said Jada Cash, Creative Director at LoSasso. “As we move into a new year, we’ll continue to seek ways to help clients see fresh perspective, implement new ideas and execute programs that drive results.”

About LoSasso

Located in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood, LoSasso Integrated Marketing is an independent, award-winning agency that helps change-agent marketers bring their vision to life—through a combination of fresh perspective and deep expertise. The agency’s specialty is supporting B2B and high-consideration product marketers with a mix of insight-driven strategy and creative firepower. Agency clients run the industry gamut—including manufacturing, financial, recreation, foodservice, associations, seniors and healthcare, education, agriculture, construction and publishing.