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Opinion Editorials

Big tech keeps teams out of offices, but not their contractors #Disparity

(EDITORIAL) Big tech has had a strange relationship with contractors for years, but in the midst of a pandemic it should be pretty easy to be on the correct side.

contractors

Looks like there might be some inequality in how tech companies let people return to office work…

Tech companies seem to be competing for the most generous work-from-home policies lately, from Amazon telling white collar workers they can return to the office as late as October, to Twitter announcing employees could continue working from home indefinitely. WIth COVID-19 forcing us into quarantine, it’s no surprise that many companies are reconsidering their office policies, there’s just one problem: these benefits don’t always extend to everyone.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some jobs that just aren’t possible, or even aren’t ideal, when done remotely. From teachers to tattoo artists, there are people whose jobs should be in person. And, of course, there’s the countless essential workers who brave work daily in order to keep our worlds from entirely falling apart. But for the sake of this article, the workers we’re looking at are contractors.

See, tech companies like Facebook will hire contractors to do certain aspects of work for the company, like content moderation or IT. And ever since the pandemic hit, the gap between “full time employee” and “contractor” has never been more apparent. Take Facebook, for instance. Since March, many contractors have been forced to physically commute for questionable reasons, and those at home were not considered for the $1,000 bonus that Facebook extended to its full time employees.

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Now, despite Facebook allowing many full-time employees to continue working from home until 2021, it’s forcing contractors like content moderators back into some offices, including Austin. This comes in spite of the fact we’re still revisiting the traditional office – not just because of the convenience of working from home, but because of the potential health risks posed by most open office designs.

Don’t get me wrong, contractors have had struggles long before COVID-19 – the strain on mental health that comes from working in content moderation is just one example – but the pandemic brings these inequalities back into focus.

Here’s the deal. Three months ago, it was seemingly “impossible” to have so many full-time employees working from home and now, many companies are pivoting to accommodate more remote work for the foreseeable future, even beyond the threat of COVID-19. As businesses reconsider their stances on working from home and what changes will eventually come to office work, may these considerations for comfort and safety be extended to all employees, no matter their status.

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Brittany is a Staff Writer for The American Genius with a Master's in Media Studies under her belt. When she's not writing or analyzing the educational potential of video games, she's probably baking.

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