Working from home can mean greater flexibility and availability to take care of children and elderly relatives who may have unexpected emergencies. Instead of being stuck with a long commute, we are already home and can more easily swing by the school to pick up sick children. We can take a call in private and rush to help an elderly parent who has fallen.
Working from home has not meant that we work less or have more time for ourselves, however. Rather, the lines of separation between work and family have dissolved. We now work longer hours, later into the night to complete our job responsibilities. Working remotely has resulted in the availability of always being on call for both work and family.
With limited time, remote workers have also leveraged technology for assistance. The “on-demand economy” flourished during the pandemic. Online ordering, utilizing apps on our phones and e-commerce websites on our laptops, has made almost everything we desire available often within minutes – with just the touch of our fingertips. An established on-demand service ecosystem has made it possible for people to conveniently shop, eat, work, bank, complete tasks, and chores -- even take care of family members who live across the country -- all from the convenience of our homes.
The on-demand service economy, also known as “the access economy,” is the economic activity generated by consumers who use technological devices to request products and services that are fulfilled by companies. The customer or end-user may use smartphones, tablets, smart TVs and virtual assistants to place orders. The process is fast, simple, and convenient.
Demand for immediate access to goods and services from those at home; a proliferation of consumer-oriented tech businesses ready to gratify needs; widespread use of smart devices and online web access; a strong distribution infrastructure; and a robust service workforce have fueled the growth of what has also been called the “at-home economy.”
According to Supermarket News, the number of U.S. customers shopping online for groceries, for example, grew from 13.1 million customers in August 2019 to 43 million customers in May 2020. Likewise, U.S. online grocery sales increased from $1.2 billion to $6.6 billion from August 2019 to May 2020 respectively.  The global health crisis fueled much of this growth. A survey of more than 300 U.S. consumers showed that 78.7% have shopped online for groceries after the outbreak of COVID-19. This is an increase of 39% from before the pandemic, reports Winston-Salem, NC based Inmar, a data analytics and technology solutions company. 
On-demand home services can solve problems, make life manageable
There are many scenarios where taking advantage of existing technology to make one’s life smoother just makes sense.
For a parent of a newborn and rambunctious toddler, for example, taking the kids to make a run to the grocery store, can be quite the ordeal. Instead, a busy mom or dad can simply tap on a phone app, like Instacart, click on pictures of the items needed, then hit submit. Within a couple of hours, those much-needed bags of diapers, milk, and groceries for dinner appear at your doorstep. The process clearly saves time and frees one’s schedule to take care of other childcare and household tasks.
In another scenario, an elderly couple may be leery about driving on icy roads or on days with poor visibility. No need to go out in bad weather. Instead, they can log online to Amazon from their living room and order anything from personal hygiene and household products to parts to fix the washing machine to groceries, clothes and toys for the grandchildren. Many items are delivered to your front door for free in two days and even the same day for Prime members.
In addition to delivering products, Amazon also offers a wide variety of on-demand “Home & Business Services” in some zip codes. Examples of these services include TV wall mounting, iPad repair at your home location, outdoor HDTV antenna installation, wireless home network setup, plumbing, electrical, handyman, house cleaning, and yard maintenance. With a few simple clicks, the goal is to get help fast and easy.
For adult children who are assisting aging parents who live in another state, on-demand services can provide immediate solutions and peace of mind. Food delivery apps, such as Grubhub, Uber Eats or Postmates can be used to provide loved ones with meals. Food arrives in the same time it would take to order a pizza. Using these apps means easy, fast ordering, and depending on the area, a broad selection of food choices. It can offer more than just pizza and Chinese food delivery. In metropolitan areas, choices often include chain restaurants, high-end to mom and pop places, and eateries that don’t deliver on their own. Local restaurant partners can be pulled up by simply entering the address of the recipient. Payment information is submitted during the initial app set up so the process is cashless and convenient.
Concerned about elderly relatives being snowed in during a storm? Can’t get out to help shovel yourself due to schedule or illness or injury? Use the app Shovler to immediately schedule a request to clear a driveway and sidewalk and even a car. There’s no need to research and call various companies to get quotes. You also avoid having to sign a contract for a long-term snow plowing service. Snow removal through the Shovler app is used on an as-needed basis. The app is simple and straightforward to use. Input job requests on your phone and snow shovelers, who are local gig workers, accept the requests. Before and after photos of the completed work is sent to the customer. Payment through the app is convenient. Ordering service remotely and not having to be at the property makes life easy as well.
If illness, disability or concerns about coronavirus make going to a crowded bank challenging, customers can do a lot of their banking at home instead. Options include online, mobile and text banking. Customers can view balances, transfer funds between accounts and pay bills, including credit card and utility bills. Most major banks and credit unions also participate in the Zelle digital payments network. Through Zelle, bank clients can transfer funds to and from outside banks and to any individual with an email or cell phone number who also has an account with a bank that uses Zelle.
What about making deposits? Many banks offer their customers the ability to make deposits with their smartphones. It’s as simple as clicking on “make a deposit,” sign the back of the check, then take a picture of the front and back of the check and hit submit. The routing and account number are captured for processing.
Whether it’s grocery shopping, buying a gift, managing your finances or taking care of household chores, on-demand services allow people to do practically everything without ever leaving their homes. This is important because the number of people living and working from home is increasing. It is estimated that up to 37% of all jobs in the United States can be done at home according to a University of Chicago study by economists Jonathan Dingel and Brent Neiman states a Forbes article dated April 9, 2020.  Yet another Forbes article claimed that “nearly half of the U.S. workforce might now be remote workers,” as a result of Covid-19. 
In addition to the remote workers, there were more than 11 million stay-at-home parents in the U.S. in 2016 according to a Pew Research study based on U.S. Census data.  As of June 2020, the number of stay-at-home parents has dramatically increased as schools have been closed to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Regarding retirees, in 2019, there were 45.1 million Americans who received social security benefits.  This at-risk group has also been advised to stay home to avoid contracting the virus. With many Americans living a more home-focused life -- juggling work, child-care, homeschooling, eldercare, household chores, and aging in place – the plethora of on-demand services can help to make life a bit smoother. Technology has been integral to helping people save time. It can help to complete tasks faster, easier and safer. Who wouldn’t want that?
1 Redman, Russell. “U.S. Online Grocery Sales Up Again in May.” Supermarket News, 29 May 2020, www.supermarketnews.com/online-retail/us-online-grocery-sales-again-may. Accessed 10 June 2020.
2 Redman, Russell. “Nearly 80% of U.S. Consumers Shopped Online for Groceries Since COVID-19 Outbreak.” Supermarket News, 27 May 2020. www.supermarketnews.com/online-retail/nearly-80-us-consumers-shopped-online-groceries-covid-19-outbreak. Accessed 10 June 2020.
3 Travers, Mark. “37% of Jobs Ca Be Done From Home, According To A New Economic Analysis.” Forbes, 9 April 2020. www.forbes.com/sites/traversmark/2020/04/09/37-of-jobs-can-be-done-from-home-according-to-a-new-economic-analysis/#514a1e937814. Accessed 11 June 2020.
4 Eisenberg, Richard. “Is Working From Home the Future of Work.” Forbes, 10 April 2020. www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2020/04/10/is-working-from-home-the-future-of-work/#7605085046b1. Accessed 11 June 2020.
5 Livingston, Gretchen. “Stay-at-home Moms and Dads Account for About One-in-five U.S. Parents.” Pew Research Center, 24 September 2018. www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/09/24/stay-at-home-moms-and-dads-account-for-about-one-in-five-u-s-parents/. Accessed 11 June 2020.
6 Rudden, Jennifer. “Number of Retired Workers Receiving Social Security in the U.S. 2009 – 2019.” Statista, 6 January 2020. www.statista.com/statistics/194295/number-of-us-retired-workers-who-receive-social-security/. Access 11 June 2020.
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- Tags: Age-in-place, At-home economy, Caregivers, Family Caregivers, Homebound, Housebound, On-demand economy, Remote Work, Work from home