Covid-19: is working from home really the new normal? | The Economist

published on July 2, 2020


kovat 19 is transforming people's

relationship to work with millions now

out of a job and many more getting used

to working in a very different way the

proportion of Americans working from

home full-time has gone from 1 in 50 to

more than 1 in 3 Kovac has been the

transformation and that raises a whole

bunch of questions do you need as much

expensive obvious space and do

individual workers need to commute into

the office every day the need for

workers to gather together in offices

has shaped almost every aspect of modern

life and the shift towards remote

working could have far-reaching

consequences it could alter the shape

and purpose of cities affect gender

equality and even change how we think

about time

the modern office emerged along with the

Industrial Revolution when people

migrated to cities in search of work

factories required everybody to be

together so they could take advantage of

the powered machinery that started to

bring everybody into cities where they

could work together and easily walk to

the place where they were working that

in turn led to the growth of the offices

to manage all those companies early

offices were organized into rows of

desks for Clarks overseen by a central

manager mirroring the production line on

the factory floor and 200 years later

despite the rise of the Internet the

basic function of the office persists

we made the leap from seeing that people

could communicate via electronic means

by email by shared documents without

realizing that didn't mean that

everybody had to be in the same place

you've got mail we've had 20 odd years

since the internet and office design is

really only starting to reflect the real

possibilities of that change the

uncomfortable truth about offices is

that they are expensive and inefficient

company spend on average ten thousand

dollars on office space per employee

every year the most expensive office

real estate is in Hong Kong where every

square foot costs on average two hundred

and sixty-five dollars per year Beijing

and London are the next most expensive

locations the need for social distancing

in the wake of the pandemic could reduce

the number of staff in London offices by

two-thirds making the office look like

an expensive artifact I've talked to

companies that say they're thinking of

maybe using two floors in the building

instead of four or maybe using regional

offices as small sub offices so that not

everybody has to commute into a big city

the idea of workers clocking in and out

at the same time every day also dates

back to the Industrial Revolution before

that people were paid based on how much

they made rather than the amount of time

they spent at work and if the office

ceases to be the center of working life

the idea of working set hours or the


will become less meaningful we may will

work on a Sunday or Saturday afternoon

if that's more convenient for us we're

shifting back again to people being paid

for their function and not for the time

they turn up

tech companies are leading the charge

towards remote working twitter has

already said its staff need never come

back to the office if they don't want to

and facebook says half its staff could

be working remotely in a decade these

types of high skill highly paid roles

have a disproportionate impact on the

economy they are known as knowledge jobs

and where they are physically located is

important as they support entire

ecosystems of other jobs around them for

every knowledge job by other jobs that

are dependent on that some of these are

very high skills like lawyers and

doctors jobs like baristas Huber

instructors and other sort of urban

services once you add up a syllabus that

they contribute the majority of

Americans are employed in a way it means

that they dependent on knowledge jobs

although it's impossible to know exactly

how many other roles are supported by

these so-called knowledge jobs if they

were to become remote positions it would

have a profound impact on the jobs they

support in the wider economy but this

isn't a one-way street knowledge jobs

are such powerful drivers of the economy

because they are usually based in cities


because they million people are more

than 50 percent more productive than

ones living in metros with smaller

populations the question for knowledge

workers is whether you can replicate

those productivity benefits with a

looser relationship to a city or to

there's no relationship to a city those

able to work from home are a privileged

minority and in general the higher a

country's GDP per head the more people

are able to work remotely in Cambodia

just eleven percent of jobs can be done

from home compared with 45 percent in

switzerland or 37 percent in America

but the work from home revolution is

having a particularly pronounced effect

on some groups within the workforce

women are more likely to work in

face-to-face roles and so they have been

disproportionately affected by the

recession caused by covert nineteen in

previous recessions men have generally

been more likely to be laid off as they

are over-represented in manufacturing

and construction this time around more

women in America have lost their jobs

and those who've kept their jobs have

extra challenges mothers are now

interrupted over 50% more often than

fathers but the normalization of home

working during the pandemic could also

have long-term benefits for some female

workers each remote way of working that

has no secret activates then I think

that it might be a good thing so we're

going to sort of help them break through

although offices are sitting empty

corporate leases can run for as long as

a decade and there has not yet been a

rush to sell office real estate so the

office in some form looks set to survive

the pandemic the global experiment in

remote working has shown there are some

things that are hard to foster online

like corporate culture and creativity

and these will be the mainstays of the

post pandemic office that's about all I

got to say Don good job of saying it

or younger workers they make friends and

connections and network where they can

get on in life later on it's very hard

to build a kind of a spree decor in a

company for people who haven't met

offices will be less of a prison cell

and more of a collaborative area more of

a games room where you go in to try and

shoot the breeze with your colleagues

and come up with something different it

may feel like the pandemic has

revolutionized working life but in some

ways it has simply come full circle

before the Industrial Revolution there

was no working weep no nine-to-five or

fixed workplace for many people and

thanks to covert 19 this may be closer

to the way things will look when the

world emerges from lockdown

I'm Vlatko behind

Bartleby colonists of The Economist

covering management and work if you'd

like to read more about Kobe 19 and its

effect on working life click the link



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