The great work-from-home experiment occasioned by the pandemic has divided opinion in the corporate suite and sparked endless debates about whether employees work as effectively from the kitchen table as they do from the office.
A new study finds that, in fact, remote work does indeed make us more productive.
The work-from-home boom will lift productivity in the US economy by 5 per cent, mostly because of savings in commuting time, the study says. The findings suggest the rapid adoption of new technology amid the pandemic will offer lasting economic gains, helping to boost sluggish productivity that has long weighed on global growth.
Not everyone is a fan of remote work. Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Officer David Solomon has called the new arrangements “an aberration” that the investment bank will “correct as quickly as possible,” arguing that it’s especially crucial for new recruits to absorb the Wall Street culture.
In contrast, Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg says the ability to hire engineers far from the social network’s main offices has opened up new pools of talent, and many employees will continue working remotely after the pandemic — at salaries more in line with their new locations.
The study polled more than 30,000 US workers to gauge whether arrangements that began as a stopgap will endure once infections have subsided. The research found that 20 per cent of full workdays will be from home after the pandemic, compared with just 5 per cent before — but far less than at the height of the crisis.
The findings come as companies around the world continue to announce work-from-home arrangements, shedding downtown office space. HSBC Holdings announced it was scrapping the executive floor of its London Canary Wharf headquarters, turning top staff’s private offices into client meeting rooms and collaborative spaces. Twitter has said its employees can continue working from home permanently.
The experience has aggravated economic and racial fault lines in the US, given that many lower-paying jobs — in food preparation and other essential industries — can’t be done remotely, potentially placing those workers at greater risk of COVID infection.