Will Teleworking Become More Common Post-COVID-19?

If there’s one thing I’ve learned writing this blog, it’s that prediction is very difficult, even if–or perhaps because–one is an expert in a given area. That said, I think this take on teleworking is correct (boldface mine):

I simply cannot fathom a world in which the pandemic is declared over and everybody starts commuting to work again. I do not think that we can go back to expecting people to fork over hours and hours a day sitting in traffic or trapped on a disease tube simply because they have a meeting. Zoom or Skype or Google Hangouts might not be the ideal way to conduct face-to-face business, but the lockdown has shown that any number of daily, mind-numbing check-in meetings can be handled remotely.

There will be resistance to allowing people to work from home after the pandemic has passed. What’s the point of having a sweet corner office if nobody’s there to cower outside it? Working from home robs many bosses and brownnosers of some of their favorite methods for doling out favors and establishing loyalty. When everybody is working remotely, the work kind of has to stand for itself. But that’s a bad paradigm if you’re a talentless man who has your job only because your dad and the boss are golfing buddies. There are a lot of people whose only professional skill is laughing at their boss’s jokes at happy hour, and those people can’t wait to get back to the office.

But the raw efficiency of working from home will, with any luck, cause most offices to embrace working remotely. Now that people have had this taste of managing their own time like the adults they’ve always been, dragging them back into a daily routine of inefficiency and health risks will be hard. Telecommuting was one of the big ideas to emerge in the late 20th century. In the post-pandemic 21st century, it might finally become a reality.

For me, the best thing about teleworking has been not wasting an hour of my life commuting every day. I can sleep longer, and begin my off-work hours earlier. That said, there are meetings that need to be conducted in person, but, for me personally, I could probably work at home three days per week and not miss a beat.

I think this prediction might be correct. I hope it is.

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2 Responses to Will Teleworking Become More Common Post-COVID-19?

  1. coloncancercommunity says:

    There are several other issues here that may push the needle (hopefully) towards more off-site work.
    1. The cost of office space…Why pay the rent on heavy-duty office space when most people can effectively and more efficiently work offsite at least 3 days a week? That major cost is something that will be easy to contain if the adjustment to telecommuting can be made. It’s the easiest fix imaginable.

    2. Infrastructure costs. I live in Westchester in a location that has about a 35 minute commute to Grand Central Station. But Metro-North is bursting at the seams. During the morning rush hour, there is standing room only for virtually all people departing from our local station. Meanwhile, they’ve been building more apartments for MORE commuters. What about capacity? The Metro-North system is probably at its maximum capacity. Reducing the commuter load would extend the life of the system as it exists.

    3. Pollution. A major portion of our time on the road is consumed with our commute. About 75% of commuters drive to their jobs daily. Think of the benefits of reducing that by 1/3 to 1/2! Once again, this is low hanging fruit in terms of a “fix”.

  2. Chloe H says:

    This reminds of David graeber book bullshit jobs:
    “What’s the point of having a sweet corner office if nobody’s there to cower outside it? Working from home robs many bosses and brownnosers of some of their favorite methods for doling out favors and establishing loyalty. When everybody is working remotely, the work kind of has to stand for itself.”

    At first I wondered why given the telework choice anybody chose to go to the office or why people who are forced to telework could be so hot to get back to the office that they become mad reopen advocates.

    But then I realized people who their only way to show evidence of working is to have their butt in the seat at the office will need to be in the office.
    Also people who are worried they aren’t productive enough whether it’s true not true or only true because they’re given more work than can reasonably be done by one person, will also feel the need for providing visual proof they are working.

    Let’s face it though a lot of work that can be done remotely can also be trimmed down and just isn’t in the office setting because there’s no incentive. It’s often stuff that involves needlessly looking at the same thing multiple times, and when certain things like opening paper mail, scanning, routing fax docs are consolidated to be done by a select skeleton crew in the office or in a consolidated one day per week in the office, it streamlines workers from bouncing around tasks and work items.

    Anything that reduces multitasking is also going to speed things up because it’s been proven nobody is good at multitasking.

    And then there is just the simple fact that people don’t work as well when they’re uncomfortable and distracted. And there are less likely to be irritants and distractions in your own home because you have control over your own space.

    You control the noise level, the perfume smells, the light level, the foods and things you’re allergic to aren’t being forced upon you and your coworkers aren’t forced to give them up either!

    I think attention hungry middle managers and the sketchy kids of their in laws, old school pals, and golf buddies, will just have to find new ways to conduct their office politics and signalling. I’m sure they’ll figure something out – they always do!

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