The winners and losers of the irreversible work-from-home trend

The challenges of working from home are great, but the long-term impact on the economies of urban centers will be even greater. (Getty Images)

I have been working from home for more than a decade. My daughters crawled between my legs while I hurriedly finished my reports to meet the delivery time of a newspaper that was not based in my city and in which I was acting as a correspondent.

Then I have been a communications consultant, freelance journalist and producer of digital content. My clients have almost always been physically away and my relationship with them takes place exclusively in virtual spaces.

That is why I did not have the feeling of cataclysm when the pandemic took employees out of their offices and forced them to work from their homes because they had already come a long way in teleworking.

The fulfillment of my responsibilities with minimal supervision, the absence of interpersonal contact with colleagues, the organization of my workspace, the division of personal and work hours, the correct operation of computer equipment and a good internet connection was not the A novelty that meant for millions of people who had to turn their living room into a makeshift office overnight.

A year and a half ago, many asked me how I did to abstract myself from household chores such as cooking, washing clothes and taking care of the girls to concentrate on that other formal job with which I earn a living. Or they would respond with skepticism when they chatted to me to ask what I was doing and my perennial answer was: I am working.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences, please update your settings here to view it.

But I’m no longer a freak. The teleworking exception became the rule during lockdowns. And although it is true that workers have gradually been incorporated into the physical spaces of their companies, it is estimated that at least 30 percent will continue to work from home. It is a huge figure in relation to the 5% of teleworkers before the coronavirus crisis.

Opposing views on working from home

It didn’t take long for the researchers to analyze the effects of teleworking on worker productivity from this abrupt shift in corporate dynamics. But two leading teams of economists came to conflicting conclusions when it came to analyzing the pros and cons of remote work.

Read Also   Ricardo Rosselló is certified as a delegate of Puerto Rico for the annexation

The first team, made up of researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of Essex, analyzed data from 10,000 qualified professionals at a major Asian technology services company.

Despite their familiarity with computers and software, they had major communication and coordination problems. Total hours worked increased 30 percent, including an 18 percent increase in hours worked after normal business hours. But the results did not vary much, meaning that productivity fell 20 percent because there was a significant increase in effort without a tangible impact.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences, please update your settings here to view it.

One of the reasons for the decline is that the home environment prevented them from working continuously, in addition to the disappearance of personalized mentoring. The worst performers were concentrated in employees with children at home.

The second team was a collaborative effort by the Instituto Autónomo de México, the University of Chicago School of Business, and Stanford University that surveyed 30,000 Americans and found that the majority were comfortable working from home and that the experience had exceeded your expectations.

The journalist specializing in economics and technology Dereck Thompson contrasted both investigations and made a list for The Atlantic of the main winners and losers of the growing trend of working from home.

The winners

1. High-income workers from profitable companies

Men in their 30s and 40s with good salaries love working from home, according to the survey. And companies with high profit margins are more likely to give more weight to telecommuting in the future.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences, please update your settings here to view it.

An example of the profile of these beneficiaries would be a 45-year-old systems engineer who previously worked in downtown Manhattan but now does the same work, for the same salary, from the living room of his home in the suburbs, explained Nicholas Bloom, professor Stanford and co-author of the study.

Bloom expects that in the short term tech giants like Google, Apple, Facebook will maintain telecommuting or hybrid policies, while the more modest companies will call their employees to the offices.

2. Introverts and people who enjoy and are good at communicating online

Offices are ideal places for extroverts who can meet their goals with a few spontaneous interruptions. But for introverts, the office is a space of forced proximity, annoying noises, and the horror of colleagues hanging around and chatting at every turn. These types of workers feel less anxiety working from home.

Read Also   They are looking for the disappeared in the shipwreck off Lampedusa, including children

The face-to-face offices also reward everyone who has the talent for public speaking and making brilliant presentations in front of many colleagues. All those occupational skills lose importance when working online, where those who write well and fast, who understand how to communicate well on Zoom, or who can be short and charming in messages from applications like Slack are valued more.

So it is to be expected that virtual spaces reward skills that went unnoticed in offices.

3. The builders of the suburbs

The money that previously stayed in businesses such as coffee shops, barber shops, bars in the centers of large cities will be transferred to the suburbs. Blomm calls the phenomenon the “donut” effect because economic activity will drain out of city centers and focus on the outskirts of the suburbs.

It is believed that if Millennials transfer their time and money to the suburbs, they will also transfer their tastes. And it is not that they do not like urban life, it is that they prefer to spend less per square meter when buying. And around their new homes, boutique gyms, a variety of restaurants and entertainment venues will flourish.

So builders will focus their efforts on meeting the food, beauty, wellness, and entertainment needs of 30-somethings who used to return home just to sleep.

4. Work-at-home technologies

Remote and hybrid work will bring challenges for companies and workers and both will spend time and money solving them.

At the beginning of the pandemic, an average worker spent 15 hours and about $ 561 equipping their home to facilitate telecommuting. Thompson said that is an exorbitant number that hovers around 1 percent of GDP spending on home office supplies. And that amount doesn’t include money spent by companies on telecommunications, backup systems, and other technologies to allow teams to work remotely. The percentage of proprietary applications in the United States specializing in telecommuting spaces doubled between January and September 2020.

The losers

1. Office and business owners in urban centers

We are not talking about the end of cities, but remote and hybrid work will change your business. Already people will travel less and that means that businesses will have fewer consumers. Bloom believes that the changes caused by the pandemic will lead to a reduction in spending in cinemas, theaters and all types of establishments of at least 10 percent of spending in 2019.

Read Also   European shares close lower, but rise for the fifth consecutive month

Bloom says that basic principles of economics state that assets or inputs that cannot be moved will be the most affected. And moving is easier for a person than for a company but what cannot be moved is a skyscraper. “The implications for the real estate sector will be very interesting.”

2. New workers in starting positions

In the pre-pandemic offices there were chances to meet in the long work meetings, at lunchtime, in the corridors. Now people will go to the offices to resolve specific issues and leave without interacting with the entire team and developing a sense of belonging. There is no real way that new hires are welcomed and accompanied by more experienced team members.

3. Workers without a university degree will be left behind.

Attending college is one of the most relevant markers of remote work. More than half of graduates can work from home, compared to less than 25 percent of people with only a high school diploma, according to Bloom’s figures. The technological revolution that allows working from home belongs mainly to the university elite.

This content is not available due to your privacy preferences, please update your settings here to view it.

The gap between graduates and undergraduates will widen if university jobs are concentrated in an area that is exclusive to those who only studied high school. The polarization could be accentuated if workers with university degrees migrate to telework and are in permanent virtual contact with workers with the same profile. That could create a series of norms and attitudes that separate them even more from the rest of the citizens.

Stories that you will also like:

(VIDEO) This is how post-Covid workspaces are

Germany is preparing to end compulsory teleworking

Why Many Bosses Favor “Presentism” Over Productivity

“If you can go to a restaurant in New York you can go to the office”: the tough message from the head of the Morgan Stanley bank on remote work

Remote work fuels America’s vacation home boom

Leave a Comment