REVIEW - Uncertainty Mounts If Working From Home Will Become 'New Normal' In Post-Pandemic World

REVIEW - Uncertainty Mounts If Working From Home Will Become 'New Normal' in Post-Pandemic World

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 12th June, 2020) As countries across the globe are easing COVID-19 lockdowns and reopening their economies after passing the peak of infections, the question remains whether working from home in your pajamas would be part of the "new normal" or whether it is going to be business as usual with everyone back to offices once the threat from the virus is eliminated.

UPS AND DOWNS OF WORKING FROM HOME

Numerous surveys conducted across the globe say that many people have liked the taste of remote work during the pandemic and want to continue working from home at least part of their working time.

According to a Gallup study conducted in late May, half of US workers prefer to continue working from home even after the COVID-19 is not a threat anymore. A recent poll in Singapore had more striking results 9 in 10 respondents said they would like to continue working from home, however, the majority said they would rather combine working from home and from office rather than working remotely all the time. Similarly, a joint survey by Eskenzi and OnePoll found that 91 percent of workers in UK want to continue working from home at least part time.

According to Nick Drydakis, a professor of economics at Anglia Ruskin University, one of the most important benefits of working from home was the lack of need to commute daily to office.

"Not having to travel to work during the COVID-19 period, is found to be associated with increased saving, increased free time, reduced stress and tiredness associated with commuting, and positive externalities for the environment (reduced air pollution)," Drydakis told Sputnik.

According to the researcher, a few employees have managed to increase their productivity by being able to develop new ways of doing their jobs, skipping unnecessary meetings and focus on priorities.

"Also, people have indicated that during the pandemic there was an increase in their autonomy because they were able to choose to work during the day when they felt they were likely to be most productive, rather than working at prescribed times of the day," Drydakis said.

Yet, not all employees have enjoyed increased productivity working from home during the pandemic due to crowded households, children and loneliness that affected their concentration on work, he noted.

"In addition, separation from colleagues, lack of physical communication, ergonomic risks (no desk/office), lack of (poor) internet and technical infrastructure coupled with the psychological toll of living through a pandemic and uncertainty have had an adverse impact on their mental and physical health, creativity, innovation, and productivity," the researcher said.

As schools closed over the coronavirus fears, remote work has become particularly challenging for working parents.

"It is indicated that during the pandemic parents had had to invest time to deal with children's educational needs and/or employ a full-time teacher," Drydakis noted.

WILL REMOTE WORKING STAY AFTER THE PANDEMIC?

According to Drydakis, people will likely continue working from home after the pandemic.

"In the short run, during the post-pandemic period, it is well-expected that face-to-face interactions will be kept to minimum and operations which can generate results without a lot of in-person interactions will be favored and prioritized by firms.

Virtual settings will continue to dominate vocational relations mainly for safety reasons," the researcher said.

Stanley Siebert, a professor of labor economics of Birmingham Business school at the University of Birmingham, in turn, argued that "what we were doing before the pandemic was best."

"Working in offices provides advantages in terms of teamwork and swift communication. It helps management to manage, and workers to know what is expected of them. 'Management by walking about' is a celebrated way of getting things done, and it requires offices and factory floors in which to walk about," Siebert told Sputnik.

According to the researcher, there was "business optimum" prior to the COVID-19 crisis - workers that needed no close management has already worked from home, while the rest worked from office.

"The virus has disrupted this arrangement. People are working from home who should not, in the sense that they cannot be supervised, and, equally, their good ideas are wasted. Businesses will want to end this situation as soon as possible. So I expect a quick return to the status quo ante once the virus disappears," Siebert stressed.

Jake Bradley, the assistant professor of economics at the University of Nottingham, in turn, suggested that the post-pandemic changes in labor markets may go far beyond "home versus office." According to the expert, the institutions and policy tools for labor markets that governments typically relied on before the pandemic were clearly not sufficient amid the virus breakout.

"Although economic losses are being felt by workers with the lowest earnings, losses are ubiquitous. Policy is needed that impacts everyone. To make such policy fit for purpose may require a large overhaul and I think quite left-field policies may be on the table, including a universal basic income," Bradley told Sputnik.

WHAT JOBS ARE MORE SUITABLE FOR WORKING FROM HOME?

Nearly three-quarters of IT leaders across the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, France, and the Netherlands expect their employees to be reluctant to return to offices after the pandemic and three-fifth of these companies therefore mull transition to working from home, a survey by Censuswide and Citrix Systems showed in late May.

Tech giants such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and others have already announced that they are expediting the idea of letting their employees work from home permanently.

At this point, it hard to say that the "new normal" in the labor market would look like and which industries are more likely to switch to home production after the pandemic, Bradley, who co-authored a paper modeling how the UK labor market is likely to respond to the COVID-19 crisis and associated lockdown restrictions, told Sputnik.

"One thing we can say is, historically those with the 'luxury' of being able to work from home tend to be higher wage earners. In many cases, low paid occupations involve very little home working," the researcher said.

Bradley underlined that those people, who voluntarily opted for working from home even in the absence of lockdowns or stay-at-home orders, were "typically working in service sectors or similar, where working from home can easily be substituted to."