The New Battles to Come Over Working From Home: Justin Fox

A lot of things can be expected to go back to normal once the Covid-19 pandemic is truly over. Restaurants, cruise ships and resort towns will be packed again. Spending on home improvements will subside.

Since early last spring, though, many thoughtful people have been speculating that the workplace will never be the same. The success of the great experiment in working from home during the pandemic has made it much clearer than it was before that many of the things we do in offices can be done just as well or better while working remotely and communicating electronically. And because a lot of the best jobs in recent decades have been concentrated in crowded, expensive cities, this could also provide an opportunity for workers to relocate to places where life is simpler and real estate cheaper.

The extent of this permanent shift remains anybody’s guess. But views about it are becoming better informed as time passes, and two recent releases of survey data offer a fascinating compilation of them. They express a consensus that a lot more work will be done remotely in the future than was the case before the pandemic, but also reveal some potential conflicts over how exactly that will play out.

Hiring managers surveyed for online talent marketplace Upwork Inc., for example, predict that 37.5% workers at their organizations will be working remotely at least part of the time five years from now, up from 21.2% before the pandemic.

Meanwhile, on the basis of several large surveys of workers conducted from May through October, economists Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom and Steven J. Davis, in a paper titled “Why Working From Home Will Stick,” forecast that 22% of all full work days in the U.S. will be supplied from home after the pandemic ends, compared with just 5% before.