The pandemic induced ‘Work from Home’ has gone through a full cycle with businesses initially forced to embrace it, then finding cost and productivity benefits to now recalling workers back to office citing productivity issues. Simon Kuper argues why that might not be a great idea:x

“…the argument for the efficiency of office work is dubious. Sure, office workers are more productive than the small minority of workers who work entirely remotely, but there’s a trade-off: the latter are cheaper to employ and easier to retain. In fact, the low cost of fully remote workforces is helping encourage start-ups, says Nicholas Bloom of Stanford University. He adds that hybrid workers — people who come into the office sometimes — appear to be about as productive as office workers.

No doubt certain jobs ought to be done on site. We should identify them. But overall, as a report by Goldman Sachs notes, “economic studies disagree on the productivity effects of remote work”.

..This seems a slim basis for scrapping a happier way of organising work. Some people live to work, while most work to live. But nobody lives to commute. Policymakers who fret that public transport is no longer full at rush hour ought to reflect that few passengers wanted to be there every rush hour.  

Then there are would-be workers for whom a daily commute is close to impossible. That’s true for many disabled people, about one in six humans, who have been clamouring for remote work for decades. The US employment rate of disabled people hit a record 21 per cent last year.

Remote work also benefits the people who keep our ageing societies functioning: unpaid carers for elderly or disabled relatives. More than one in five American adults (disproportionately female) falls into this category. Many will only take jobs that they can do from their mom’s kitchen table. Yet office bosses tend to ignore the issue, possibly because few bosses have ever been carers (or disabled).”

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