Employment

Working From Home May Be a Permanent Feature of the Post-Pandemic World

That has interesting implications for where people will base themselves in the future.

|

Amidst the changes left in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a welcome one might be the likely and long-overdue normalization of telework. We—or at least those of us who are largely desk-bound—were supposed to be able to roll down the hallway from our bedrooms to our jobs years ago. But employers have largely remained resistant to allowing employees to work off-site.

Now—with remote work a necessity for millions of people—the barriers may finally fall. That should expand options for jobseekers to take work without regard for where employers are based, and to settle where they feel comfortable and are free to live as they please.

It's strange how few of us worked remotely full-time before the pandemic, despite the transformation of communications, music, retail, and finance that we enjoy courtesy of the digital revolution. Only 3.6 percent of Americans worked at-home half-time or more as of 2018, Global Workplace Analytics estimates, based on American Community Survey data. At the same time, 43 percent of employees worked remotely "with some frequency," indicating untapped opportunities.

Despite the potential, telework has remained a special privilege for many employers, to be doled out only to workers who can sell their bosses on it, or else have the clout to make it happen.

"The ability to work at home appears to be systematically related to authority and status in the workplace. Managerial and professional workers are more likely than others to have the type of tasks and autonomous control of their work schedule necessary to perform work at home," noted a 2012 article in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Monthly Labor Review.

When it comes to lower-level employees, "executives saw the benefits of using flexible work to their advantage as a negotiating tool for recruitment, promotion, retention and motivation, but they often worried about the costs of training and potential culture change," Mohja Rhoads and Fynnwin Prager of California State University reported earlier this year after surveying Los Angeles-area workers.

The Monthly Labor Review article cautioned that "the ability of employees to work at home may actually allow employers to raise expectations for work availability during evenings and weekends and foster longer workdays and workweeks." True—but I ran into problems separating work and home in a traditional office where the top boss had the unfortunate habit of calling employees in the evenings to discuss his brainstorms.

Importantly, many people have spent the last couple of months honing the ability to draw lines between work and the rest of their lives. Social distancing and lockdown orders meant many jobs had to be done from home, or not at all.

"In February, before the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak truly took hold, 40% of American workers, or 63 million, were employed in occupations that potentially could be performed remotely," Pew Research finds. Since then, "90% of the decrease in employment—or 2.6 million of the total loss of 2.9 million between February and March—arose from positions that could not be teleworked."

As lockdown orders expire and the pandemic fades, some jobs will move back to the office. But continuing social distancing expectations will hamper a complete return to normality for many workplaces. Just as important, practical experience with telework will have eroded much of the resistance to implementing it on a regular basis.

"The pandemic is forcing these investments in industries where telework is possible, with more people learning how to use remote technology. As a result, we may see a more permanent shift toward telecommuting," write Katherine Guyot and Isabel V. Sawhill of The Brookings Institution.

"Our best estimate is that 25-30% of the workforce will be working-from-home multiple days a week by the end of 2021," predicts Kate Lister, President of Global Workplace Analytics.

That has interesting implications for where people will base themselves in the future. If you can start a business where you want to be while employing people living where they feel comfortable, people no longer have to physically chase jobs and talent and location becomes a matter of preference.

Even before the pandemic, major cities were losing a bit of their draw. The cultural mix and opportunity that had made them attractive places for many people was losing out to expense and incompetent, intrusive government.

"Chicago has been losing people for years now, but Los Angeles and New York City have also found themselves on the decline," Scott Shackford wrote last year for Reason. "Each of these cities is facing some severe problems in the way they're managed, their uncertain financial situations, and a general disregard for the welfare and liberty of the citizens who live there."

One pandemic later, after a lesson in the opportunities for viral transmission provided by high population density and the unpleasantness of urban life in a lockdown situation, cities may be losing even more of their gloss.

"Cooped up and concerned about the post-Covid future, renters and owners are making moves to leave the city, not for short-term stays in weekend houses, as was common when the pandemic first arrived, but more permanently in the suburbs," reports The New York Times.

The places that will draw workers and businesses will be those that attract them with desirable lifestyle, affordability, and a legal climate that doesn't treat flexibility as an enemy. That's bad news for California, where the law commonly called A.B. 5 attempts to force workers into employer/employee relationships while discouraging freelancing.

"The law was hurting workers and businesses before the outbreak of COVID-19, but now its negative impacts are being amplified by the pandemic," warns Vittorio Nastasi of the Reason Foundation, which publishes this website. "It is limiting job opportunities for workers who have been laid off as a result of the pandemic and government-mandated stay-at-home orders."

If greater flexibility is a feature of post-pandemic work, inflexible jurisdictions will have a hard time competing.

That's not to say that a telework-friendly future comes without its problems. In an already divided country, it may lead to more friction.

Debates over stay-at-home orders frequently degenerate into tussles between those relatively unaffected by pandemic-related lockdowns because they can work at home, and those for whom continued employment and the viability of their businesses require their physical presence. That split will linger if telework becomes a better-accepted option but remains possible for less than half the population.

On a similar note, in recent decades, Americans have had "unprecedented choice about where and how they wanted to live" and have moved accordingly, noted Bill Bishop in his 2008 book, The Big Sort.  As it turns out, our preferred lifestyle correlates closely with our politics; "liberals would rather live in cities, while conservatives prefer rural areas and small towns," as Pew Research puts it. That's meant people concentrating themselves in like-minded communities, reinforcing each other's beliefs, and having less personal contact with those who disagree.

An enhanced ability to live where we want, rather than where our employer is based, may lead to more sorting along political lines and less room for agreement. That's not a big problem if decisions are left to individuals and communities, but it's a recipe for growing conflict if we continue to concentrate power upwards.

Overall, however, the pandemic will offset a little of the damage done by the virus itself, and by bumbled human responses to the health threat it poses, if it leaves in its wake a more flexible business culture. That will mean more freedom for many of us to work how we wish, and to live in places that make us happy and treat us well.

NEXT: Tara Reade Tells Megyn Kelly That Joe Biden 'Should Not Be Running on Character'

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “At the same time, 43 percent of employees worked remotely “with some frequency,” indicating untapped opportunities.”

    Maybe, just maybe, you are missing that this is an example of a FOUND opportunity.

    I have a desk in Los Angeles. Around 1800 people also have desks in that office. But there are probably 200 people working there on any given day. Before coronaggedon, I would go in two days a week, and work from home the rest.

    I have been some combination of work from home full time to my latest work from home 60% of the time over the past 10 years. I can definitely say that my current process of getting into the office 1-2 days a week is the best of both worlds.

    There really are benefits to getting a team in an office to talk and have random interactions. I try to get my team on google hangouts at least an hour a day to just have those interactions, but it is not nearly as useful as in person.

    As an introvert, I could happily work from home forever. But I recognize that there are good reasons to get into the office.

    1. I am an introvert as well. And part of me is like “please God let me work from home forever”. But being an introvert working from home brings out my worst tendencies in some ways. I don’t get out and communicate with people face to face enough as it is. Never being in the office means I never would and would retreat more and more into my own shell, which is not good. I think even in a work from home environment, you probably should go into work in person a couple of days a week. As much as I would like to never go in, I would likely be the most effective going in two days and working from home the other three.

      1. I’m an introvert as well, but for me, this working from home thing sucks. I consider home to be a refuge from work, and mixing the two environments is worse for me because there’s nowhere to just psychologically dump my work-related issues at the end of the day, whereas before I could process and let them go on the drive home, and not bring them past the threshold of my house.

        Frankly, I can’t wait to be able to quit this telework shit and get back in the office.

        1. That is a good point as well. For some reason it doesn’t bother me as much. I figured it might, but it really hasn’t so far. I guess I am just getting old and cynical and have less of a problem walking away and not worrying about it.

          1. I can certainly see something happen where businesses and even government offices take things on a case-by-case basis and allow telework agreements of various types. Ultimately, it will be more about keeping productivity strong, and those places that can keep it high with a telework-flexible workforce will probably be in a better position to sustain themselves than those who rely on one or the other. Not requiring EVERYONE to come into the office every day would probably do more to cut down on rush hour traffic in the sprawling metro areas than any mass-transit system ever could in this country.

            1. Companies do need to get with the twenty first century. I was at a company that was acquired by a major multinational. The new director wanted to layoff our best engineer because she worked from home several states away, and only came in one a month. We explained she was a best engineer, and the most productive.

              “But how can we know she’s actually putting in a full day of work?”

              Our response was, “Who cares? She’s salaried! If she can get all her work done in one hour a day, more power to her! She still gets more done than any other single employee.”

              1. “But how can we know she’s actually putting in a full day of work?”

                If they need to lay someone off, I think I found a candidate.

                1. In retrospect, I don’t think that person lasted very long.

                2. Change Your Life Right Now! Work From Comfort Of Your Home And Receive Your First Paycheck Within A Week. No Experience Needed, No Boss Over Your Shoulder… Say Goodbye To Your Old Job! Limited Number Of Spots Open…
                  Find out how HERE…..SeeMore here
                  .

              2. And therein lies the rub, to many bosses (and fellow employees) equate work hours with getting things done. I am betting this engineer will be on the short list to let go because of that. Problem is it the toadies and the guys who work late that get the attention of management not those who get things done. Then they get promoted and learn to take the credit for the workers until they can find a reason to get rid of them (see Pournelle’s iron law of bureaucracy).

                1. I am now getting paid every month more than $31,000 by doing very easy job online from home. I have earned last month $31540 from this easy job just by giving this job only 2 to 3 hrs a day using my laptop. Everybody on this earth can now get this job and start making more cash online just by follow instructions on this web page… Read More Details

        2. “there’s nowhere to just psychologically dump my work-related issues at the end of the day, ”

          This was a HUGE problem for me when I started WFH. The *key* point was finding a place that was dedicated to my work. At first it was a desk in my bedroom. My work laptop generally stays in that office and I do my best to never work out on the patio or in the living room or in my bed, like many others. It is so much easier to segregate work from home when work isn’t spread all over the house.

          The other thing that I do is end my day surfing. Before getting up and going to fix dinner, I will spend a half hour “Driving home” by surfing on the interwebs.

          1. And BTW: this is why even after years of WFH, this lockdown has been taking its toll on me. I cannot separate work from home when every 20 minutes my kid is asking me what to do about her homework, or one of them is printing something out, or cannot get Zoom to work.

            1. This is the same for me. I enjoy working from home when the kids are in school but now it’s much harder to concentrate with them home and the constant interruptions. It does take its toll.

        3. I have been working from home for some years now.

          Best way I found to handle it is, if you have the space, to create a designated work space used for nothing else. This room is my office. When I am here I am at work. Found I was actually more productive.

          Some people do very well in a hybrid situation. Other jobs are just hands on and there is no way around it.

      2. As a manager I’d say most people benefit (at least in my field where we have a lot of collaborative work due to big projects) from being in the office 60-80% of the time. Partially just due to having clearer work/non-work boundaries.

        Some people are also spoiled by having physical proximity and won’t communicate well in other ways. I love the option to work from home, and would honestly love to be able to move somewhere isolated and less urban if I could stay employed well. I’m just not sure how viable it’ll be.

        1. Don’t know about spoiled but definitely see advantages to having co-workers close. Working in IT support for multiple systems if difficult to be master of all so we each have our niche systems we are experts on. When one of them has an issue it was nice to be able to just walk over to their desk and ask them have they ever seen this issue vs. now have to IM them and hope they are in front of their workstation to respond. If not I can usually figure it out but when you have a bunch of users crying because the system is running slow etc., is nice to be able to get it fixed as fast as possible.

      3. I’m an introvert as well and still think it’s unhealthy to go full 100% work at home.

        Man is, from its beginning, a SOCIAL being.

        1. Man is, from its beginning, a SOCIAL being.

          Don’t know that I agree with this necessarily. I would absolutely agree that technology is (still) a poor substitute for human interaction.

    2. I’m an extrovert and I prefer working remotely – I would not consider going back to an office unless the alternative were major hunger. Working remotely doesn’t mean working from home – you could work from a friend’s house, stay with relatives another day, travel around the world… Whereas going to an office is dreadful – the environment is so utterly unhealthy for the body and the mind… It’s like being stationed in a submarine.

      1. Yep!

  2. Since this is a Too-Chilly article, I felt it might be appropriate to post this here. This is a GoFundMe y’all might wanna consider.

    Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney will have to pay for his own defense against a recall petition filed after he publicly defied Gov. Jay Inslee’s “stay home, stay safe” response to COVID-19, according to a letter written by county Prosecutor Adam Cornell.

    Cornell likened the sheriff’s decision to question the scientific underpinnings and constitutionality of Inslee’s orders during a pandemic “to yelling ‘fire’ in a crowded theater.”

    […]

    “Yes I believe that preventing business owners to operate their businesses and provide for their families intrudes on our right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Fortney wrote in a defiant 1,200-word exposition posted April 21. The following day, he held a media availability where he reiterated his criticism and promised that his office would not enforce the governor’s orders. While acknowledging that the virus is deadly, he stated that the “impacts of COVID-19 no longer warrant the suspension of our constitutional rights.”

  3. It was a permanent feature before this. The only result of all this is a lot of businesses who probably should have had their people working from home but were unwilling to try it, now having been forced to try it will be more open to it.

    Only some jobs can be done from home. A lot of jobs require everyone to be there. But the jobs that don’t, ought to be more accommodating to working from home. The costs of commuting are obscene. Moreover, allowing people to work remotely opens the talent in the entire country to your business rather than just those who are local.

    1. It takes a corporate mind shift to get work from home to, er, work correctly. I have friends at HP who are 100% work from home, and the company is able to do a lot of good that way.

      On the other hand, I know of other people who “Worked from Home” for two full time jobs. Other people who were running businesses on the side while pulling down a paycheck. One of them famously hadn’t VPN’d into the office or turned on their laptop for over 3 weeks when he was finally caught on an audit. It takes a very effective manager to ensure that you are getting the full value out of your employees.

      Too many companies don’t judge their employees on results- just putting in time. And so they are ill equipped to manage employees remotely. HP, on the other hand, tends to manage their WFH employees like consultants, where they are constantly being tracked for billed hours and artifacts delivered.

      I know first hand of the guy who was caught (and fired for) working two full time jobs. He was one of the most prolific architects in our company, and was responsible for the completion of several high impact positions. I sort of feel bad that a guy with so much hustle was let go. But when your company doesn’t “get” work from home, and can’t distinguish between that guy and the guy who never logs on, the company has to deal with them both equally.

      1. It takes management. I blame the instances of people running businesses and such while working from home on their management. Clearly, those people were not given enough to or they would not have been able to do that. And that is management’s fault.

        A well managed company should judge everyone by their results and have everyone properly engaged such that that doesn’t happen. If it does, it is because management is incompetent and doesn’t know what to do with the assets it has. When I hear stories about some employee running another business for ten years while working full time for another, I can’t help but root for the employee and feel like the company got what it deserved. They clearly were not using the employee properly and were just wasting his time. So, I can’t blame the employee for finding something better to do. You know?

        1. Hah- yeah, that is basically what I was saying below- but it is amazing to me how many managers are not trained to manage in this way.

          1. Many managers are still indoctrinated in the Marxist ways they learned in school and college. One of the most insidious falsehoods peddled is the labor theory of value. Most companies and HR departments, and even the federal government, are so deeply committed to that theory.

          2. Sofia H. Loran Make money online from home extra cash more than $18k to $21k. Start getting paid every month Thousands Dollars online. I have received $26K in this month by just working online from home in my part time.every person easily do this job by just open this link and follow details on this page to get started… Read More About Articles

        2. Large collaborative projects make it hard to judge based just on results. Fuzzy task definition, non-interchangability of work.

          I do my best to evaluate based on output, but it’s not as easy as it sounds. You also end up with cases where someone fails for reasons outside their control, so you want to evaluate based on probable outcome of their behavior. You also need a sense of potential, which is influenced by attitude.

      2. “Too many companies don’t judge their employees on results- just putting in time. And so they are ill equipped to manage employees remotely.”

        To expand on this- a lot of companies rate whether you are showing up each day, and the work you do just kind of happens as a side consequence of you being in the office with a bunch of other people who need to do something as long as they are there. You get a reputation based on your role in meetings (collaborator, leader, obstructor). Your annual review is filled with stuff like “Collaborated on the project to do blah” or “Worked on the team implementing dah”. Often when those projects fail or succeed, your role in that failure or success is not well documented, and you are generally not held accountable.

        When you do work from home, you have eliminated the main metric managers rate you on, and they are incapable of judging you on other attributes. This is why journalists are good WFH examples- they are judged on the articles they write, not their interactions. It is shocking to see even architects and coders falling down on WFH- usually there are 2-3 people doing all the work, while the rest of the team coasts.

  4. “Overall, however, the pandemic will offset a little of the damage done by the virus itself, and by bumbled human responses to the health threat it poses”

    Oh please. Give it a rest.

  5. The biggest barrier to remote working is the hourly wage.
    As soon as bosses lose physical sight of their serfs, they become convinced that there is slacking going on.
    MBO no longer means ‘management by objective’, it means ‘management by observation’.
    Perhaps if we take the opposite track of AB5, and require all workers to be self employed contractors, the issues will become manageable. Get paid for the tasks completed, not for the time logged in to a network.
    But the fascists will never go for that; too much individual freedom.

    1. Paying people for ‘tasks completed’ is a messy, complicated and often un-quantifiable metric.

      Any job where repetition isn’t a major factor becomes increasingly difficult to measure with simplified metrics– unlike manufacturing.

      1. Bingo. It’s very difficult to measure the intellectual contributions on an hourly basis. This really screws knowledge workers. How do I bill for the solution that pops in my head during the shower?

        Hourly is great for people who implement. It sucks for people who create. Especially since “billing” is an entirely different skill set.

    2. biggest barrier is going to be the municipalities screaming about the loss of property taxes and passing ordinances declaring what constitutes a home office.

    3. My thoughts wander along similar lines: working from home may encourage the gig economy. The sole advantage to bosses of working in an office is seeing bodies present, and being able to physically wander by and see that they are indeed working. To a lot of bosses, that is the big drawback to working remotely: they think they have lost the ability to measure productivity.

      I have gotten jobs precisely because I could work from home without hourly supervision and eliminated the need for office space. But most bosses are plain uncomfortable with workers they can’t see. Both bosses and remote workers will need to come to grips with the reality of actually checking the output of remote workers. The crude idea of monitoring keystrokes and screens in real-time won’t go very far, because it’s intrusive and only a spot check. There will have to be ways of measuring actual work done, which may lead to more workers paid by task done instead of on salary or by the hour.

      1. ” The crude idea of monitoring keystrokes and screens in real-time won’t go very far, because it’s intrusive and only a spot check. ”

        It’s no more intrusive than having to put everything down, get into your car, drive for an hour to your office where you sit at a desk under the watchful gaze of supervisors and managers.

  6. I think a lot of these post pandemic predictions will be wrong. We were already living in a post pandemic world. The last pandemic that killed about 100,000 was 1968. It’s going to depend on what the citizens want.

    1. People are creatures of habit. They will go back to doing what they did before without even realizing it. I think work from home will become more common that it was but it won’t become the new norm. There are too many jobs that can’t be done from home and not everyone who has a job that can be done from home will want to do so.

      1. Speaking personally, working from home has been an interesting experiment. In addition to working in a job which is tailor made for WFH, I’m kind of a homebody anyway, so WFH should be a very natural transition to me. However, after three weeks, I’m strangely missing face time with my co-workers. I think a balance would be nice. WFH one day a week. One week a month… something like that.

        1. That is pretty much how I feel except that I am go into work one day a week or one week a month type.

        2. I think a big part of the WFH issue is the outside motivation and overnight transition.

          I don’t resent WFH, I resent WFH at the same time my kids have to WFH with <1 week notice on both.

  7. Extroverts are going to struggle I reckon.

    One anecdotal example is my friend. He’s a salesperson in pharma and a social butterfly extrovert. His company is pivoting their salesforce to work from home and he’s one of those ‘I will be a good soldier type because corona’ types. But I don’t see how sales can pull this off. You need to be face to face when signing a deal. I could be wrong.

    Also. Gee, I wonder if climate change alarmists will finally tele-conference instead of jet-setting around the world leaving a carbon footprint the size of a Triceratop’s horn.

    Also – also – another friend has been working from home and her unmarried female boss has been harassing workers well into the evening. Some bosses just lack common sense and class and companies will have to make sure they don’t hire such people in the future.

    1. “You need to be face to face when signing a deal.”

      The procurement department from the 60’s called and they want their “We chose your competitor because they had a stronger handshake” back.

      1. People haven’t changed. Trust remains the key determinant when choosing between products, especially in Pharma.

        1. The entire accounting department begs to disagree – – – – – – – –

    2. It’s almost funny to see hear the disconnect from reality of the people soldiering on in sales from the rest of a companies employees. My buddy says it’s unreal the email conversations he’s seen and had with regard to the abysmal sales he’s seeing and the mentality of some of the employees who work on the backend. The cliff is coming and they don’t even understand or see it.

  8. Actual people work with actual physical things as well as those who move numbers and words around. Do you think they can run a power plant from home? Or deliver grocery items from the factory from home?
    What about the oil refineries, dock workers, garbage men, and hospital staff?
    It sounds a lot to them and me that you are working hard on a new societal division of those who work with their hands and the elite who carry on the truly important work electronically.

  9. I find working from home the most depressing and awful thing in the world. I am so glad I have been able to continue going to work.
    Like many commenting here, I am a bit of an introvert and home body. Which is exactly why I need to get out of the house every day. We need social interaction. If I go a few days without actually talking to anyone I just feel awful. The lack of physical contact is even worse.

    1. I’ve been working from home. Not a fan of it.

  10. 1) Maybe but just wait till the muni’s figure this out. California did and passed the most draconian rules ever trying to box out subcontractors from working from home.

    2) the entire local tax structure is reliant on property taxes and brick and mortar business’s being a thing.

    3) I’ll be getting my popcorn ready for this coming hilarious battle.

    1. Also work from home means no escape or boundaries for those corporate wage cages. They know they have you 24/7 365.

      1. My computer has an off switch.
        My phone has caller id.
        My email just sits there if I don’t open it.
        I have done work from home; I made it clear what hours I was working and what hours I was not working.
        Companies that would not respect that boundary did not get any contracts from me.

  11. Seems to me like a lot of these white collar jobs are pure bullshit…

    1. Sounds like communist propaganda but ok

    2. Life is probably 80-90% pure bullshit.

      1. It’s still horrifying just how large the segments of the economy are basic regulatory compliance and bullshit paper pushing. Think of how much innovation and growth we are missing out on.

        1. Yes, that is definitely a lot of needless waste.

      2. I’m liking your jadedness Zeb.

        1. agreed. New Zeb or something

        2. This shit has really pushed me over the edge to near absolute cynicism.

    3. Not entirely bullshit, but a whole lot of almost-manure for sure.
      My last 4 years as a programmer were 80% meetings, email, reports, and mandatory ‘diversity’ training.
      I doubt I wrote over 1,000 lines of actual working code.

    4. There is a huge amount of waste and inefficiency in the private sector that never gets talked about on this fake astroturfed news website because it goes against the party line that business is always better run and more efficient than Government.

  12. Some jobs – like stacking the shelves or running a lathe or loading the trucks – do not translate well to working from home. I’ve found that if your company has a lot of employees like that, then the office folks should be at work too and not working from home. More than one shop guy told me over the years that he was glad to see that management’s cars were in the parking lot before he arrived and after he left. I think it boosts morale when the guys who work with their hands see that the guys who work with their minds are hard at work too.

  13. As soon as the mass hysteria subsides, I’m going back to my office.

    1. i never stopped going in it’s been lovely. like 4 of us every day instead of 30 and the rest just bullshit about their hours while they’re at home

      i guess “bullshit home hours” is going to be the new factor … like “living online all day posting @Reason” once was

  14. Working from home is fine. I worked from home for a decade in a prior job. But some caveats:

    * Working from home is not always an option. The affluent coastal elite need to realize this. They think everyone can do it because they can do it. They can’t write throwaway articles for The Atlantic and get paid for it, but not everyone has their job.

    * Most jobs CAN’T be done 100% from home. Again, not everyone is a gig author for the Atlantic. Maybe a job let’s you do 90% of stuff at home, but then there’s that 10% that you can’t. And the lockdown is revealing what that is. I’m an embedded software engineer. I can do most stuff from home, but not all of it. Sometimes I need to go in to hook a different board up. The option to take a development system home is not always there. I do not have an ESD environment at home.

    My current and prior job all had remote IT departments, with just one or two guys local. And it is a major pain in the ass. A lot of stuff can be done remotely, but an on site IT professional is necessary. Who the fuck do you think wires those cables? Who keeps the racks running? Do you really think all this stuff happens by magic? The accountants they it’s magic because they keep outsourcing IT to someplace halfway across the continent.

    Other jobs have different out-of-home needs. Some can be done 90% from home. Others only 80%. Still others are lucky if they can provide an at-home Friday. And of course some jobs simply can’t be done from home. Like picking strawberries. Where the fuck do these people think strawberries come from?

    * Working from home is not easy. We don’t live in a work environment for a reason. We don’t have ESD labs, or business grade internet, or even reliable power. And most homes certainly aren’t ergonomic. My friend had everyone sign ergonomic waivers for those working from home during the crisis. Ergonomic waivers.l

    But it’s more than that. Not everyone has the ability to cleanly separate work life from home life. There are tricks that can help, but it takes a major shift in mindset to do it. The kitchen table is NOT a workplace. ON needs a separate work area. At the minimum a corner of a room or part of a garage.

    * People who can’t work from home should NOT be be considered second class non-essential scum. This prevailing attitude is reason number one that Trump is going to get re-elected by a landslide. I loathe the man, but the privileged attitude on display by the elite is driving people into his hands.

    Not every job can be done at home, and those who do them are just as important as everyone else.

    In summary, I do fully expect a major shift to working from home. But there will be few 100% at-home jobs, and still quite a lot of 0% at-home jobs. That’s just the way it’s going to happen. And no amount of handwringing by the karens is going to change that.

    1. Exactly this.

  15. I’ve been working from home since 2016. Commute is great but the Christmas Party is a yawn.

    In an office there were constant distractions like people bothering me with questions, having conversations, listening to music, coming and going, even wafting smells at lunch could be a distraction. Now all I get is phone calls and Zoom chats, but because that is a more deliberate action I’m saved a lot of the bullshit.

    At this point all an office job would be to me is lost time and money. I estimate I’m spending a good four hundred a month less with money not by not buying gas, tire, brakes, and take-out. Not to mention all the hours wasted in the car.

    Nope, I ain’t going back if I can help it.

  16. If your work can be done at home telecommuting, it won’t take long for an MBA to realize it can be done telecommuting from India for $4 an hour.

    I worked for a consulting company I made all its revenue shipping middle class low end accounting jobs to India.

    If you live in Mumbai, this is great. In Seattle, not so much. Do you know who ends up pocketing the savings from the payroll expense reduction? Here’s a hint, it ends up sitting as an extra digit in a hedge fund account chasing arbitrage, instead of being spent in the consumer economy by a worker.

    1. If your work can be done at home telecommuting, it won’t take long for an MBA to realize it can be done telecommuting from India for $4 an hour.

      Yeah, until they find they’re getting what they pay for. I’ve had to fix code written by Guptas, and let me tell you dude.. it ain’t pretty.

      1. Code written by Americans with college degrees is crap too. They don’t teach anything worthwhile just theory, and most of those guys are looking up how to code on google anyway. It’s just copy and paste from stack exchange.

        That is the future – inefficient buggy bloated kruft code.

        1. That doesn’t describe myself, people who I went to college with, or the people I work with. But ok, dood. Whatever you say.

          1. I think there’s a strong correlation with coding sloppiness and reduced costs of memory/processing power. Back in the day we had limited memory and processing power so everything had to be really tight.

    2. this 100%. Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it – right between the eyes.

    3. “If your work can be done at home telecommuting, it won’t take long for an MBA to realize it can be done telecommuting from India for $4 an hour.”

      If some $4/hr hired help can do your job as well as you, tough luck. You been busted for delivering crap all these years.

      1. Trust me, these guys deliver crap, but when it’s still cheaper to use three of them to do the job of one American, it doesn’t matter.

        1. Not when you need a team of Americans on hand to constantly fix and rewrite the garbage.

          1. A lot of companies have been burned by assuming they could hire three guys in India to replace one American engineer. Let’s just say that it seldom works out the way they want it to.

            1. My company tried sourcing some products from China. Suffice to say, by the time we found the quality required, US suppliers were cheaper.

              1. Someone actually hired you? I didn’t realize there was a job market for poo-flinging monkeys.

                1. “Someone actually hired you? I didn’t realize there was a job market for poo-flinging monkeys.”

                  If you have a job, there must be; hardly anyone here shovels the bullshit like you.
                  Fuck off, you cowardly piece of lefty shit.

        2. “Trust me, these guys deliver crap, but when it’s still cheaper to use three of them to do the job of one American, it doesn’t matter.”

          If some $12/hr hired help can do your job as well as you, tough luck. You been busted for delivering crap all these years.
          Sorry you find the world an unfair place, but earn your money, and no one is going to outsource your work.

    4. An old company I worked for outsourced a bunch of stuff to India. Three years later they were busy onboarding it all back.

  17. I personally doubt it will happen – but what an ugly place that society would become. Introverts are the worst people for a society/community to form around. That’s not what any introvert I know actually wants either – apart from this weird science fiction non-reality-based ‘libertarian’ sort. Even worse when what enables them is the absolute loss of all sense of place.

    Introverts build cocoons not neighborhoods. Which is fine – as the withdrawal option. But serious question here – would any of you actually be attracted to live in a place where everything is a work-from-home cocoon? There will be no retail because online will have especially killed it there. No bars/restaurants – or public space – because even if that is what attracts cocooners, none of that can be sustained by cocooners. This is the same sort of silliness as ‘seasteading’.

    1. If there is one change that I would see as a huge huge positive from all this stuff, it is the decentralization of offices/companies. There is a ton of science behind the notion that we humans work best in smaller groups. Social media in its origins is based on the neural reality that the human brain loses its ability to maintain more than about 150-250 relationships (without becoming based on manipulation/sociopathy). Long before the Internet, I worked for a company that deliberately split itself once any division hit about 100 employees. I didn’t understand why until I saw it.

      But there is a huge difference between remote teleconnections between 100 person offices v ‘work-from-home’ at the individual level. And those remote small offices don’t require urban infrastructure. They provide an economic value again for small towns (as distinct from sprawling bedroom communities).

      1. Decentralizing offices doesn’t change group sizes. If you look inside the hierarchies, they’re already adjusted to comfortable sizes and its a rare person whose work group actually reaches 50 people regardless of how many are in the building.

        Even what appears to be a large department from the outside is broken down into smaller subgroups – which often have their own subgroups.

        1. The issue then becomes communication between groups – which is facilitated by the manager groups having easy and direct physical access to each other.

        2. The hierarchies DO exist and there is a whole class of employees whose sole function is to keep the hierarchies functioning which justifies their pay (which is also much higher than a front-line manager). Essentially beyond a certain size you create the agent-principal problem

          I’ve worked for a lot more bigger companies that wouldn’t have done that split up stuff because ‘economies of scale’ or ‘efficiency’ or other stuff. Which was sometimes true (mostly in process-type manufacturing). But more often just jargon and turfbuilding. You see it at work whenever M&A is rationalized.

      2. I remember stories from office workers around the time when smoking bans started to become serious. Workers would duck out for a quick smoke and inevitably gather together with like minded smokers. The banter that arose between them turned out to be an invaluable contribution to work place efficiency and fellow feeling, something that was absent in the days when workers could light up at their desks.

    2. Nah. The idea that introverts are asocial is wrong, not to mention insulting. They just interact with others differently. For example, Nordic countries have pretty introverted cultures.

      “Introverts build cocoons not neighborhoods.”

      Introverts build libraries, museums, gardens, etc. Every public place where you can be introspective.

      Btw I disagree with the premise of the article. I think people who can work from home generally already are. Maybe not as much as they theoretically could, but even for the most introverted people, there’s a reason for meeting publicly. A lot of people can’t work from home, and don’t.

      1. Introverts can offer a lot when they engage. But it is precisely the terms/nature of that engagement that is not reliable enough – to others – to build a business of ‘place’ on.

        Nordic countries have pretty introverted cultures.

        I disagree. I can see why it might look that way – esp to an American introvert and esp if Italians are viewed as the definition of extroverts. But introverts and extroverts exist everywhere. Before ‘globalism’ became a misbegotten thang, companies that had a lot of expatriates and operations in different countries spent a lot of effort figuring out how different cultures actually worked (eg Geert Hofstede and IBM in the 60’s). Interesting stuff if you’re into that. But I’ve never seen any example where introverts are the ones who drive social engagement overall. They choose when they want to engage – but when they choose not to, things keep going on anyway and not in some weird new way.

  18. “But continuing social distancing expectations will hamper a complete return to normality for many workplaces”

    Good to see that the folks at Reason are educated enough to know that “normalcy” is not a word.

    1. Both “normalcy” and “normality” date back to approximately 1840, so if the one isn’t a word, the other one isn’t either. But in any event, what constitutes a word is decided by what people consider a word, not some prescriptive fantasy about what it should be.

      1. What?! Language being descriptive rather than prescriptive? You think we’re a bunch of libertarians or somethin’?

      2. Ahh, well. Standardized approaches still have some virtue.

  19. I’ve worked remotely for 19 out of the last 22 years (all except a three-year stint at a research institute in Germany). It’s entirely normal for me, and part of the reason for working remotely is that it has allowed me to use my skill set (I’m one of about ten specialists in my particular field) regardless of location. My employer is in the Boston area, but I couldn’t afford to live there with my family, so I live in a much lower-cost area. I have coworkers in Boston, Florida, Turkey, Wisconsin, Sweden, Germany, and Spain, all for a small team. This enables us to be highly flexible. For some sorts of businesses it makes sense.

    So I guess I’ve been in the minority for a very long time now and it’s entirely natural to me.

  20. “‘The Monthly Labor Review article cautioned that “the ability of employees to work at home may actually allow employers to raise expectations for work availability during evenings and weekends and foster longer workdays and workweeks.”‘

    Huh? I started doing a significant amount of my job “at home” forty years ago. Is there a highly-valued employee out there who doesn’t spend a lot of “off-time” brainstorming, problem-solving, “touch up a report” or engaged in other activities which are of value of value to their employer? (Yeah, I admit not all occupations or positions necessarily fit this bill, but management, mid-level management, supervision, and any project-based activities will always involve extra hours.)

    1. This.

      Its not that people weren’t working remotely before. Its that they were doing it ‘on their own time’ in addition to the 9-5.

      If the 9-5 didn’t add value, companies would have stripped it down a long time ago. And where it doesn’t, they have.

      1. This is true but I think there is also a difference between doing some extra work at home when you run into some inspiration and having employers expect work to be done after hours on a regular basis, like high school kids doing 3+ hours of homework everyday after school.

        1. That may be – but what is, is.

  21. Amidst the changes left in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a welcome one might be the likely and long-overdue normalization of telework.

    It won’t be.

    Any more than autonomous cars will destroy car ownership. Any more than we’re going to stop shaking hands.

    Especially when the data comes out showing the the majority of businesses saw a decrease in productivity with people working from home.

    Because here’s the nasty little secret – those of you who are in jobs that can be done remotely *and* are productive enough to trust being out of eyesight? You were already working from home.

    The rest of us will still be getting into the car each morning. The privately owned car.

    1. That, at this late date, when the internet is two decades old, they had to be shown by government action what is in their best interests . . .

      That kind of says that people are too stupid to run their own lives and need the ‘Top. Men’.

    2. Get outa here! You mean my jetpack isn’t coming this year?

  22. I’ve been working 100% from home since about September 10th, 2017. Love it. Have a separate room that is my office / hobby area. Our team is small and what we do we can do 100% from home. I make sure I get out and do things (before this quarantine crap anyway). No commute has given me back almost 3 full hours of the day. Get to sleep later and when I’m off work, I’m already home.

    One thing I’ve been good about for a long time is leaving work stuff at work when I get off. No looking at work email, etc.

    Other jobs I’ve had, there was no way I would have been able to do this 100%. It has allowed us to move to a much better environment.

  23. I’ve always wanted to set up a proper home office, but the roommate took the best room for this and made it his office, and it’s upstairs anyway and I can’t do stairs very well at the moment. The dining room is fine, but exposed, and I have to move my work computer in and out. The best candidate for where to drop a desk and chair is actually my closet. It’s a bedroom converted to a bedroom-sized closet, and it’s awesome. The best naturally lit room in the house, as it turns out. There would be my clothes and shoes hanging from the walls instead of books. Is this idea a clever use of space that arguably has precedent in the closets and cabinets of yore, overly whimsical as interior design in a design environment that is playful but only on the most subtle levels, or just a no?

    1. I hope you get better! I actually like having non libertarians around like you, this place becomes less of an echo chamber. (Except for the Reverend, he’s just an asshole).

  24. Yep, we’re gonna make all those factory and production jobs work-from-home which really just means we’re going to mail them a check for doing nothing.

    Right? That’s what we’re saying?

    Or, wait, are we saying that managers are going to ‘supervise’ those workers from home which essentially means were going to mail them checks while they do the nothing they already do?

    I R Confused.

    The upshot of the notion that lots of people will be ‘working from home’ assumes that tons of people won’t have any work at all given how many people are employed in, say, the service industry that literally can’t be done remotely.

    1. With a bit of innovation, A LOT of stuff can be done remotely…

  25. I’ve enjoyed the extra hour to my day every day from working from home, but I’m going to be honest, training someone remotely is a bitch and a half. There really is no substitute to being able to stand over someones shoulder and point at their screen when your trying to teach them something new.

  26. What percentage of the working population have the capability, the ability or whatever, to work from home? Be so kind as to clarify, if you would.

    1. Most people. We’re adults. If you believe in self ownership and all that…

  27. “One pandemic later, after a lesson in the opportunities for viral transmission provided by high population density and the unpleasantness of urban life in a lockdown situation, cities may be losing even more of their gloss.”

    What a joke. People aren’t gonna give up cities where things happen to move to bumfuck, AR to live with a bunch of yokels.

    This is wishful thinking on the part of the author to decry just how “bad” cities are run, etc.

  28. Very efficiently written information. It will be beneficial to anybody who utilizes it, including me. Keep up the good work. For sure i will check out more posts. This site seems to get a good amount of visitors.

  29. Six months ago I lost my job and after that I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a great website which literally saved me• I started working for them online and in a short time after I’ve started averaging 15k a month••• The best thing was that cause I am not that computer savvy all I needed was some basic typing skills and internet access to start••• This is where to start….
    SeeMore here

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.