The Covid-19 pandemic set off a seismic shift in workers’ lives throughout the world. For some, such as delivery drivers and grocery store workers, this meant accepting increased risks on the job in exchange for employment. For others, however, especially white collar office workers, the actual office was jettisoned in favor of the virtual one. Three years on and remote work has changed employment and work patterns for these people in ways that we are only just starting to get a grasp on.
With the wide scale adoption of social media and the ubiquity of digital communications, the lines between home and work had already been blurring when lockdowns were instituted in the spring of 2020. But the wholesale adoption of remote work for office workers meant that overnight 54 percent of workers went fully remote. Researchers and policy makers knew there would be effects, not only on office workers and corporations, but many adjacent industries, such as hospitality and commercial real estate, and now the early research is streaming in, indicating, as Emma Goldberg writes in the New York Times, “many workers and businesses have made real gains under remote work arrangements, and many have also had to bear costs.”
Many workers were able to take advantage of remote work by moving to more affordable locations, creating an increased demand for services in the places in which they moved. However, this had a negative effect on businesses and services, like lunch spots or public transportation, in formerly busy locations that relied on office workers.
For women, Goldberg notes, it has also been an uneven shift. On the one hand, women have been able to remain in the workforce, albeit while often having to shoulder more familiar responsibilities as childcare options dwindled, but they also faced a more difficult path to career advancement.
While some of these are fairly easy to measure, others, such as the effect on worker productivity have been harder to pin down. Much of this is due to the difficulty in measuring productivity in services, such as law, finance, and education. But even taking that into account, economists have come to no consensus on whether remote work has increased or decreased productivity.
As offices adapt to this new working environment, either by recalling workers to the office, adopting hybrid work arrangements or remaining 100% remote, there will be more data to measure in the coming years, but one thing that does not seem to be under dispute is that remote work, in some form, is here to stay.
If you have any questions about how remote work affects you or your business, contact Berke Weiss Law PLLC.