Work in the age of pandemic
Back in 1964 Arthur C. Clarke predicted that by the year 2000 cities as we know them would no longer exist. We would live in a world of instant communication where we could contact anyone on Earth without leaving our home. This technology would make it possible for many people to conduct business without having to be present at a specific physical location. Today, we know the technology Clarke was talking about as the Internet. And while his technological predictions could not have been more correct, he severely underestimated the pace of social progress.
Despite modern office jobs being done entirely on a computer, most workers are still expected to get up in the morning, battle the daily commute, and physically congregate at the office to work. Companies have given innumerable arguments for why this must be so, and until recently there wasn’t an empirical way to test any of them.
Unfortunately, it’s often difficult to tell whether an argument holds water without running an experiment since ideas that sound great on paper can spectacularly fail in practice. However, the pandemic presented a unique scenario where it was no longer safe to continue following these practices resulting in a forced experiment of mass remote work across the world. We now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that remote work was possible all along, and a recent study shows that there is no loss of productivity associated with it. It would appear that the main barrier to remote work was the desire to stick with the familiar. Now that this valuable experiment has been run we shouldn’t simply discard the results, but rather learn from it.
As we start coming out of the pandemic, workers should demand the ability to continue working remotely. There is no longer any justification to keep up the daily commute.
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