‘Work from home’ is here to stay | Brunell

Working from home jumped 12,000 percent last year, and 42 percent of the labor force is working from home full time.

Don Brunell

Don Brunell

With COVID-19 vaccines being widely dispensed, will an end to this pandemic halt “work from home?” Will workers return to downtown offices at pre-pandemic levels?

Not likely!

However, it is not an either/or question, said Stanford Professor Nicholas Bloom, who is co-director of the National Bureau of Economic Research’s productivity, innovation and entrepreneurship program.

“Working from home will be very much a part of our post-COVID economy,” he added, “so, the sooner policymakers and business (employers) think of the implications of a home-based workforce, the better our firms and communities will be positioned when the pandemic subsides.”

In September, Reuters reported that US-based Enterprises Technology Research surveyed 1,200 chief information officers who indicated more than one-third of their workers are “permanently remote” in 2021.

The logical follow-up question: Should employers (business and government) get rid of the offices altogether? “No, but you may want to move it,” Bloom added. “What is happening, however, is offices are moving from skyscrapers to industrial parks?”

The pandemic reversed the urban growth pattern starting in the 1980s “when Americans have flocked to revitalized downtowns.”

Occupied office space in Seattle has grown 34 percent since 2010, according to the Downtown Seattle Association. Now, those towers sit hollow. Roughly 90 percent of the 47 million square feet of leased Seattle office space is currently vacated as a result of the pandemic.”

Bloom estimates that post-pandemic workers not in downtown could trim total daily spending in bars, restaurants and shops by half of pre-pandemic levels.

Regardless, whether offices are in tall buildings, strip malls or industrial parks, they must be reconfigured. They need to be roomier and arranged for social distancing. So will lobbies, elevators, breakrooms, transit buses and commuter trains which often were crammed to capacity.

Bloom’s best advice is plan to split time between home and the workplace. Work from home about one to three days a week. It’ll ease the stress of commuting, allow for employees to use their at-home days for quiet, thoughtful work, and let them use their in-office days for meetings and collaborations. That schedule also gives employers options to rearrange offices for “shared space” to avoid renting additional footage.

Before the pandemic, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated only 15 percent of salaried employees had a full day working from home and only 2 percent worked from home full time.

Working from home now is dominating our lives and jumped by 12,000 percent last year. Now, 42 percent of our labor force works from home full time. However, another 33 percent of workers are unemployed—evidence of the savage impact of the lockdown. The remaining 26 percent work at traditional employer premises. They are mainly essential service workers such as firefighters and hospital staff.

“We see that these at-home workers now account for more than two-thirds of America’s GDP (economic activity),” Bloom adds.

Work from home is not for everyone.

Bloom found only half of the people surveyed were able to work from home at an efficiency rate of 80 percent or more. “These are mostly managers, professionals and financial workers who can easily carry out their work on their computers by videoconference, phone and email.”

“The remaining half of Americans don’t benefit from those technological workarounds — many employees in retail, health care, transportation and business services cannot do their jobs anywhere other than a traditional workplace,” Bloom added.

Finally, Forbes pointed out the decade between 2020 and 2030 will see the number of Americans eligible to work at its lowest point since the Civil War. “So it is a good thing that remote work makes many employees happier and more productive because companies will want to hold onto those employees.”

Don C. Brunell is a business analyst, writer and columnist. He retired as president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s oldest and largest business organization, and now lives in Vancouver. He can be contacted at theBrunells@msn.com.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@courierherald.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.courierherald.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) Please keep letters to 500 words or less.

More in Business

The Moe Vegan food truck serves meals at the city of Kent’s annual Community Thanksgiving Dinner on Nov. 21, 2020. Sound Publishing file photo
King County fire marshals offer regulatory relief to food trucks

39 fire authorities have reportedly agreed to standardize fire codes and inspections.

Don Brunell
Unemployment insurance intended as a bridge between jobs | Brunell

It shouldn’t be an incentive to stay jobless.

From left to right: Peggy Wenham, Toby Wenham and Sheree Schmidt stand for a picture outside Sweet Necessities on Griffin Avenue. Photo by Alex Bruell
For sale: Enumclaw candy shop Sweet Necessities looks for a new owner

Co-owner Toby Wenham is joining his wife Peggy in retirement from their twin Enumclaw businesses

Don Brunell
Good news from Hanford | Brunell

If Washington is going to reduce CO2 emissions, then it has to go nuclear.

A street sign along Bay Street in Toronto's financial district is shown on Tuesday, January 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Energy and base metals help lift TSX in early trading, U.S. markets down

TORONTO — The energy and base metal sectors helped lift Canada’s main… Continue reading

Teago Manoharan on March 16 holds open the door to the Buckley Kitchen, a commissary kitchen he started in 2019 that hosts a number of bakers and chefs who couldn't otherwise afford a space to cook. Photo by Alex Bruell
Buckley Bakery builds on bold businessman’s big business plan

Teago Manoharan wants to bring a bakery to Buckley. And an app. And a restaurant. And classes.

Cash Cards Unlimited partners, left: Nick Nugwynne, right: Cassius Marsh (photo credit: Cash Cards Unlimited)
Former Seahawks player Cassius Marsh cashes in on trading cards

Marsh and his friend open physical and online trading card store as collectibles boom amid pandemic.

Teaser
First large-scale, human composting facility in the world will open in Auburn

“It’s what nature meant us to do. We just do it faster.”

Don Brunell
Keeping America’s semiconductor edge is paramount | Brunell

Semiconductors are among the U.S.’s top five exports.

Melissa Hyce is the proud owner of the new Cole Street business, Urban Junktion. Photo by Ray Miller-Still
Urban Junktion opens on Cole Street

The new business doesn’t just want to sell vintage home decor, but also teach you how to make some yourself.

Customers of the Buckley Plateau Market line up in an alley way to receive their orders. Photo courtesy Sean Shands
Plateau farmers, food producers open REKO market in Buckley

REKO markets are all about getting food fresh from the farm to your table.