Thursday Feb 02, 2023

Research Explores The Economic Benefits Of Remote Work During Covid-19 – Forbes


Research Explores The Economic Benefits Of Remote Work During Covid


If you’re a knowledge worker, the Covid-19 pandemic has almost certainly meant you have grown all too familiar with tools such as Zoom. The wholesale transition to remote working has by and large been successful, with research suggesting that productivity has largely been strong during the pandemic, even if there have been possible consequences for collaboration and innovation.

“If you have the right connectivity, remote working can increase the productivity across the team, but it certainly isn’t without issues,” Neil Parker, GM of EMEA at intelligent automation provider Laiye says. “When you haven’t met someone the relationship is inevitably very different, so when you’re tackling challenging situations, whether that’s collaboration or more disciplinary issues, it can be difficult.”

To a large extent, tools such as Zoom allowed knowledge workers to carry on much as before. A recent study from Kellogg Business School explores how things might have differed if the pandemic had struck before such tools were widely available.

Business as usual

The researchers analyzed the situation in seven countries, including the U.K., France, Germany, and the United States, and perhaps understandably found that the economic impact of the pandemic would have been considerably greater if remote working wasn’t such a seamless option.

They remind us that remote workers not only contributed via their labor but also via their economic spending. For instance, there was a significant increase in expenditure on office equipment as people adapted their homes for remote working.

The findings emerged after GDP data was collected for each country, alongside the number of people employed and the hours they put in each week. They also collected data on the expenditure people and their employers made on things such as office furniture and equipment, as well as using commercial electricity usage as a proxy for workplace utilization. Finally, they used mobility data from Google to gauge the number of hours each person worked in either their home or their workplace.

Declining output

The analysis found that GDP would likely have fallen by around twice as much during 2020 if remote working was not the option it ultimately was.

What was interesting, however, is that the productivity boom that many have argued materialized in the wake of the shift to remote working was not really found in the data. The researchers explain that this claim only really held water if the only inputs were those associated with traditional workplaces, such as energy costs or office space.

In other words, it assumes that those things weren’t also a cost when we worked from home, which of course is not the case. Once those costs were factored into our home working environment, the apparent productivity boom largely disappeared.

Who pays?

While some employers, such as Google, have provided employees with money to help them equip their home office environment, the majority have relied on employees themselves to foot the bill. The researchers believe that this has been an acceptable trade-off for many given the elimination of commuting costs caused by remote working. Should a more hybrid work pattern emerge that requires both a functioning remote workplace and commuting expenses, however, this bargain may begin to shift.

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