Will remote work stick after the pandemic?

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Researchers reckon that 28% of full­-time hours might ultimately be worked from home, up from 20% a year ago

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Many sessions were devoted to sketching out the probable features of the post-pandemic world. New habits are sticking—and economists have gathered the data to prove it. Take remote work. Jose Maria Barrero of the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México presented results from research with Nicholas Bloom of Stanford University and Steven Davis of the University of Chicago.

Remote work will persist because the experience of it has been better than expected, and because workers and firms have invested time and money (together estimated by Mr Barrero to be worth about 0.7% of America’s) in improving it further. But new arrangements will also be driven by employees’ preferences. Though many workers look forward to returning to the office, a sizeable chunk—about 15%—say they would definitely or probably leave employers who do not offer remote options.

Some parts of the world may face uncomfortable adjustments as a result, rather as deindustrialisation placed severe strains on parts of America and Europe in the 1970s and 1980s. Research presented at the conference by Conor Walsh of Columbia University noted that the economic burden of the pandemic fell hardest on less-skilled service workers in dense and expensive cities, who previously catered to the needs of skilled workers.

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