And if COVID-19 were about to fuel the next big upswing in economic prosperity and quality of life?

I just got off the phone with a friend who is good friends with the CEO of a European finan­cial ser­vices firm with sev­er­al thou­sand employ­ees. During the COVID cri­sis, essen­tial­ly all of those employ­ees are work­ing from home, just as my friend is doing. Said CEO found out one thing: it works. And well. So he has decid­ed: Of those now work­ing from home, maybe 3-4 per­cent will return to the office once the COVID cri­sis is wound up. The rest will be asked to most­ly con­tin­ue to work from home.

There is some aca­d­e­m­ic research as to what this can mean in terms of pro­duc­tiv­i­ty gains if done right.1 And, it has to be said, some skep­ti­cism has been voiced with regard to the spe­cial sit­u­a­tion of COVID-19, because work­ing from home has sud­den­ly been forced upon peo­ple who unex­pect­ed­ly have to dou­ble as guardians and teach­ers of their chil­dren which in turn have been evict­ed from their kinder­gar­dens and schools aso.2 But, as the real-world exam­ple men­tioned above indi­cates, it appears to work even now.

So if, when the last COVID-caused ICU case has been resolved, just some firms ini­tial­ly adopt the approach that “our” CEO has already decid­ed upon, it will grad­u­al­ly be adopt­ed by most ser­vices firms for which such a mod­el is suit­able, because the remain­ing firms, for com­pet­i­tive rea­sons, can­not afford to ignore the pro­duc­tiv­i­ty gains the approach can offer. According to the research cit­ed above, while one can cer­tain­ly not cling to exact num­bers from one real-world, if large-scale, exper­i­ment, pro­duc­tiv­i­ty gains can be expect­ed to be noth­ing short of very sub­stan­tial. And then think about the poten­tial for not insignif­i­cant sav­ings in rental expense for office space.

Daily lost liv­ing time for those still com­mut­ing to work will decrease sub­stan­tial­ly because of less-clogged traf­fic arter­ies.

People will have more time to do high­er-val­ue and more ful­fill­ing things in their lives than dri­ving to work, or pushed to (learn to) do high­er-val­ue and more ful­fill­ing work than dri­ving oth­er peo­ple to work.

Those who may feel lone­ly at home because they miss social con­tact with col­leagues (see the research cit­ed above) may enjoy such con­tact dur­ing sched­uled meet­ing times either in the much-reduced remain­ing office space or, bet­ter yet, in the café where the employ­ing firm pays for the del­i­ca­cies con­sumed. More impor­tant­ly still, it may instill in them the desire and spur respec­tive ade­quate activ­i­ty to improve their pri­vate social life that one would assume is lack­ing some­what when col­leagues are the most impor­tant social con­tacts.

In coun­tries like Italy, where beau­ti­ful his­toric build­ings are cur­rent­ly used as mun­dane office space, a lib­er­a­tion of such space may lead to more afford­able liv­able, lov­able liv­ing space for many peo­ple. Of course, for real estate invest­ment firms, the some­what low­er rents from res­i­den­tial instead of com­mer­cial occu­pants will mean a painful hair­cut, with reper­cus­sions also for finan­cial insti­tu­tions, so this will have to be a non-too-abrupt change.

Needless to say that every­one con­cerned about city-cen­ter air qual­i­ty will wel­come the reduced pol­lu­tion result­ing from reduced work-relat­ed com­mut­ing.

In short: pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and prof­its sig­nif­i­cant­ly up, qual­i­ty of life sig­nif­i­cant­ly improved. While we as humankind are still lick­ing our short-term wounds from COVID-19, we can at the same time look for­ward to very sig­nif­i­cant improve­ments the pan­dem­ic may bring about for our liveli­hoods much soon­er than many now expect. If we han­dle the oppor­tu­ni­ty well that has been forced upon us, those unbe­liev­able crea­tures that are human beings may be able to turn COVID-19 into one of the biggest eco­nom­ic as well as soci­etal suc­cess sto­ries of our time.

Addendum, May 12, 2020

The above post was a spon­ta­neous “out­burst” after end­ing a tele­phone con­ver­sa­tion.

We are cur­rent­ly, in a way unfor­tu­nate­ly, extreme­ly busy wrap­ping up devel­op­ment of our pro­pri­etary fore­cast­ing soft­ware on the one hand, and final­iz­ing, con­cur­rent­ly, two major arti­cles in the med­ical field, one on the systemic/immunological ques­tions that COVID-19 has yet again posed with unwel­come vig­or, poised to appear on loico, the oth­er attempt­ing at a sys­tem­at­ic under­stand­ing of hip­pocam­pal func­tions – some­thing which at every turn threat­ens to esca­late into a top­ic that would war­rant a title as encom­pass­ing as “The brain” -, and which we have agreed to sub­mit to a peer-reviewed sci­en­tif­ic jour­nal.

So explain­ing in a sat­is­fac­to­ry way why a per­fect­ly spon­ta­neous writ­ing is some­thing per­fect­ly fit­ting for a web­site focused on actu­al log­ic will unfor­tu­nate­ly have to wait a few weeks longer.

After writ­ing the post, how­ev­er, I could not refrain from doing a web search to see what oth­ers may have writ­ten on the top­ic. I found that while mak­ing work­ing from home per­ma­nent has been dis­cussed in a num­ber of arti­cles,3 and while “Fortune” has pub­lished a piece on the “Nationwide” insur­ance com­pa­ny4 plan­ning sim­i­lar things as “our” European CEO at about the same time as we have pub­lished the above post, it seems that, again, see­ing the facts and con­nect­ing them in a log­i­cal way are often two dif­fer­ent things.

While oth­er arti­cles typ­i­cal­ly men­tion some of the ben­e­fits of mak­ing “WFH” per­ma­nent, such as sav­ings on office rental expens­es and employ­ee sat­is­fac­tion, they do not draw the con­clu­sion that this will very like­ly mean that medi­um-term the world econ­o­my will actu­al­ly come out of COVID-19 sig­nif­i­cant­ly strength­ened at its core, not weak­ened and head­ed for a depres­sion as has been the per­va­sive pub­lic per­cep­tion in recent weeks and months.

And when “Fortune” quotes the “Nationwide” CEO as say­ing: “At the end of the day, we looked at key his­tor­i­cal events that shaped soci­ety: the Great Depression, the 1918 pan­demics, WWI and WWII, 9/11, and the finan­cial cri­sis. During these crises peo­ple reduced con­sump­tion, grew more fru­gal. After the cri­sis, wor­ry con­tin­ued and it was a per­ma­nent mind­set shift. That’s real­ly impor­tant. We think the world is chang­ing. We’ve got to take cost out of the sys­tem. We want to enable sus­tain­able growth,”4 then it strikes that he does not men­tion the fact that WWI and the 1918 pan­demics were actu­al­ly fol­lowed by the “roar­ing twen­ties”, and that he him­self, in his stream of thought, clear­ly appears to make the con­nec­tion between “tak­ing cost out of the sys­tem” and “enabling sus­tain­able growth”.

“Growth”, that is. Not depres­sion.

_____
  1. https://nbloom.people.stanford.edu/sites/g/files/sbiybj4746/f/wfh.pdf[]
  2. https://news.stanford.edu/2020/03/30/productivity-pitfalls-working-home-age-covid-19/[]
  3. See, for exam­ple, https://www.informationweek.com/strategic-cio/security-and-risk-strategy/cfos-covid-19-work-from-home-plans-may-be-permanent/d/d-id/1337576 and https://www.crn.com/news/running-your-business/some-may-work-from-home-permanently-after-covid-19-gartner[]
  4. https://fortune.com/2020/05/11/permanent-work-from-home-coronavirus-nationwide-fortune-100/[][]
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on pinterest
Share on vk
Share on linkedin
Share on xing
Share on google
Share on email
Share on print
An Egyptian man takes a hostage at knifepoint in the Milan cathedral, threatening to slit his victim’s throat. A once reputable Italian paper tells its readers that police “convinced him to lay down his weapon and release the hostage”, when in fact, for everyone to see on video, police had to forcefully overwhelm him. The full and unredacted video, in turn, explodes on social media.
After it has come to light that “Black Lives Matter” is a marxist – and blatantly racist – organization that could not care less about equal opportunity but that, according to rally signs exhibited by “activists”, simply wants to “kill” or “eat the rich”, now the climate change scare appears to be crumbling to pieces as well: It appears we now have the Edward Snowden of climate change alarmism.

Leave a comment / join the discussion

After it has come to light that “Black Lives Matter” is a marxist – and blatantly racist – organization that could not care less about equal opportunity but that, according to rally signs exhibited by “activists”, simply wants to “kill” or “eat the rich”, now the climate change scare appears to be crumbling to pieces as well: It appears we now have the Edward Snowden of climate change alarmism.