Interesting article in The Guardian by Prof. Nicholas Bloom “Happier, more efficient: why working from home works”. Based on a number of research studies and interviews, both in the UK and USA, Bloom makes a number of assertions on which I will comment.
Hybrid working (a mixture of office and home working) will become the norm because “we are at our most creative when working face-to-face, meeting people, talking over lunch and coffee, or gathering in groups”…whilst “at home we tend to be more efficient in the daily tasks that make up working life”. I agree (see my recent blog 19/3/21).
“Home based workers were 13% more efficient“. This average needs to be taken with a huge pinch of salt. I have already blogged (28/8/20) and suggested that the level of efficiency gain will be affected by at least six different factors. So actual efficiency will vary by individual worker and sector. This focus on efficiency also tends to ignore the other benefits of home working, namely employee well-being and engagement.
The “classic 3-2 plan” of “Monday, Tuesday and Thursday in the office and Wednesday and Friday at home” is likely to become the norm. I disagree. Although “Google, Facebook and HSBC have already announced” this, they are likely to rethink it because it makes no sense. First, it would mean that their office are full for just three days a week, and empty for four – an extremely inefficient use of this expensive resource. Second, all the direct services the firm contracts out (security, cleaning, catering, and etc.) would be uneconomic to operate just three days a week. And third, all the indirect services (rail, bus, parking, off site catering, etc.) would also experience lumpy demand and become uneconomic to operate. In my view it is much more likely that employees would be split into two large groups A and B. Then A would work in the office Monday and Thursday, and B on Tuesday and Friday, with Wednesday being a ‘flex-day’. On this day sub-sets of A and B may be required to come into the office and/or individual employees or teams could chose to work on site.
“Only half of all employees can work from home – typically university-educated people and professionals“. This is manifestly true. Moreover, it is the non-professionals who are likely to be most affected by automation, robotics and digital transformation. The economic and social implications of both these trends needs to be carefully considered.
Source: Bloom, N. (2021) “Happier, more efficient: why working from home works” The Guardian, 22March