Early in the spring of 2020, due to Covid19, those in professional fields who were lucky enough to keep their jobs were sent home to work. This group consisted mainly of office workers, like accountants and others in white-collar fields. In a reversal of fortune, retail workers and those in service positions became what was dubbed 'essential." Those were strange days, to say the least, but what has happened over the last few months is that society's view on working remotely and the view of those actually working from home may be forever changed.
Today on the Rules of Thumb blog from MoneyThumb we are going to delve into this article from the New York Times, titled The Office Will Never Be The Same. The article explains how many white-collar workers say their lives are now much better since they are working remotely. They have adjusted their schedules to fit their lives, and they’re enjoying it, according to a new, nationally representative survey by Morning Consult for The New York Times.
Leslie Perlow, a professor at Harvard Business School who has spent her career going into companies and convincing them to abolish things like meetings or weekend work — in order to add back only what they truly need — said she never imagined she would see this experiment happen on such a large scale.
“People are seeing a different world,” she said. “That’s going to create the revolution to change the way we work. A lot of this is possible in a way we never knew.”
America’s office workers have been miserable and burned out for a long time. The expectation of long hours at the office has been particularly hard on parents — especially mothers. Women, young people and people with disabilities have for years been among those at the forefront of pushing for more freedom in where work gets done.
Perhaps not surprisingly, employers have offered many reasons they can’t give people quite so much autonomy. People can’t be trusted to get their work done on their own, they have said. Clients expect in-person, round-the-clock service. Running into co-workers in the hallway is sure to spur serendipitous ideas, right? And, people need to attend meetings, as well as meetings to prepare for those meetings and meetings to debrief after them.
But in the last few months, it has become clear to everyone what was really going on. Corporate America just didn’t want to change. “All these things could be done yesterday: This is the reality,” said Betsey Stevenson, a labor economist at the University of Michigan.
It’s also clear that America’s workers actually like the new way of doing things, even amid the challenges of the pandemic. In the survey by The Times and Morning Consult, which polled 1,123 people who have worked at home these past few months — representing the range of jobs, demographics, and income levels of America’s remote workers — 86 percent said they were satisfied with remote work.
However, not all white-collar employers are committed to this new way of work, either. Some bosses schedule back-to-back Zoom meetings and monitor desk time by whether a green Slack light is on, signifying employees are available. Others have already summoned people back to work. There is also the possibility that employers could panic about trying something new in a recession — and with high unemployment, workers have less power to make demands.
Even for the lucky ones, all-remote work into the winter could become dull and lonely, which is one reason that most office workers say in surveys that they prefer a hybrid arrangement: in the office some days and remote some days. Still, many analysts say that lockdowns are an unexpected opportunity to remake work for the long term and that there’s no reason a work-life balance shouldn’t be the norm in a post-COVID world.
Researchers who have spent years trying to convince companies to operate this way warn that the new movement could backfire. To do it right, they say, managers should be very clear about what’s expected (“send me this report by Tuesday at noon”) and then leave it to employees to determine how it gets done. “Manage the work, not the people,” said Jody Thompson, a founder of a firm called CultureRx, which helps companies figure out how to measure results instead of desk time.