Flexible Workplace-Strongly Preferred

The Economist October 17, 2020 pp55 |Business|Bartleby| “Stop all the clocks”. “Flexible working is countering the tyranny of time”


image credit theguardian.com


Summary of this brief essay

Before the industrial revolution workers, like weavers etc., were paid on the basis of what they produced and not time spent, or where work was performed in doing so. That gave great flexibility, quality-of-life, and rewarded high-performers. With the advent of factories producing ever-more complex products, in a central-location, workers clocked in and out after the factory whistle. To prevent further transmission of COVID-19, office workers and others not in lines-of-work that require an on-site presence, have largely been working from home on flexible schedules. A survey by Slack of “4,700 home-workers across six countries…found that flexible working was viewed very positively.” These workers believe that “work-life balance and productivity” and “sense of belonging” have improved. Obvious benefits, especially in American for “Black-Asian and -Hispanic employees,” include being able to address other needs like shopping and healthcare appointments during their usual operating hours and of course childcare is easier. In a way, this is a return to being paid for productivity rather than just time spent. Negatives, are duly noted, include losing “separation of work and home life” and stress that results. Many workplaces offer a hybrid model having some days on-site. “Overall only 12% of the workers surveyed wanted to return to a normal office schedule.”


2244 speculates that unintended consequences are mixed. Good, less traffic-slows need for road improvement, better air quality and bad or just provoking change-demand for commercial real estate should fall, lower demand for fuel and vehicle services.