Not all working from home is created equal. Just ask Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom.
The abrupt spike in telecommuting during the coronavirus pandemic strikes him as a borderline crisis — for workers and for companies. He recently wrote that it is “creating a productivity hit to firms and a mental health hit to employees with costs for years to come.”
Up until this year, though, Bloom was a renowned advocate for working from home. He was lead author on the 2015 paper “ Does Working From Home Work? Evidence From a Chinese Experiment ” — and that evidence, pulled from a two-year, randomized working-from-home trial at Chinese travel agency Ctrip, added up to a resounding “yes.” Bloom and his colleagues found that Ctrip call center employees who telecommuted were more productive than their peers in the office, and less likely to quit their jobs.
Since then, Bloom has also given a TedTalk called “ Go Ahead, Tell Your Boss You’re Working From Home ” — in which he argues that working from home is far more effective than Fifth Harmony would have us believe.
Working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, though, shouldn’t be conflated with the working from home Bloom recommends. This is crisis working from home — unplanned, government-mandated and coinciding with widespread school closures. Many people are working from their literal beds, with shoddy Wi-Fi and kids underfoot.
“For many of us, the current experience was like leaping from the plane after [five] minutes of sky-diving lessons,” he wrote. […]
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