- Economists from Harvard Business School predict that one in six workers in the US will be working remotely at least two days a week. A survey by the “global freelancing platform UpWork found that one-fifth of the workforce could be entirely remote after the pandemic.”
- These shifts could lead to significant changes to America’s cultural, economic, and political future.
- David Autor is the co-chair of the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future. He believes that the increase in remote work, which he calls telepresence, will lead to a more homebound life, which will result in less work for others in the workforce.
- “A useful historical analogy might be retail.” In the 1980s and 90s, retail jobs exploded. But ecommerce moved work out of brick-and-mortar shops. What that “revolution did for physical stores, the telepresence revolution could do for office-adjacent employment.” The shift will “put downward pressure on the laborers who serve white-collar workers when they leave the house.” There are currently approximately 30 million Americans who “work in restaurants, transportation, and buildings and grounds maintenance.”
- “Telepresence will almost certainly increase in the aftermath of this crisis, and the history of retail suggests that the transition of huge swaths of commercial activity to the internet has huge economic implications—even if they’re hard to predict beforehand.”
2. Remote Work Will Increase Free-Agent Entrepreneurship
- There was a time when religious congregations, unions, and even bowling leagues provided a social network for people. As those networks decline, the last community left standing was the workplace. Up to now, it has been the one place where the “majority of adults ages 25 to 55 have kept showing up, almost every day, of almost every week.”
- Working from home, the employees’ connection to the office is diminished, and their connection to the world outside the office expands. People on Facebook are as close as those on Slack and Zoom. Slowly but inexorably, the work-from-home model can “weaken the bonds between workers within companies and strengthen the connections between some workers and professional networks outside the company.”
- According to research by the Gallup organization, “having a close work friend increases fulfillment, productivity, and even company loyalty; on the flip side, loneliness in the office can affect both professional and personal well-being.”
- As employees realize that their connection to their employer is virtual, they may realize that, if they are going to be alone, they may as well make more money by going out on their own. This may lead to an increase in entrepreneurship in America.
3. A Superstar-City Exodus Will Reshape American Politics
- “In 2016, Hillary Clinton won Manhattan and Brooklyn by about 1 million votes—more than Donald Trump’s margins of victory in the states of Florida, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania combined. In election after election, liberals dominate in cities, running up huge margins in downtown areas while narrowly losing in sparser places.”
- As more Democrats exit the liberal enclave of the metro areas, the Democrats will begin to outnumber the conservative voters in that region. That is happening already, as pundits and pollsters predict both Arizona and Georgia may be won by Joe Biden in the upcoming election.
- Most of the movers are young and middle-aged, college-educated, white-collar workers from urban areas. “This demographic shift could reshape American politics. A more evenly distributed liberal base could empower Democrats in the Sun Belt; accelerate the Rust Belt’s conservative shift; strengthen the moderate wing of the party by forcing Democrats to compete on more conservative turf, and force the GOP to adapt its own national strategy to win more elections.”
- Analysts note that this migration is not just caused by the pandemic. “Population declines in big liberal cities and migration to red-state suburbs were both already happening in 2019.”