Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, work from home has been promoted rapidly in countries around the world. How does telecommuting affect productivity?
The average commute time abroad is about an hour. According to Marchetti’s constant, since the Neolithic period, human commuting time has hardly changed from an hour to an hour. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that occurred in 2020, governments around the world have recommended telecommuting, so some office workers have been placed on zero commuting hours. When commuting time is zero, the time spent commuting so far is displayed. However, according to a joint study between Harvard University and New York University, it is said that free commuting time is nothing more than a desktop theory.
A joint survey conducted by Harvard University and New York University in July 2020 analyzed the digital communication of 3.14 million workers and estimated the number of meetings and working hours that workers attended through emails and other messages. The survey found that meeting time was reduced by 11.5% compared to pre-pandemic. On the other hand, average working hours increased by 48.5 minutes per day.
It is calculated that the free time increased by only 11.5 minutes even when the reduction in commuting time due to telecommuting was included. However, it is pointed out that many people do housework while working from home. The actual increase in free time is larger than the visible increase in free time.
In addition to the advantages of free time, telecommuting can reduce the cost of commuting and the time it takes to commute or prepare for work. Combining this series of advantages, it is clear that telecommuting usually brings pure benefits.
Of course, there are downsides to working from home. One of these is the lack of social contact. People who used to be a good stimulus for communication at work can take on the stress of working from home. Also, those who prefer to chat with colleagues to get ideas will switch to e-mail or chatting and fall into a lack of chatter.
Telecommuting also has disadvantages for middle managers. Before the pandemic, managers could actually see and supervise workers. However, if you switch to telecommuting, you have no choice but to guess the working situation by operating a computer, etc. Due to this situation, there is a possibility of disguising the working situation by operating a computer, etc.
There may also be inequalities caused by telecommuting. The necessity of telecommuting has been emphasized due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but according to a study by the University of Chicago, it is known that only 34% of occupations where telecommuting is possible. Blue-collar jobs are not telecommutable, and even if telecommuting improves productivity for some jobs, this impact cannot be shared across society.
Government intervention may be necessary for this phenomenon. It is pointed out that if unemployment benefits are lowered amid an increase in the number of unemployed due to the epidemic, the suicide rate and other problems caused by social suffering will increase sharply. It is argued that public funds should be invested in various occupations and employment itself should be increased. Related information can be found here.