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Three Cheers for Hybrid Work

The advantages of remote, and especially hybrid, work seem to outweigh the disadvantages, especially if such work is supplemented by complementary policies to provide childcare and support urban development. The remote revolution is one consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic that we should welcome.

NEW HAVEN – There is no shortage of hyperbole in the debate about whether companies should demand a full return to office work. According to Citadel’s Ken Griffin, the hedge fund owes its record-breaking $16 billion haul last year to its staff’s full-time presence in the office. But such sound bites ignore all the benefits that remote work offers to employers, employees, and the economy more broadly.

Naysayers dismiss employees’ preference for remote work as a manifestation of entitlement or “quiet quitting” (doing the bare minimum to remain employed). But that snap judgment is far too crude. A recent study by Harvard University economist Raj Chetty’s Opportunity Insights lab estimates that there are around 2.6 million people in the United States who should be working, but are not. At a time when many employers cannot fill vacancies, offering greater flexibility both increases the applicant pool and contributes to higher retention rates, easing the pressure on hiring.

Happier employees also tend to be more productive. Survey data on attitudes toward remote work from multiple countries show that many employees were surprised by their own productivity during the pandemic. Remote work saved them hours of exhausting commutes, and they were able to tailor their days to do their work when they felt most productive. Women and parents of young children especially came to appreciate – and make the most use of – this newfound flexibility.

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