I’m writing this sitting on an airplane wondering whether this week will be the last week I travel for quite a while. As the level of fear (dare I say panic) continues to rise, we’re bombarded with exhortations to wash our hands frequently (easy to do), stop touching our face (virtually impossible, just try to do so for even 15 minutes) and dispense with handshakes, hugs and even standing within 6 feet of one another. While I keep telling myself (and I fervently believe) “This, too, shall pass,” I can’t help feeling a sense of anxiety driven by the uncertainty of it all.
To relax, I open up the latest edition of The Economist and as I read along, I come upon the “Schumpeter” column (Economist readers will recognize that as the regular column in the Business section).
Titled “Plan V,” the teaser copy says, “Covid-19 is foisting change on business. Some of it may be for the better.” One of the key elements of the article is about how companies are responding to the virus risk by encouraging (often requiring) that associates telecommute, in many cases as a “test” for contingency plans and in some cases (e.g. Seattle) as a strategy for arresting the pace of new cases. This dovetails with a story I heard on NPR driving to the airport discussing the same thing.
Both NPR and The Economist make the argument that this could be an unexpected, but possibly positive, long-term impact from the virus. The latter points out that British and American firms pay on average $5,000 per employee on rental costs despite only 40-50% of desks being used during working hours. They suggest that employers may find an increase, or at least no dip, in productivity and thus change working patterns in perpetuity.Read More