Remote work and hybrid schedules are here to stay

Posted On February 19, 2024

If you want to know about work-from-home trends, Nick Bloom is the guy to ask. The William Eberle Professor of Economics at Stanford University, Bloom has been studying those trends for about 20 years.

And Bloom says the hybrid work model is here to stay.

Bloom, our guest in a recent episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston,” recently shared the reasons for this in a guest essay in the New York Times entitled: “The five-day office week is dead.”

After the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic subsided, people started returning to the office. But the return-to-office numbers leveled off by the end of 2022, Bloom said. And they’ve shown almost no movement since then.

There are inherent benefits to a hybrid schedule – typically three days a week in the office and two at home — for both the employee and the company. The employee avoids two days of commuting – which Bloom’s data shows is the most hated activity an employee typically does daily, even more hated than working itself. The company gets happier employees and, according to the data, roughly the same productivity.

He acknowledged there is a downside to not being in the office for employees, however, particularly when it comes to promotion. There’s less face time and fewer networking opportunities with managers and co-workers. The big negatives for employers, reduced productivity and creativity, typically only come into play with fully remote schedules.

“The advice I give to firms and managers is for professionals, you probably want to think typically around hybrid,” Bloom said. “If you want to go fully remote, you shouldn’t really evaluate this in terms of productivity. You should evaluate in terms of profits.”

That’s because the primary benefit of fully remote schedules is cost savings in maintaining an office space. It also widens a company’s pool of potential job candidates, as geography is no longer a factor.

A tip for employers, according to Bloom, is to keep teams on the same work schedule – in the office on the same days.

Employees in their 30s and 40s are most likely to prefer working remotely, he said – which seems logical since they are at the age to have children at home. Employees in their 20s actually tend to like the mentorship and social aspects of the office setting, and those who are over 50 are just more accustomed to it.

Regardless, Bloom said, remote work – particularly on hybrid schedules – isn’t going anywhere.

“I’ve been amazed how it stuck,” he said. “It’s a permanent thing. And it makes me wonder what else in society is ripe for change?”

Categories: Blog, What's Working with Cam Marston, Work, Workplace