Remote work largely 'here to stay,' economist says

·3 min read

Amid record COVID-19 case numbers and hospitalizations as the Omicron variant continues to surge — and experts warning of the dangers of new potential variants — remote/hybrid work plans for companies are more popular than ever. According to Dana Peterson, chief economist at The Conference Board, these models are not likely to go away anytime soon.

“[The country is] looking at a permanent hybrid situation,” Peterson told Yahoo Finance Live. “Indeed in the U.S., a little more than a third of CEOs said that they expect that more of their workers are going to be working from home, or at least remotely, even if they're not at home. But certainly not physically in the office.”

Peterson joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss inflation concerns due to labor shortages and Omicron cases as well as the outlook for remote work. The Conference Board is a business membership and research group organization/think tank encompassing over 1,000 corporations and other organizations across 60 countries.

Indeed, many companies seem reluctant to stray from the remote and hybrid work and event models that have become so popular since the start of the pandemic. Industry giants like Facebook parent company Meta (FB) recently announced plans to delay its employees’ return to offices until late March, with management also allowing workers to request to work from home permanently or apply for an extension. A majority of companies also reported that they intend to host hybrid events in 2022, according to a survey conducted by event marketing technology firm Splash.

Businessman working remotely from a cafe
Businessman working remotely from a cafe

And while business leaders around the world may be warming up to the idea of remote work as a staple of modern labor, Peterson believes there are still some concerns with regard to sustaining productivity and growth.

“[Remote work] is something that I think CEOs have accepted and understand that there's going to have to be a balance,” Peterson said. “While they're more open to allowing remote work, there's still very high concerns about culture. Can you make sure that your employees are still connecting with each other? Are they still innovating and able to communicate and cooperate?”

In addition, Peterson said that other concerns of business leadership include the costs for companies to accommodate workers both in the office and working from home, ensuring that employees have the right technology, as well as whether new talent can be developed effectively away from the office.

According to Splash’s survey, 74% of large companies held virtual employee trainings last year, along with 58% and 55% of small and mid-sized companies, respectively. Peterson believes that it is important for companies to consider how they define productivity in this new age of remote work.

“We are going to have to think more about what defines productivity, because it's no longer ‘fannies in seats,’” she said. “It's really about how much people are producing and whether or not they're able to continue to be innovative. And some of those are intangibles.”

Thomas Hum is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @thomashumTV

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