Long before the pandemic, Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom was already researching the most effective work-from-home policies.
His parents worked part-time for the UK government when he was a child, sparking a long-standing interest in the subject. And thanks to several studies he conducted in the early and mid-2000s, Bloom was already an expert on the subject for decades when workers around the world turned to Zoom and Slack in March 2020.
“I was going to be extremely sarcastic and say, “I have this crystal ball,” Bloom told CNBC Make It. “To be honest, I was lucky,” he says about his chosen research profession.
But his “successful” research focus also provides unique insights. Since the start of the pandemic, Bloom says she has spoken with 10 to 20 managers a week about their business practices and work-from-home policies.
So, armed with decades worth of research and thousands of interviews from around the time of the pandemic, what is one prediction that Bloom says would be “terrifyingly” wrong about 2022?
At the start of the year, Bloom predicted that by the end of 2022, the typical firm “will have everyone in the office three days a week, usually Tuesday through Thursday, and work from home on Monday and Friday.”
With a year’s hindsight and additional research, Bloom says this prediction has largely come true, noting that it was particularly easy to predict before the end of 2021.
“In many ways, it doesn’t seem like a prediction. I feel like I was talking to a lot of companies and gathering data,” Bloom says. “Given the amount of data I have, it would be awful if I got it wrong.”
However, there is one pandemic-era forecast that Bloom believes missed the mark.
Back in 2020, Bloom published a report on the state of working from home. In it, he defended employees’ choice of which days of the week they would work in the office.
Now he’s changed his tune a bit.
“If you survey people, the main reason they come in is to see their colleagues,” he says. “They don’t come in for the cookies or the ping pong table or anything.”
With that in mind, Bloom now advocates for same-day office workers.
“When employees all come to the office on the same days to work together, say Tuesday through Thursday, and stay home on Monday and Friday to focus on deep work, research shows that productivity increases by about 3% to 5% Bloom wrote. recent research brief.
However, Bloom generally considers his 2020 report to be “mostly correct”, noting that it was “much harder to predict” given the general sentiment at the time, which saw working from home more likely to “not catch fire”. in the pan.”
Given the accuracy of his predictions so far, you might wonder what Bloom has in mind for the years ahead.
Despite the influx of companies calling employees back into the office, he believes working from home will only continue to grow. “In the long term, if you look five, 10 years from now, we’re going to have a lot more work-from-home than we do now,” he says.
Specifically, Bloom’s conversations with “Microsoft, Google, startups and venture capital firms” about their investments in the larger trend of researching and developing new work through home technology.
Bloom notes that the rise of working from home has historically been driven by new technology, and the “pace of technological progress” since the start of the pandemic has only served to increase the longevity of remote work.
“If you can create a new piece of software, a gadget, a hologram…anything that makes working from home better, you now have a huge market and you can make a huge amount of money,” he says.
“There’s this famous saying that people overestimate technology in the short term and underestimate it in the long term,” adds Bloom. “I think that error will be quintupled because the right technological change has happened for remote work.”
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