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The Great Working-from-Home Experiment P1503 June 2020

Author: Rob Edmonds (Send us feedback.)

People are working from home and learning online on a scale that almost no organization planned for.

Abstracts in this Pattern:

The coronavirus-disease-2019 (covid-19) pandemic has resulted in a sudden and dramatic scale up in working from home. Many governments have mandated that some of their own employees work from home and have asked private employers to implement working-from-home arrangements wherever possible. Many schools have closed, so teachers are educating students online. Unsurprisingly, tech companies such as Microsoft (Redmond, Washington) and Twitter (San Francisco, California) were among the companies earliest to transition their employees from working in offices to working from home, but other types of companies also began making that transition as social restrictions increased.

As employers scrambled to implement the technologies necessary for effective working-from-home arrangements, collaboration-tools and online-education providers became two of the few types of companies to benefit from the covid-19 pandemic. For example, communications-technology company Zoom Video Communications (San Jose, California) is experiencing a significant increase in business, as is online-education provider Coursera (Mountain View, California). Arunav Sinha, Coursera's head of global communications, said that the pandemic is accelerating a move to online learning that otherwise would have taken a few years.

Many employees appear to be adjusting well to working from home—or at least enjoying doing so. According to a survey of US workers that the Harris Poll (The Stagwell Group; Washington, DC) conducted on behalf of Glassdoor (Recruit Holdings Co.; Tokyo, Japan), 67% of respondents said that if their companies implemented policies requiring indefinite remote working, they would be in favor of working from home indefinitely. In addition, the rapid upsurge in working from home has produced various cultural and consumer-behavior changes. For example, working in sweatpants and a hoodie has become normal, and interruptions from pets, children, and partners have become a fact of working life. Evidence suggests, however, that at least some people are attempting to maintain their professional image in the working-from-home context. In the United States, Walmart (Bentonville, Arkansas) has reported increases in sales of tops but declines in sales of pants, which perhaps suggests that people who are working from home are partially dressing up for videoconferences.