Earlier this week I interviewed Alison Pennington, Senior Economist at the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute, about the opportunities and risks of working from home during this time of COVID-19. Alison has been getting a lot of media coverage lately about a briefing paper she co-authored with Jim Stanford Working from Home: Opportunities and Risks. I’ve now published my conversation with Alison as EP35 of my Economics Explained podcast.
Use these (approximate) timestamps to jump right to the highlights:
- 5:40 – productivity impacts discussion
- 8:30 – how social isolation can impair cognitive ability
- 12:00 – discussion of the view expressed in the paper that “working from home will likely become more common in coming years. For millions of workers, indeed, it will become the ‘new normal.’”
- 16:30 – how workplaces can adapt – an end to hot-desking, a return to pods, and staggered start times
- 28:05 – discussion of employee surveillance by employers – 70% of employees subject to at least one type of digital surveillance and there is a risk this can extend into people’s homes if working from home becomes the new normal
- 32:20 – reference to how the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has tried to make working from home easier (check out the ATO page Working from home during COVID-19)
Alison brings up some interesting points, and I largely agree with what she says. I suspect that peak commute demand to the CBD’s of our capital cities will drop off considerably in the short to medium-term (or grow a lot slower, if at all).
What does this mean for the love affair governments have with big urban transport projects? Many were marginal at best before Covid-19, so do we need to re-examine these projects?
Very good point, Jim. Yes, I think it does mean that.