What if working from home becomes permanent?

Marielle Segarra Oct 22, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace
A real estate agent works from home in Orlando, Florida, on Oct. 1. Gianrigo Marletta/AFP via Getty Images

What if working from home becomes permanent?

Marielle Segarra Oct 22, 2020
A real estate agent works from home in Orlando, Florida, on Oct. 1. Gianrigo Marletta/AFP via Getty Images

Richard Fine began our Zoom call with a warning about the hammering sound I was about to hear. His downstairs neighbor has recently undertaken some construction.

“That’s just the joys of working from home,” he said.

Fine talked to me from the bedroom of his Manhattan apartment because his wife and son were working and learning remotely in the other rooms. He’s an executive at Zocdoc, the doctor appointment booking site.

“We have committed to the full company that we will not mandate people to come back until Labor Day of 2021,” Fine said.

Fine doesn’t love working from home.

“I think it’s a pretty inferior form of work,” he said.

The longer the pandemic lasts, the likelier it seems that many of us will be working from home forever. A new S&P Global survey finds that nearly two-thirds of organizations say a significant increase in remote working will be permanent. Granted, there are many people who like remote work — there’s no commute and more flexibility. But I heard from a lot of people who have found it very challenging.

Nyala Khan is the head of talent at the health care company Eden Health and a single mom, living in a small apartment in Queens with her 6-year-old daughter who’s doing school online.

“I feel like I’m a meaner mom to her because my patience is immediately low now compared to before, and my stress is incredibly high,” Khan said. “And she claps back pretty hard. She’ll be like mommy, you just yelled at me, that was not nice.”

She is grateful that she gets to spend more time with her daughter. At the same time, she misses interacting with her colleagues in person.

So does Kate Adams in Milton, Massachusetts. She’s a marketing executive at a tech company called Drift. She has friends at the office.

“You know, on Fridays at 4 o’clock, we’d send up the bat signal, and go join each other in the kitchen and grab a glass of wine and hang out and just like decompress,” she said. “I miss that desperately.”

Last she heard, the office probably won’t reopen until June. So for now, she and her coworker have come up with this game.

“We have a contest sometimes when we’re on Zooms, like if we can make each other laugh,” she said.

They even keep score.

It’s not the same. But it’s the best they’ve got.  

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?

Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.

How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?

Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.

How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?

As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.

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