Employers are now ready to welcome back their staff in the office. But employees are quite adamant about it. Hybrid work seems to have become non-negotiable to the working class. Questions arise. Should firms implement hybrid schedules? How? An essay written during the pivotal months of the disruptions induced by Covid-19 foreshadowed the importance of fostering remote work.
Professor Arpit Gupta of The Center for Growth and Opportunity at Utah University correctly predicted that digital activity is not just a temporary replacement for in-person work. It is the future of work.
He said public policy must be authored in a way that it enables remote work to thrive. He suggests that public policy can help push remote work forward. He broke down areas where public policy must focus on:
Telemedicine – The coronavirus pandemic has led to relaxations on doctors practicing across state boundaries, revealing the unnecessary nature of these regulations. This regulatory relief should be permanent. Over time, the combination of a national healthcare market and fully-remote providers has the potential to radically upend healthcare. Rather than requiring patients with chronic diseases to come in frequently for visits—which is difficult for rural patients and those who live in hospital deserts—remote technologies can monitor patient health, and telehealth consultations can meet many medical needs. In-person hospital visits can be reserved for urgent procedures which require a physical examination.
Zoning Reform – A complementary suburban agenda would call for the upgrading of suburban life. This would entail lowering minimum lot size requirements allowing for greater density in suburban areas without altering the environment more radically. Legalizing accessory dwelling units (ADU) units would also recognize the multi-generational nature of families. These units would provide residences for elderly grandparents, adult children moving back, or simply rental homestays.
A suburban livability agenda should also target concentrations of urban amenities in suburban areas where they make sense—for instance, near transit stops. Removing regulatory barriers against the provision of amenities like restaurants, cafes, and bars will make it easier for households to move to suburban areas.
Internet and technology – Gupta suggests that governments should also look into encouraging investments in broadband internet, the main tool that supports remote work. He said “ We need to recognize highspeed internet is as critical for infrastructure as roads or sewers are.”
Gupta said that once all these are in place, economies can benefit from remote work. Talent will no longer be concentrated in big cities. Anyone can be working from anywhere in the world. A reshaping of the economy away from the “winner take all” dynamics of superstar cities will help rebalance economic activity.
However, Gupta said that these emerging trends does not mean in-person interaction is dead. It would still be necessary. But through digitalization and remote opportunity is now more spread out evenly across multiple geographic locations.