Stanford University economics professor says hybrid work is here to stay
Even if the shift to hybrid work falls slightly in the near term, it's here to stay, says Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom.
Speaking at CNBC's "Work Summit," Bloom said technological advances are supporting the ability to work anywhere.
Software and hardware companies are "massively investing" in research and development into improving remote work technology, according to Bloom. He said the next generation of digital gadgets and infrastructure could include augmented reality platforms.
"The market's exploded," Bloom said. "There's a huge payoff for coming up with that next tech or that next app. And so technological progress to support work from home is taking off. So, if you look three, five or 10 years out, we're going to have amazing things," he added.
A growing shift to hybrid work could further confound employers who are figuring out how they can best manage employees who are splitting their work hours online and in person. According to Bloom, slightly less than a third of business days in the U.S., or 30%, are spent at home.
The economics professor highlighted several advantages to hybrid work, including lower attrition rates. According to a working paper that Bloom published earlier this year, titled "How Hybrid Working From Home Works Out," quit rates among employees who also worked from home were reduced by a third.
Hybrid work could also support a company's diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, according to Bloom. The economics professor said that minorities in the workplace could be less comfortable in the office, and be among the first to quit following a return to office mandate.
"Being tough on this and saying, 'Look, you're going to come back full time' is going to generate some quits, but it's particularly going to generate quit from minorities, and by various dimensions, that makes it hard to support diversity," Bloom said.
To be sure, Bloom mentioned that there are some risks to fully remote work, such as a lack of mentorship, the loss of a space for workers to collaborate creatively together and workshop ideas, and the loss of a cohesive workplace culture.
Still, hybrid work could offer employers and employees the best of both worlds, even if structuring a schedule that works for all parties can be challenging, according to Bloom.
He said that CEOs and managers should enforce a hybrid schedule from the top down. A team leader who comes in on Fridays, while espousing a Tuesday through Thursday schedule, could influence workers to come in on those same days.
To that end, how companies decide to structure their workplace — for example, mandating a single schedule for the whole company or deciding on days on a team by team basis — the decision comes down to the individual company and its needs, according to Bloom.
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