Policy brief

COVID-19 and the shift to remote work

Hybrid arrangements in which part of the week is spent at the office, and part at home, are likely to become the norm.

Publishing date
16 June 2022
J. Scott Marcus
Working from home

COVID-19 has accelerated the shift to remote work. Enabling knowledge workers to do their jobs from home or elsewhere brings benefits by increasing labour participation, avoiding unproductive commuting time (thus reducing the carbon footprint), and reducing the gender gap by enabling single parents or partners with domestic-care responsibilities to work.

Not all jobs are suitable for remote work, but far more remote work is feasible than was typical prior to the pandemic.

The post-pandemic new normal is sure to differ both from the pre-pandemic normal and from current arrangements. Hybrid arrangements in which part of the week is spent at the office, and part at home, are likely to become the norm.

Employers, workers, educators, trade unions and governments will need to adapt to the new normal. For employers and managers, the change emphasises the need to manage based on results rather than hours worked, and likely implies many changes in how they manage their employees. Workers will need to be flexible in order to capitalise on the new opportunities in the evolving world of work, and to ensure they have suitable skills for remote work. Educators will need to further emphasise digital skills, and to accelerate the shift from traditional education to lifelong learning. Trade unions will need to re-think how they recruit workers who do not see each other every day, and how they can respond to evolving social protection needs. Policymakers will need to deal with distributional effects driven by the shift to remote work, to protect the work-life balance that remote work potentially erodes, and to seek to ensure that the shift to remote work does not erode social protection.

A version of this policy contribution is published as a chapter in Whalley, J., V. Stocker and W. Lehr (eds) (2023) "Beyond the Pandemic? Exploring the impact of Covid-19 on telecommunications and the internet", Emerald Publishing, available here.

About the authors

  • J. Scott Marcus

    J. Scott Marcus is a Senior Fellow at Bruegel, a Brussels-based economics think tank, and also works as an independent consultant dealing with policy and regulatory policy regarding electronic communications. His work is interdisciplinary and entails economics, political science / public administration, policy analysis, and engineering.

    From 2005 to 2015, he served as a Director for WIK-Consult GmbH (the consulting arm of the WIK, a German research institute in regulatory economics for network industries). From 2001 to 2005, he served as Senior Advisor for Internet Technology for the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), as a peer to the Chief Economist and Chief Technologist. In 2004, the FCC seconded Mr. Marcus to the European Commission (to what was then DG INFSO) under a grant from the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Prior to working for the FCC, he was the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Genuity, Inc. (GTE Internetworking), one of the world's largest backbone internet service providers.

    Mr. Marcus is a member of the Scientific Committee of the Communications and Media program at the Florence School of Regulation (FSR), a unit of the European University Institute (EUI). He is also a Fellow of GLOCOM (the Center for Global Communications, a research institute of the International University of Japan). He is a Senior Member of the IEEE; has served as co-editor for public policy and regulation for IEEE Communications Magazine; served on the Meetings and Conference Board of the IEEE Communications Society from 2001 through 2005; and was Vice Chair and then Acting Chair of IEEE CNOM. He served on the board of the American Registry of Internet Numbers (ARIN) from 2000 to 2002.

    Marcus is the author of numerous papers, a book on data network design. He either led or served as first author for numerous studies for the European Parliament, the European Commission, and national governments and regulatory authorities around the world.

    Marcus holds a B.A. in Political Science (Public Administration) from the City College of New York (CCNY), and an M.S. from the School of Engineering, Columbia University.

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