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Will remote work be the new norm of tomorrow’s world?

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A new study from McKinsey estimates that 22% of employees in the U.S.could work remotely between three and five days a week without affecting productivity, while only 5% could do so in India. Image: IStock/Geber86 via AFP Relaxnews.

Workers around the world have had plenty of time to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of working from home since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, it seems that remote working could become a new norm, although a long-term shift looks more likely in Europe or the United States than elsewhere in the world.

A recent consumer survey from the U.S.-based consultants McKinsey & Company, carried out in nine countries worldwide (China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom and the U.S.), analyzed more than 2,000 activities in more than 800 occupations to find out which have the greatest potential for remote work. Jobs requiring workers’ physical presence, such as retail, deliveries, and care, among others, were not taken into account.

The survey revealed more than 20% of the workforce in the nine countries studied could work remotely three to five days a week as effectively as if they were in an office.

“If remote work took hold at that level, that would mean three to four times as many people working from home than before the pandemic and would have a profound impact on urban economies, transportation, and consumer spending, among other things,” the report said.

The potential for remote working, which may become a long-term trend, varies from country to country, in turn reflecting the makeup of their economic sectors, occupations and activities. Indeed, some occupations and activities lend themselves more easily to remote working than others.

For example, business and financial services are a large share of the U.K. economy and the country had the highest potential for remote work among those studied in the report. The U.K. workforce could theoretically work remotely one-third of the time without losing productivity. Similarly, in other advanced economies, workforces could work from home 28 to 30% of the time while maintaining productivity.

But it is a different story in the report’s emerging economies like China, India and Mexico, where labor markets rely more heavily on occupations requiring physical and manual activities, in sectors like agriculture and manufacturing. The potential for time spent on remote work drops to 12 to 26% in these emerging economies.

In the U.S., 22% of employees could work remotely between three and five days a week without affecting productivity, while only 5% could do so in India.

According to the results of another global survey from McKinsey carried out in May, 38% of corporate executives polled — across all sectors — expected their remote employees to work two or more days a week out of the office after the pandemic, compared to 22% of respondents surveyed before COVID-19. CC

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