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COVID-19 could keep workers home 'well into next summer': Guggenheim's Anne Walsh

Kristin Myers
·3 min read

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to drag on, employees working from home might not return to their offices until well into next year, says Anne Walsh, Guggenheim Chief Investment Officer for Fixed Income. During the Yahoo Finance All Markets Summit on Monday, Walsh explained that the way we work has “permanently changed” — especially in terms of “the office.”

“I think we are looking at a 2021 return timeline,” Walsh said.

“...I would say at this point in time that we’re looking definitely at another three or six [months] — or I’m hearing even well into next summer — before we will be returning to offices.”

‘People are working longer hours’

And while half a year ago, many might have been skeptical about the sustainability and profitability of a strictly work-from-home environment, profitability is up, said Prudential Vice Chairman Rob Falzon, who joined Walsh for the discussion.

According to the latest survey of the American worker from Prudential, 58% of the 1,008 remote workers polled say they are more productive in a remote environment.

A woman works in a house while workers are forced to work from home and demand payback for extra home office costs during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Sassenheim, Netherlands October 2, 2020. Picture taken October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Eva Plevier
A woman works in a house while workers are forced to work from home and demand payback for extra home office costs during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Sassenheim, Netherlands October 2, 2020. Picture taken October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Eva Plevier

“That would indicate that profitability would be sustainable,” Falzon explained, though he doesn’t know if it will remain sustainable in the longer term.

“I think there’s been technology innovation which has contributed significantly to that productivity. But some of it is coming because people are working longer hours and 65% of them haven’t taken the same vacation they took last year,” he said, adding that reduced commute times are giving workers more time to put into work.

Clearly, there is near term profitability Falzon says, but long term, there is a “question mark.”

“I suspect that most companies are going to adopt different models post-pandemic than they did pre, and I think coming out of that, there will be rewards for employees and rewards for employers as well,” Falzon said.

A shift from the ‘industrial model of work’

In the long term, Falzon explained, workers will get more flexibility while employers can think differently about how they spend money on real estate.

Flexibility, Walsh says, has been one trend that the pandemic has only accelerated.

The “industrial model of work,” Walsh explained, is ready to be adjusted, while “other” aspects of work can be adapted for people to be much more productive.

And with more autonomy and control, employees get more enjoyment out of work, Walsh pointed out.

“I think that’s been probably one of the reasons that individuals really have benefited from work from home,” she said.

These efforts will help corporations hire and retain top talent, with flexibility of particular importance to women.

“Women have been more disproportionately, negatively impacted during the coronavirus because of some of these burdens, but my hope is that on the back side of coronavirus that women will enjoy the benefits of this new flexibility in work,” Walsh said.

Falzon adds that companies should take “full advantage of the talent pool that’s out there,” including diversity.

“If you’re not doing so, it leaves gaps within your organization and it leaves gaps, frankly, within our total sort of economic output as a society,” he said.

These are issues, Falzon explained, each company needs to address if they want to have sustainable business models.

“If you don’t have the diversity within your organization or the top talent in your organization,” he said, “you’re not going to be able to anticipate how the world is shifting, and how the marketplace is shifting.”

Watch the All Markets Summit
Watch the All Markets Summit

Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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