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It’s Just A Room: Productivity And The Return To The Office

Bisnow's new podcast series, Office Politics: The Battle For The Future Of Work, is an in-depth examination into the raging debate surrounding when and where we work, and how that will affect not just how we use offices, but the operation of society itself. Featuring academics, authors, business leaders and workers, weekly episodes will look at how the potential shift to more remote work will affect productivity and the economy, social equality and workplace diversity, human psychology, the fight against climate change and the future of cities. You can subscribe on iTunesSpotify and Amazon Music.


Remote work and more flexible use of the office have the potential to dramatically boost the productivity of workers, companies and economies, in line with some of the greatest inventions in the history of humanity — but only if the corporate world doesn’t screw it up.

Much of the debate about the future of work has centered on how hybrid or remote work affects employee output. Those who have dedicated their lives to studying workplace productivity think the change currently underway has the potential to unlock huge gains for economies. 

“I mean, this is a major evolution. I think the potential, in the long run, is pretty exciting,” Stanford University William D. Eberle Professor of Economics Nick Bloom told Bisnow in the first episode of Office Politics: The Battle For The Future Of Work, a five-part podcast series examining the societal impact of changes to the way we work. 

Bloom predicts hybrid work could boost the U.S. economy by 5% annually, due to reduced commuting time and the ability to do some tasks more efficiently at home. Not all economists agree that white-collar workers are getting more efficient: Some argue those increases in productivity come from putting in more hours, which has long-term consequences like burnout and mental health issues. Either way, however, outputs are increasing.

Study after study has shown most workers like working from home some of the time, and, in general, companies are willing to embrace the new world of hybrid work, hoping to harness the potential productivity boost. But there’s a catch. A lot of companies — and the real estate community, which creates office space for them — don’t know how to operate in this new world, misunderstanding terms like collaboration and creativity that are being bandied about readily at the moment. 

Companies need to do a lot of thinking about how to best manage their workforce, as well as the role offices and working from home, will play in the future.

“Offices have been filling this management void around how people need to collaborate, and no one's really figured out how to shift the culture to do that successfully in the new world,” Humanyze President Ben Waber said. 

The process of getting it right will take years, maybe even decades. But the potential benefits for economies like those of the U.S. and UK make it worth taking the time.