Long before the pandemic Nicholas Blooman economics professor at Stanford, was already studying the most effective work-from-home policies.
His parents worked remotely for the British government when he was a child, sparking a long-standing interest in the subject. And thanks to a handful of studies he conducted in the early to mid-2000s, Bloom had been an expert on the subject for decades when employees around the world turned to Zoom and Slack in March 2020.
“I was about to be extremely sarcastic and say, ‘I’ve got this crystal ball,'” Bloom tells CNBC Make It. “To be honest, I was lucky,” he says of his chosen research specialty.
But his “happy” research focus also makes for some unique insights. Since the start of the pandemic, Bloom says he has spoken to about 10 to 20 executives a week about their business practices and work-from-home policies.
So, armed with decades of research and thousands of pandemic-era interviews, what’s the one prediction Bloom says would have been “horrific” to be wrong about 2022?
At the beginning of the year, Bloom expect that by the end of 2022the typical company will have “everyone in the office three days a week, usually Tuesday through Thursday, and working from home on Monday and Friday.”
Looking back over a year and additional research, Bloom says this prediction has largely come true, noting that it was particularly easy to predict towards the end of 2021.
“In many ways it doesn’t feel like a prediction. It feels like I was talking to a lot of companies and collecting data,” Bloom says. “Given the amount of data I have, it would be pretty horrifying if I were wrong.”
However, there is one pandemic-era prediction that Bloom believes has missed the mark.
Back in 2020, bloom issued a report about the state of working from home. In it, he advocated for employees’ choice as to which days of the week they would work in the office.
Now he has slightly changed his tune.
“When you interview people, the main reason they come in is to see colleagues,” he says. “They’re not here for the bagels or the ping-pong table or whatever.”
With that in mind, Bloom is pleading now for employees who work in the office on the same days.
“If employees all come to the office to collaborate on the same days, say Tuesday through Thursday, and stay home on Mondays and Fridays to focus on deep work, research suggests that productivity could increase by about 3% to 5%. rises,” Bloom wrote in a recent research letter.
Overall, however, Bloom considers his 2020 report to be “largely accurate,” noting that it was “much harder to predict,” given the general sentiment at the time, which stated that working from home was likely “a flame in the pan.”
Given the accuracy of his predictions so far, one might wonder what will be on Bloom’s mind in the coming years.
Despite the influx of companies calling workers back to the office, he thinks working from home will only continue to grow. “In the long run, if you look five or 10 years ahead, we will work from home a lot more than we do now,” he says.
In particular, Bloom’s talks “with Microsoft, Google, startups, and venture capital firms” about their investments in researching and developing new work from home technology are following a larger trend.
Bloom notes that the growth of working from home has historically been driven by new technology, and that the “pace of technological advancement” since the start of the pandemic has only added to the longevity of remote working.
“If you can come up with a new piece of software, a gadget, a hologram… anything that makes working from home better, you now have a huge market and you can make a huge amount of money,” he says.
“There is a well-known saying that people overestimate technology in the short term and underestimate it in the long term,” adds Bloom. “I think that mistake will be made five times as the right technology change for remote work has been picked up.”