‘We need to get back to business’: Is NYC Mayor Adams right remote work hurts economy?
- New York City Mayor Eric Adams criticized financial businesses like JPMorgan Chase for their decision to keep their employees as remote workers until the end of January, saying, “I need my companies back open and operating [...] You can’t run a city like New York on 30% occupancy in buildings. We need to get back to business and open our city.”
- According to a News Gallup poll, 45% of full-time employees were working remotely in September of 2021, and 90% of those workers want to continue remote work.
- On December 3, 2021, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the unemployment rate fell by 0.4% to 4.2%. The “number of unemployed persons fell by 542,000 to 6.9 million.”
- As of January 4, 2022, 71.8% of the population of New York has been fully vaccinated, while 84% have had at least one dose.
- Johns Hopkins research shows COVID spikes nationwide have been rising at a higher rate than before the vaccines were available despite more than half the country being fully vaccinated.
NYC Mayor Eric Adams is right to link pandemic lockdowns with damage to the economy. While necessary at first, we now have medical tools in place to mitigate the effects of the pandemic, knowing that large portions of our economy simply can't be moved online. Bars, restaurants, and other service industries lose out when employees aren't in their regular offices. Tourism and hospitality are major sectors that employ many workers and cannot exist remotely.
Remote work also has an insidious ability to pump money out of local and regional economies and into the pockets of tech billionaires. While many companies have struggled during the pandemic, enormous tech companies such as Amazon have actually done quite well as customers shifted nearly all of their buying power to online and remote services. The real danger here is that many of these companies are notorious for avoiding their tax obligations. Even if they are paying taxes, they certainly aren't paying in all of the local areas where consumers are spending. This has a net effect of pumping wealth out of a local economy, leading to revenue shortcomings for important spending priorities such as emergency services and infrastructure projects.
Finally, we have the tools to work safely in person in almost all cases. With free access to safe and reliable vaccines, multiple forms of testing, and frankly the knowledge of how to socially distance and sanitize our workspaces, governments should focus on pushing vaccinations and testing over shutting down large sectors of the economy. Also, the US government should be looking to export many more doses of vaccines to the developing world to prevent future variants from occurring.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams' displeasure with remote work is misguided and fails to acknowledge all perspectives. Although in-person work has its economic benefits, remote work serves as the best option for the nation's current state.
When surveyed, 61% of workers felt they are more productive when working remotely. These workers would prefer to take a pay cut rather than return to their original workplace, which should be allowed and encouraged during a time of pandemic uncertainty. Many workers were delighted by the flexibility working from home provides and now plan their lives around the newfound freedom. Cutting daily transportation and commuting costs allows workers to explore a whole new facet of their budget that was previously occupied.
The National Bureau of Economic Research determined that over a third of all jobs can be done remotely. While remote work may cause concern for blue-collar workers, these jobs have reported an increase in growth since 2020. Workers that do not have the equipment or skills to work at home are not being left in the dark, as their career path is still open.
If remote work were not an option, many companies wouldn't be able to gather via zoom due to COVID protocols, therefore slowing down or even shutting down many businesses, both small and large. Likewise, some workers are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 than others; returning to work would not be fair to them. Remote work provides a safety blanket for companies that plan to meet again in the future and allows them to continue to operate while still practicing adequate safety measures and respecting the rights of all their employees to earn a living.
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