Remote Forever?

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March 4, 2020 9:56 p.m.
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I think TPM Reader RR might really be on to something that could be a big thing in the years to come …

Josh, a quick comment on your post “An Eerie Silence,” which I think captures a huge issue. I work in Asia, for one of those giant multinationals. A really significant part of my job is business travel in the region and to and from the home office in the US. Given my location, I’ve been affected by the travel restrictions for quite some time, as well as the work-from-home moves and event cancellations. It’s really been ever-present, something you check and watch constantly when planning travel. Now, it’s moving to a new and more comprehensive phase where all non-essential travel is just out, and work-from-home goes from something you could do if you were worried to something you should do to something you must do.

The economic impact in the short run clearly is enormous. In places I’ve traveled recently, it was easy to get into restaurants, flights were not full, airports eerily quiet. China’s slowdown alone is going to be incredibly disruptive – it’s pushing economies across Asia into recession. But the really scary aspect of all of this is how much of it might be permanent. One of the things about the Great Recession that I think was a real driver of populism and even Trumpism was that the crash sped up a trend toward automation, and so a lot of the jobs that were lost never came back. I think what we are likely to see now is that a lot of organizations find out how much can be done remotely, and decide it’s more efficient. Quite a bit of business travel isn’t going to come back, and there are major parts of the travel and hospitality industries that rely on big business spenders to support low consumer prices. Not to mention the potential for real reductions in things like office space. This will have far-reaching repercussions in parts of the economy that came back okay from the last plunge. Like the Great Recession, it’s going to feed into and speed up existing trends that will change forever how we interact and move about the world.

Key Coronavirus Crisis Links

Josh Marshall’s Twitter List of Trusted Experts (Epidemiologists, Researchers, Clinicians, Journalists, Government Agencies) providing reliable real-time information on the COVID-19 Crisis.

COVID-19 Tracking Project (updated data on testing and infections in the U.S.).

IHME Projections Site (COVID-19 epidemic model which has become the canonical model for many states and hospitals.)

Johns Hopkins Global COVID-19 Survey (most up to date numbers globally and for countries around the world).

Worldometers.info (extensive source of information and data visualizations on COVID-19 Crisis — discussion of data here).

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