Getting back to the future...

I do think this will impact the way companies structure their businesses with white-collar workers. Think of all the pollution and waste that goes into people commuting in cars every day. Some companies are afraid of telecommuting, because they think employees will goof off. However, most music magazines I deal with now have most, if not all, of the editorial staff working from their homes. Originally this was done as a cost-cutting measure, but it turns out when they're at home, they have their studios nearby. This is great for reviews.

Also, creativity and office hours don't necessarily go together ("turn your creativity switch on at 9 AM, and turn it off at 5 PM"). A lot of my best ideas come when taking walks. The companies to whom I consult benefit a lot from my working at home. Working when the creative juices are flowing gets more done, in less time. Since I bill by the hour, I cost less as a result.

Of course there are some situations where people need to work in a centralized location, but do they really need to be there all the time? The five-day work week is a fairly recent development. Ford introduced it because there was more automation coming into their factories, and the company decided that giving people an extra day off would increase productivity and help the economy, because people would have more free time to spend on going to movies, go shopping for clothes, or whatever. The five-day work week stuck because it didn't impact the company's bottom line at all. Some would argue it improved the bottom line. There's also no reason not to have flex time. Gibson didn't mind that I usually came in around 10 instead of 9, because I stayed until 6 or 7. That last hour or two when people weren't around was tremendously helpful in terms of getting projects done without interruptions. The bottom line was that I was more productive with that schedule, and companies aren't going to complain if you do something that ends up making you more productive.

With increasing automation, expect to see four-day work weeks become the norm. Some companies have experimented with the idea. The most recent study was from a company in New Zealand. Bottom line was productivity didn't increase, but it didn't drop, either. Also, during busy periods, some employees had to do five days to get things done. But overall, the results were that people who were able to manage their lives better were happier and better employees.

Just-in-time inventory control prevents companies from tying up capital in things sitting on a shelf, but as soon as anything happens to the supply lines, JIT is a liability. "Inventory" might not be such a dirty word when this whole thing is over.

The Gig Economy is here, and it's real. However workers are in a precarious position, and generally have few or no benefits. I could easily see something like a re-invention of the union for gig economy people, where everyone contributes to a pool in return for benefits like health insurance, and where there are negotiations for working conditions. Some gig economy employers are good about this, some drive their people mercilessly. There needs to be a balance.

I guess what I'm saying is that a societal event with the magnitude of the corona virus will force people to re-examine their lives. When Aunt Joan dies in a hospital, how many people are going to wish they would have had more time to spend with Aunt Joan? With reduced income, how many people will find that living within their means is far better than living beyond their means? I think that when the dust settles and the last ventilator is turned off, there will be far-reaching changes. We'll see.