Up & Coming Weekly

June 08, 2021

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

Issue link: http://www.epageflip.net/i/1381194

Contents of this Issue


Page 5 of 24

WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM JUNE 9-15, 2021 UCW 5 OPINION Plenty of politicians, planners and business folks think they know what North Carolina's post-pandemic economy will look like. But few seem entirely sure. ey are noticeably hedg- ing their predictions, which I consider to be a wise precaution. ey ought to be hedging their bets, as well. ere are unanswered questions across mul- tiple economic sectors and time frames. For many decisionmakers, however, perhaps the single most important questions involve the fate of hybrids. I'm not talking about motor vehicles. I'm talking about work schedules. With so many North Carolinians having experienced months of doing their jobs from home, will they want to come back to the office full-time? If so, there won't be meaningful changes in traffic pat- terns, consumer behavior, and the market for commercial and residential real estate. However, if a significant share asks employ- ers to stay remote indefinitely — or, more likely, to split their workweeks between office and home — the result could be disruptive. I don't necessarily mean that in a bad way. But even net-positive innovations have transition and transaction costs. e early signals are noisy. Some workers are clearly desperate to get back to the office. ey found being at home distracting, even without school-aged children needing frequent at- tention, and embrace the rigid separation of worktime and personal time that a physical commute can reinforce. Others quite enjoyed doing their jobs remotely. It saved them the time and expense of commuting, and of dress- ing up. ey embrace the intersection of work and home for its flexibility. As for employers, some found remote work fairly easy to inspire, manage and evaluate. Others felt their teams, dispersed by geography and otherwise out of sync, became less pro- ductive. is sentiment appears to be wide- spread in occupations such as banking, finance and law. American Enterprise Institute analyst Brent Orrell calls it "a move that appears to be driven by a mix of tradition and a concern for new hires who need regular coaching on work practices and expectations." Of course the smart money will be wagered on some kind of midpoint. Many workers will resume a regular schedule. But not all. One recent academic paper published by the Na- tional Bureau of Economic Research projects that home-based work will account for 20% of full workdays in the United States, up from 5% before the COVID crisis. Amanda Mull, a staff writer for e Atlantic, predicts that many pro- fessionals will ask for hybrid schedules: three days a week in the office, two at home. Such developments would have major con- sequences. e NBER paper estimated that if a fifth of workdays happened at home, consumer spending in major city centers would decline by as much as 10%. ink fewer workers park- ing their cars in decks, eating out for lunch, or running errands on the way home. ink major employers shrinking their footprints the next time they renew their leases. Now consider what's happening with urban transit across the country. Ridership across all categories fell dramatically during the crisis, but declines in rail use were especially large, in part because the very professionals most likely to be able to do their jobs from home also make up a disproportionate share of rail users. e only relevant case in North Carolina is Charlotte — and it's a revealing one. Bus rider- ship in the Queen City is down by about 49% year-to-year. Light rail ridership is down 71%, and isn't bouncing back as fast as bus usage is. I confess that I've been a rail-transit skeptic for a long time. I already thought the Triangle area was wise not to pursue a long-proposed rail line. at decision looks even better in retrospect. If more jobs move to hybrid schedules, many North Carolinians will likely move further away from central cities, to exurbs and low-density counties. ey'll consume public services, of course, but not the same ones, from the same jurisdictions. And they'll likely vote differently than their rural neighbors do. Hybrids could be the wave of the future. Who knew? JOHN HOOD, Chairman of the John Locke Foundation. Contributing Writer. COMMENTS? Editor@upand- comingweekly.com. 910-484-6200 Will hybrids drive the economy? by JOHN HOOD make your Radio sound funny. Mornings 6am to 10am on WFAY. Bud & Broadway

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Up & Coming Weekly - June 08, 2021