The post-COVID world will be different

While governments around the world were pursuing a flatten the curve strategy to dealing with the medical crisis that is the COVID-19 pandemic they had to pursue a simultaneous economic strategy. That economic strategy was an attempt to freeze the economy is place until the medical strategy had succeeded and then to unfreeze the economy.

This is the single largest economic intervention in human history. My RMIT colleagues and I are not convinced that government can successfully pull it off. I would be ecstatic to be wrong …

The story, however, isn’t all negative. One of our arguments is that there has been a lot of discovery that has occurred during the lock-down. The WSJ picks up the story

The zeal for a new definition of the traditional office is driven in part by the shrinking economy, as companies look for new ways to cut costs during a downturn that is expected to be the worst since the Great Depression. Many executives also point to the success of an unprecedented work-from-home experiment, and how little productivity appears to have been impacted after millions of employees in technology, media, finance and other industries have been forced to work remotely for months.

“I mean, if you’d said three months ago that 90% of our employees will be working from home and the firm would be functioning fine, I’d say that is a test I’m not prepared to take because the downside of being wrong on that is massive,” said Morgan Stanley Chief Executive James Gorman in mid-April on the bank’s earnings call.

There has been a period of enforced experimentation and adoption of new business practices. Some of those practices will end with the end of lock-down, but others might not and will not. The adoption of the digital economy has been accelerated by about 10 years. Now people have asked me if the technology is up to the task.

To ask the question is to answer it.

No. It isn’t.

But here we are.

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74 Responses to The post-COVID world will be different

  1. johanna says:

    Well, everything is different after a big event.

    Nostradamus is not in any danger here.

    We keep hearing about the ‘new normal’ – mostly from people who didn’t like the old one.

    My prediction is that things will return to the ‘old normal’ quite soon.

  2. Tel says:

    The adoption of the digital economy has been accelerated by about 10 years. Now people have asked me if the technology is up to the task.

    To ask the question is to answer it.

    No. It isn’t.

    But here we are.

    Naa … the technology was well ahead and only held back by incumbent management unwilling to make a cultural shift. Software projects have been done remotely over digital networks for decades and at least in some cases so has customer support, music, art, engineering design, literature. Even geology has been run remotely for quite a while … the mining companies got the shits with trucking out a team of geologists to some back of nowhere drilling site, so what they did was keep the geologists at head office and pipe back heavily encrypted measurement data which they could study and figure out what minerals they just found.

  3. Sinclair Davidson says:

    … only held back by incumbent management unwilling to make a cultural shift.

    Agreed – there is a lot of that.

  4. Roger W says:

    Just watching Terminator Genisys on TV…..

  5. Sinclair Davidson says:

    That was such a shit movie. Doubly so – Matt Smith had left Doctor Who to pursue a movie career.

  6. Hodor says:

    I’m with Johanna, I think there is a whole sub economy which operates far removed from e commerce as postulated by many in ivory towers.

    Transport, construction, manufacturing such as it is and the service economy which covers a huge part of everyday life cannot be done from home.

    Financial service is not the only service.

    IMHO

  7. Squirrel says:

    “The adoption of the digital economy has been accelerated by about 10 years. ”

    That will mainly be for a revenue-constrained private sector, which won’t have much choice if it wants to survive.

    A revenue-constrained (but debt unconstrained) public sector will go on its merry way, cherry picking the convenient bits of the digital economy (e.g. “working” at home on jobs which don’t need to be done in the first place), while maintaining the imposing, expensive offices, the big travel budgets for b/s meetings which couldn’t possibly be done online, duplicating, second-guessing and overlapping each other’s fiefdoms, and maintaining back office staffing levels and salaries which are out of kilter with our post-virus economy.

    I would be ecstatic to be wrong.…

  8. Russell says:

    You can always trust good workers and feel confident about their efforts at home.
    And some work is naturally rewarding for certain types of people .. the good fitters.
    But poorly-performing workers that you can’t sack because of unions & Gov regulations … another story.
    Probably about 20% in my experience with larger workforces.
    Workers normally performing at 50% capacity due to some disengagement (both sides at fault) will now be much less productive and find the weak supervision ideal for their purpose.
    And workers normally performing at 120% will get just a bit browned-off (they get to know – trust me) and become a bit more disengaged.
    Such is the work ethic of a socialist/nationalised/communist economy.
    The world will be different.
    I call BS on “incumbent management unwilling to make a cultural shift”.
    Back worker self-interest every time … supervision is important for good workers as well a bad ones.

  9. Sinclair Davidson says:

    Squirrel – I’m optimistic on this front.

  10. a reader says:

    Once we’re allowed back in our offices, people will be back.

  11. Sinclair Davidson says:

    Once we’re allowed back in our offices, people will be back.

    In one sense that is exactly right – once lock-down is lifted there will be an explosion of interaction. Humans are social animals and people have lost sight of that.

    But there have been discoveries and learning that will change our world.

  12. HP says:

    Naa … the technology was well ahead and only held back by incumbent management unwilling to make a cultural shift


    They just did not see how to make money out of it. Now they do. Yes, cut cost on reducing office space. But that is only the beginning.

    The push will be on for “working remotely” in a far wider meaning of the word. If you can work from home, why could that home not be in, say, India? As always, there is a large number of employers ready to hire people this way for 50 cents in the Dollar (or less) and not even have to worry about visas.

    The people they hire would not even face the living expenses here, so it might make sense for them at even lower hourly wages than now with the 457 visa rorting.

    Is this happening already? Yes. To some extent.
    I noticed, for example, that outfits like Crossover and ten80.group, are already recruiting here for roles in the US and the EU, respectively. Surely, that practice would expand its way here.

    Might sound nice, but be careful what you wish for. This rabbit hole is deeper than you think.

  13. HP says:

    Naa … the technology was well ahead and only held back by incumbent management unwilling to make a cultural shift


    They just did not see how to make money out of it. Now they do. Yes, cut cost on reducing office space. But that is only the beginning.

    The push will be on for “working remotely” in a far wider meaning of the word. If you can work from home, why could that home not be in, say, India? As always, there is a large number of employers ready to hire people this way for 50 cents in the Dollar (or less) and not even have to worry about visas.

    The people they hire would not even face the living expenses here, so it might make sense for them at even lower hourly wages than now with the visa rorting.

    Is this happening already? Yes. To some extent.
    I noticed, for example, that outfits like Crossover and ten80.group, are already recruiting here for roles in the US and the EU, respectively. Surely, that practice would expand its way here.

    Might sound nice, but be careful what you wish for. This rabbit hole is deeper than you think.

  14. Bruce of Newcastle says:

    The work from home thing is interesting.

    You can see how executives might love to save on CBD office space and ancilliary costs.

    But as soon as an employee is set up to work from home for one organization they can very quickly switch to working from home for another organization. No need to move house, move city or even move country.

    Keeping talented employees might become quite tough.

  15. Mak Siccar says:

    A long read but well worth it IMHO. From the Spectator UK.

    Tom Lees
    Seven mistakes politicians make when following ‘the science’
    16 May 2020, 4:05pm

    For anyone who watches the daily Covid-19 briefings, it is quite clear that too many of our politicians and journalists have little to no understanding of science and mathematics. Out of the 26 ministers attending cabinet, only three have higher-level STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) backgrounds. In parliament, only around 100 MPs have science backgrounds.

    Why does this matter? Training in science gives people a different perspective on the world. It makes them more sceptical, more rigorous in their approach and, most importantly, teaches them what science can and cannot answer. Unfortunately, too many of our politicians don’t benefit from this approach – and coronavirus has exposed this problem at the heart of government. Here are seven concepts that ministers seem to struggle with:

    1. Testing, testing, testing

    No matter how carefully designed, created or performed, no test is perfect. Even if a test is 99.99 per cent accurate, it will generate errors and potentially a false sense of security for those who do not have a grasp of probability and maths. These errors become increasingly important to be aware of as the volume of testing increases.

    Let’s say we have a Covid-19 test that is 95 per cent accurate in terms of both sensitivity (the ability of the test to detect people who have a virus) and specificity (the ability of the test to correctly identify that a person does not have a virus).

    We gather 100,000 people together to be tested. Imagine we know that 1,000 of the group have the virus. Using our 95 per cent accurate test, out of the 1,000 people who have the virus we would detect 950 of them and miss 50 people who in fact have the virus. However, of the remaining 99,000 people the test would also falsely detect Covid-19 in 4,950 – 1 in 20 – of them.

    This means from our group of 100,000, testing would show 5,900 positive results when in fact only 1,000 people actually have the virus (50 of which were missed).

    2. Reliance on R

    Calculating the rate of transmission, the R number, is not a precise science. It is not like using a thermometer to assess if a person has a fever or not. It is dependent on how you define a case, quality of your data, how effective your surveillance and detection process is, delays in reporting and how accurate your tests are.

    As the government has explained, a value of R greater than one indicates that the infection may grow or persist in the population while a value of R less than one indicates that the infection will decline in the population.

    The mantra of statisticians around the world is that correlation does not equal causation
    Even after a pandemic has passed and all the data is in, there can be competing calculations and opinions on what the ‘true’ R value is. For example, the transmission rate of the 1918 to 1919 Spanish flu outbreak has been placed at anywhere from 1.4 to 2.8. In Canada, four separate academic studies (three in 2010 and one in 2012) have looked into the rate of transmission of the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Their calculations of R vary from 1.12 to 2.50.

    The UK government suggests that the current rate of Covid-19 transmission in the UK is between 0.6 and 1.0, so 0.8 ± 0.2 margin of error. Plus or minus 0.2 might not sound a lot but if you signed up to a new job with a salary of £30,000 a year, this margin of error would mean that you could actually end up being paid between £22,500 and £37,500.

    To place so much importance on the R value, using it to influence the restrictions placed on work, education, enjoyment and freedoms seems an approach prone to problems and pretends that it can be calculated more accurately than it can. As Ed Humpherson, of the UK Statistics Authority, told the New York Times: ‘Being trustworthy depends not on conveying an aura of infallibility, but on honesty and transparency.’

    3. Following ‘the best science’

    Boris Johnson and his deputy Dominic Raab have repeatedly spoken of following ‘the science’ or even ‘the best science’. Unfortunately, these statements are complete nonsense; science is almost never black and white.

    In normal language ‘the science’ is interpreted as a proven fact, where a hypothesis has been thoroughly tested and verified by experimentation or repeated observation. The earth travels around the sun every 365.256 days and washing your hands with soap and water kills coronavirus are facts.

    ‘The science’ for the management of a pandemic is actually the opinions of scientific advisers, their models and the assumptions on which they are based. For example, the Imperial model assumes that closing schools and universities increases contact in the community by 25 per cent, that 81 per cent of the UK population would be infected if no counter-measures were taken and that to avoid a second peak, social distancing could be needed for 18 months or more. It’s impossible to know for sure whether these assumptions are accurate or not.

    Normally, when scientists want to test whether an intervention has the results they predict, they conduct a randomised controlled trial. Participants are randomly assigned to one of two groups, one group will be subjected to the intervention and the other will be given a placebo. By comparing these two groups, scientists can see if there is anything statistically significant between those who have and have not had the intervention.

    Unfortunately, this is impossible for the management of a pandemic. We cannot go back in time and create an identical copy of the UK to see what a different set of interventions – no intervention at all – would make to the spread and impact of Covid-19.

    The challenge is that politicians, media and the public crave certainty when there is little.
    4. Exponential growth

    Covid-19 has not grown exponentially, it has followed the epidemiological curve.

    Exponential does not mean ‘fast’ or ‘quick’, it has a specific mathematical meaning. If a number grows at a constant rate over a sustained period of time – for example doubling, tripling or quadrupling every day or week – that is exponential. As time goes on, the increases become larger and larger because doubling a large number results in an even larger number.

    In the first few weeks of recording coronavirus infections, you could try to argue cases were doubling every three or four days. But the data at the time would have been very poor, testing limited and sample sizes small. It is fairer to look at the mortality statistics.

    If Covid-19 had grown exponentially, say doubling every day, it would mean that between the first recorded UK death from Covid-19 on 7 March and the 23 March when the lockdown was introduced, 65,536 deaths should have been recorded when in reality there were 285 deaths. If you calculate the three-day rolling average growth rate for deaths using Office for National Statistics data, it is clear that there has never been exponential growth in the true sense of the word.

    5. The fifth test

    The government has set out five tests that have to be met before lockdown can be lifted.

    The fifth test is no risk of a second peak or more recently ‘any adjustment to the current measures will not risk a second peak of infections’, either of which is impossible to achieve in reality. You can get to a point of low or minimal risk, but completely ruling out any risk is practically impossible to achieve.

    What if there is a large number of undetected cases lurking? Or if Public Health England has made some mistake in their calculations or lost a batch of data? How about if the Covid-19 virus suddenly mutates slightly making it vastly more infectious? What if there never is a vaccine? Even if we do create one what happens if it later turns out to be ineffective? And what number of infections count as a second peak? Five? 50? 500?

    6. Modelling results being treated as facts

    The numbers spat out by models are not facts. They are a best guess of what may or may not happen based on the assumptions and relationships taken into account by whoever created the model. Real life situations are often complex and nonlinear, which means models are very sensitive to the initial conditions and assumptions people choose.

    In 1987, the statistician George Box succinctly and famously said that ‘all models are wrong, but some are useful’. When predicting where a hurricane will land in the US, modellers will produce ‘spaghetti diagrams’ with wildly different possible paths, every inflation report produced by the Bank of England includes a fan chart to try and illustrate the uncertainty involved in predicting how anything will play out in the future. Infection models are no different.

    At the worst end of the scale, some models are created to give the results the modeller – or their funder – wants to see. At the milder end of the scale genuine mistakes and small oversights are always made. Given the significant impact models can have on decision making by governments, their assumptions, methods and outputs are normally carefully scrutinised through the peer review system. This is where academic papers are independently reviewed by other experts in the field. This has not happened for the Covid-19 models meaning their forecasts should be treated with even more caution.

    So when the Prime Minister spoke about 500,000 deaths being avoided, it is misleading the public. There is absolutely no way to know how many deaths there would have been if a different approach was taken.
    Ministers often talk about ‘the science’, suggesting there is more consensus than currently exists.
    7. ‘The lockdown is working’

    Some weeks after the UK introduced the lockdown, the number of daily deaths and the number of cases started to fall. Can you say that the lockdown caused this fall or would it have happened anyway? What about in the long run? Will more deaths be caused by people avoiding treatment due to a fear of Covid-19 than the virus itself?

    The mantra of statisticians around the world is that correlation does not equal causation. Especially so with limited data.

    Author Tyler Vigen looked at the divorce rates in the US state of Maine over a ten year period. He found that per 1,000 people the rate had fallen from around five to just over four, in that same time period margarine consumption fell from 3.5kg to 1.5kg per person. There was a high degree of correlation. However, I don’t think anyone would seriously believe that margarine was somehow impacting matrimonial bliss.

    So to say that ‘it is a fact that by adopting [the lockdown] we prevented this country from being engulfed’ is completely wrong. Establishing whether A causes B is a tricky task – it takes time and rigorous research. At this point, it is not certain whether the lockdown is causing more harm than good.

    Tom Lees is a theoretical physicist, policy expert and managing director of consultancy firm Bradshaw Advisory

    WRITTEN BY
    Tom Lees
    Tom Lees is the managing director of Bradshaw Advisory and a former staffer to Michael Gove.

  16. Mark says:

    I have often wondered if most office people, academics, pollies and public servants etc really believe that everyone works at a desk.
    I don’t know what the figures are, but I’d hazard a guess that more than half the work force actually get dirt under their fingernails during the workday.

    Now while being able to work from home is I think a good thing, I can’t see how well it will work out if the people producing the products or building the structures and providing the resources are unable to pursue those activities.

    So if the economy does indeed go south, what exactly will these office people be working on from home?

  17. Petros says:

    A lot of people don’t like working from home. Small houses or apartments just don’t have the space. They also don’t want to look after their children and want their partner to do it. Having to go into the office provides the excuse to get out of there. Plus there’s Sophie at the front desk.

  18. Entropy says:

    Recently introduced office 365, Microsoft Teams, cheaper PDF software, and the ability to approve correspondence and expenditure entirely on line, and standardisation on laptops, iPhones and iPads has made it very possible. People have taken monitors and keyboards home. There are still a few older database tools for some of our programs that still require an office presence, especially ones our clients make applications for. Some of them would struggle if it was entirely on line and many prefer paper. We have had to dirt out distribution and return of paper, but have sought to minimise it.

    The last six weeks my observations are that my people and colleagues are working longer. A bit of it is it takes longer, a bit is video conferencing seems to take up more time than popping your head in the door, or maybe that chairs are making more sure each person has a say in meetings? Mostly though I suspect it is the removal of to and from work travel, and the difficulty people have in switching off as there is no longer a boundary between work and home.

    The other key factor is that my organisation has a very low turnover and everyone knows everyone, familiar with what they do and have all pulled together for years.

    The unmentioned issue so far above though, is training and recruitment. Even appointing experienced staff will have issues unless the workers are already familiar with the new recruit. Graduates though, would be a nightmare. It takes about three years to train a graduate into something useful. This seems to be getting worse: it has always been that graduates are confident and certain of their opinions, and worse, asking uncomfortable questions of some workers who can only respond that that is the way it has always been, but these days there seems to be a close minded piousness that limits the ability of some to learn, a lack of initiative and drive in boys, a confident the world owes me in girls.
    Apply that in a work from home environment if your organisation, particularly if you had a high turnover, and things will turn to shit very quickly,

  19. Entropy says:

    Schools operating from home has also been interesting.

    There has always been school of the air, distance Ed, correspondence and home schooling. School closures has resulted in multiple different approaches. Public schools tried emailing work and zoom. Feedback is it has varied success at best. Little kids a waste of time, older kids so so, and fear. Fear of falling behind, lack of performance.
    The miss entropys’ school is BYOD anyway and used MS Teams to run to the normal school timetable. Even PE. I think it has worked very well. Personally I was glad that driven miss entropy was there to ensure little miss entropy learned how to apply herself. Their dance school also ran classes through zoom. I think that will suffer more than school.

  20. Suburban Boy says:

    This is the single largest economic intervention in human history.

    In absolute terms, undoubtedly; but in relation to the size of the economies, surely not. The degree of government intervention in economies during the Second World War makes the current crisis look like chickenfeed.

  21. Sydney Boy says:

    Mak – good post from the Spectator. FMD if I hear the media refer to “exponential” incorrectly one more time …

  22. Roger says:

    You can see how executives might love to save on CBD office space and ancilliary costs.

    Back in the 1970s fututrists predicted that with computerisation CBD office blocks would become redundant.

  23. Bruce says:

    How may “tradies” can “work from home”?

    Sparkies? Bricklayers? Tilers? Carpenters? Roof tilers / roofers in general? Plumbers and Drainers?

    OK: Farmers and graziers have worked “from home’ forever, but with nary a latte shop or noodle bar within prancing distance.

    See also: Miners? Pilots?, All manner of medical types?

    There’s ya REAL bubble trouble right there. Never mind the “Trans-Tasman Bubble”.

    As they say in Star Trek: “It’s a TRAP, Jim!”

    And the “Klingons” are the public serpent / academic / political “cling-ons”.

  24. H B Bear says:

    Work (office work) is primarily a social construct. Good luck trying to recruit people to work from home.

    Hot desking is about the limit of what people with put up with on an ongoing basis.

  25. LOL

    Hot desking really was a shitty thing to do.

    Let me work from home if you’re gonna pull that shit.

  26. hzhousewife says:

    But there have been discoveries and learning that will change our world.

    But not by very much, and certainly not by any more than has happened in the past, imho.

  27. Watch Your Back says:

    I’m with Joanna and Hodor. Things will get back to how they were, with some additions and maybe a few subtractions. People will have more options to work from home, but this has been building since the 1980s. Some people will continue to live in apartments in inner cities; others will move to a country town. This is generational, as we’ve known in the case of London since the 1970s. So while some trends are caused by digital technology, others have been facilitated.

    To be honest, although I have researched, worked in and written books about digital technologies , innovation and creative industries, I think a lot of it has been hyped. Much of the economy supplies food, drinks, traded goods; we import, export and trade. So we can do google searches, book stuff and order badly fitting clothes on line. I still think people will use local town centres for a variety of activities. So I’m more optimistic perhaps.

    The other thing is that the way to get the economy growing, creating jobs, wealth and spreading prosperity is for the government to get out of the way. Allow the private sector to invest, remove barriers, cut taxes and have a bonfire of quangos and regulations. A lot of business owners I know are saying they won’t reopen because of over regulation that has been stifling them for years.

  28. Roger says:

    Work (office work) is primarily a social construct. Good luck trying to recruit people to work from home.

    Introverts would love it. Their productivity would probably increase too.

  29. Entropy says:

    The virus isn’t all bad. Hot Desking is dead.

  30. Googoomuck says:

    “Naa … the technology was well ahead and only held back by incumbent management unwilling to make a cultural shift”

    That has been my experience. Some managers don’t like it when they can’t see their staff on the floor. Our group was spread over three States. The staff in one State were reduced to a full time employee and a part timer. The full timer decided to work from home permanently because of the usual reasons, ie, long commute and family responsibilities. There was no point in coming in for team camaraderie when your only other team member was hardly there. The employee was told they had to spend more time at the company’s premises. Personally, I liked WFH on occasion but you miss out on those spontaneous conversations that can help you resolve issues or just interact socially.

    The other bugbear for me is “hot desking”. At least with WFH you know where the person is. The hot desking system implemented at my old job meant we, as a small team, could be scattered over several floors. It seemed stupid to teleconference with someone two floors away but getting a meeting room was challenging. Not to mention trying to find them on the other floor. It was easier when we all sat together as a team, with the WFH members phoning in.

  31. H B Bear says:

    Roger – based on my experience they would be a tiny majority.

  32. Entropy says:

    Crowded pods are also threatened long term.

  33. H B Bear says:

    Anyone remember the paperless office?

    How did that go?

  34. Roger says:

    Hot desking would seem to me to be an impediment to productivity.

  35. The paperless office, whatever happened to dat?

  36. Perfidious Albino says:

    Really interesting insights Entropy (and others). I think the impact on school kids is going to be hugely variable as individual schools appear to have taken very different approaches ie: dogs breakfast.

    We have 2 junior Albinos in primary school in VIC and I would say the school did very well in transitioning to daily class and small group VC’s via Cisco ‘WebEx’ (just 20-30 mins, but every day) and online provision and submission of class work via a software package / web portal called Compass. The school had this for some time but not previously fully utilised. The initial advice was that the Dept had decreed that it should only be ‘revision’ of Term 1 curriculum, but in practise the teachers have done their best to teach a term 2 curriculum.
    Other schools apparently haven’t been using VC at all, or only very limited, with just some emailed ‘suggestions’ for what parents can be doing with their kids.

    Ironically, Vic has a long established and fairly sophisticated distance education unit with a P – 12 curriculum specifically adapted to ‘remote’ students, but as far as I can tell the Dept haven’t leveraged that capability at all.

  37. Crossie says:

    We keep hearing about the ‘new normal’ – mostly from people who didn’t like the old one.

    My prediction is that things will return to the ‘old normal’ quite soon.

    They won’t like the new normal either, they just like the sound of it. We are operating now with very few work from home standards in place and trading on staff commitment and goodwill. Even now there is one team member who is simply not cooperating. What will happen there? Who know?

  38. calli says:

    Interesting article, Roger.

    Sixty days to break a habit? Try a month, max.

    There will be some positives that come out of this. Not many, but they’re there. The new idea of what is “essential work” is one of them.

    Academia has created a self-serving mirage over qualification and credentialism. It’s a dry well, and people are waking up.

  39. Hydra says:

    God I can’t wait to get back into the office.

    Working from home is horrible.

  40. Hydra says:

    Also, hot desking isn’t dead while there are less desks than people in the office, which is the case for a lot of companies who have their employees go out to clients etc. For my company I think we have an expectation that 30% of all employees will be working at a client. You can’t have that without hotdesking.

  41. calli says:

    Bruce
    #3455855, posted on May 17, 2020 at 8:23 am
    How may “tradies” can “work from home”?

    Sparkies? Bricklayers? Tilers? Carpenters? Roof tilers / roofers in general? Plumbers and Drainers?

    The ute is the office, and the mobile is the lifeline. The home office is where the missus types up the quotes and invoices and does the books.

  42. Crossie says:

    This seems to be getting worse: it has always been that graduates are confident and certain of their opinions, and worse, asking uncomfortable questions of some workers who can only respond that that is the way it has always been, but these days there seems to be a close minded piousness that limits the ability of some to learn, a lack of initiative and drive in boys, a confident the world owes me in girls.
    Apply that in a work from home environment if your organisation, particularly if you had a high turnover, and things will turn to shit very quickly,

    Entropy, this crisis has revealed the real cracks in our tertiary education system. One is that students are not being educated to fit into the world so they can earn a living, they are being educated to change the world but they have no idea to what.

    The other huge crack was the extent to which universities relied for their funding on international students. For the last ten years universities were nothing more than permanent residency visa factories, just look at the expanding skylines of all cities. Their shortsightedness has resulted in a staffing and funding crisis in their industry where there will be salary cuts in the region of 10-15%.

  43. calli says:

    Apart from a narrow range of disciplines, universities aren’t training anyone to “do” anything,

  44. Crossie says:

    Working from home will change the home as well. Families will need an extra room for the office, open plan doesn’t exactly work as has been seen in many zoom meeting with children and pets getting in the act.

  45. Crossie says:

    Calli, universities are expected to train their student how to think, how to reason. Logic is completely absent in most courses.

  46. calli says:

    They’re not doing a particularly good job, then.

    R abz ‘em! 😃

  47. The Sopranos show us the ins and outs of hot desking, the paperless office and internet access for working at home.

    This no show shit is tough!

  48. bemused says:

    Prior to retiring, I was working from home as a project manager. I’d start around 6:00 am and often still be working after 8:00pm, as our work involved communicating with people across Australia and overseas with all the differing timelines. Hell, even when on a short break in Tasmania I’d get phone calls about one thing or another. When I was in the office, I’d just have the regular working hours, more or less.

    Don’t miss any of that one bit.

  49. calli says:

    On WFH, all my kids are involved. High-end/responsible jobs (corporate), two lots running multi-million$ businesses (retail and construction respectively).

    No separate rooms. Dining room table, back porch for conferences or the media room if raining. I overheard one board meeting conducted from the kitchen while preparing lunch! It took them all a while to settle in, particularly the ones with school children, but now they’ve all hit their stride. It’s amazing how adaptable we can be when we need to be.

    It will take just as big an adjustment to go back. It won’t be the same, particularly for those facing hours of traffic.

  50. Roger says:

    Interesting article, Roger.

    Yes.

    Not that I agree with everything she writes, but then life gets very boring when you only read people who agree with you. 🙂

  51. Roger says:

    Logic is completely absent in most courses.

    Logic is a construct devised by white males to perpetuate their dominance in the social hierarchy.

  52. bemused says:

    It will take just as big an adjustment to go back. It won’t be the same, particularly for those facing hours of traffic.

    That was one thing that compensated for the extra hours that I put in working from home.

  53. Tel says:

    But as soon as an employee is set up to work from home for one organization they can very quickly switch to working from home for another organization. No need to move house, move city or even move country.

    Don’t even switch … do both at once!! 😎

    This of course brings up the fundamental problem … most Australian corporate middle management are plumb useless and have no idea what any of their workforce are doing, no concept of how to supervise, and could not measure productivity if their lives and jobs depended on it.

    Upper management are quite busy with their ideation and strategic visionating so they only consider aggregate productivity and have at best a vague idea of where the production even comes from. The whole lot of them spend their time obsessively checking that no one else is trying to get a promotion and maybe take their jobs.

    The ability to check over someone’s shoulder is a comfort factor more than anything else.

  54. Crossie says:

    It took them all a while to settle in, particularly the ones with school children, but now they’ve all hit their stride. It’s amazing how adaptable we can be when we need to be.

    A lot of people are going along with it as it’s seen as emergency measures but once it becomes a permanent way of life we may not see as many choosing to live that way.

  55. Crossie says:

    It will take just as big an adjustment to go back. It won’t be the same, particularly for those facing hours of traffic.

    I don’t seems to have saved any time not braving the traffic, I actually miss it as it was the time I listened to podcasts or audiobooks.

  56. Roger W says:

    I agree with almost all that Tom Lees wrote, but one point I would dispute.
    He wrote that “Author Tyler Vigen looked at the divorce rates in the US state of Maine over a ten year period. He found that per 1,000 people the rate had fallen from around five to just over four, in that same time period margarine consumption fell from 3.5kg to 1.5kg per person. There was a high degree of correlation. However, I don’t think anyone would seriously believe that margarine was somehow impacting matrimonial bliss.”
    I know I would be much closer to divorce if I had to eat margarine instead of butter!

  57. Soberinthemorning says:

    “but these days there seems to be a close minded piousness that limits the ability of some to learn, a lack of initiative and drive in boys, a confident the world owes me in girls.”

    That is a very interesting observation. We don’t get too many graduates in my workplace, a medium sized analytical organisation. They are certainly more polished than they were in my time. The young women can be a bit pushy but I haven’t noticed any emasculation of the young men.

  58. Mindfree says:

    Quite happy working from home. Apart from the cost savings of public transport, coffees and lunches out, the solitude is no problem. Using Zoom for meetings and with a reliable internet and desktop setup, i have all the facilities required to do my job plus i get to do stuff around the house when necessary
    And i hated hot desk setup as i normally start late so most of the desks were taken up by the time i got there. No problem wfh as i get to sleep in and still login at my normal time
    I recognize that its not for everyone but suits me fine

  59. Mitchell Porter says:

    Sinclair on freeze and unfreeze:

    “This is the single largest economic intervention in human history. My RMIT colleagues and I are not convinced that government can successfully pull it off.”

    I’m not actually sure how they could fail to pull it off, in the sense that, once barriers to economic activity are lifted, the enterprising fraction of humanity will be out there again trying to make things happen, and people who need to survive will tag along.

  60. John A says:

    calli #3455923, posted on May 17, 2020, at 9:44 am

    Bruce #3455855, posted on May 17, 2020, at 8:23 am

    How may “tradies” can “work from home”?

    Sparkies? Bricklayers? Tilers? Carpenters? Roof tilers / roofers in general? Plumbers and Drainers?

    The ute is the office, and the mobile is the lifeline. The home office is where the missus types up the quotes and invoices and does the books.

    Rivetting riposte!

    Yep!
    One son is a chippie and that’s how he works. No spouse to do the books but everything is online. He occasionally asks me for accounting help via Zoom.
    One son works for a large corporate retailer, does 2-3 days a week from home.
    One son is a top-notch online computer trainer, who’s work is blossoming. Mainly works time zones outside Oz.
    Two sons work in warehousing (essential industry), so they commute on the roads daily.
    Younger daughter VCE student working from home using MS Teams and similar software to what was stated above for exams and SACs. Also uses Teams for vocal group singing and for Drama subject. She says it’s less efficient and feels a bit overloaded. Probably because of staff expectations being too high. Looking forward to returning to the private school.

    Ah, the benefits of a large family – the breadth of experiences from which to draw insight.

  61. I’m not actually sure how they could fail to pull it off, in the sense that, once barriers to economic activity are lifted, the enterprising fraction of humanity will be out there again trying to make things happen, and people who need to survive will tag along.

    Yes but there are going to be costs from such a large shock. Think of credit, solvency, broken down marketing, less production, lower incomes; the real number of unemployed come June or July could be utterly horrific.

  62. Watch Your Back says:

    Mitchell,

    I agree. I think the government needs to get out of the way, deregulate, cut taxes, allow wages to find their market level, cut the price of electricity and the rest.

    It’ll look risky to pantywaists, and the unions will strike.

    I also think the West German revival from 1948 is the way to go.
    The biggest danger I can see is business owners packing it in.

  63. Baa Humbug says:

    No doubt a percentage of workers will be switched to the “new” work from home regimen.
    However we are social animals. A lot of business is done person to person, face to face. Not just inter business but intra business as well.
    As for large offices etc, many businesses need these as shows, rather like the real estate agent who drives an expensive car to “show” the client that he makes money.

    As for companies not taking up these available technologies, why not look at the big tech themselves? Google, Youtube, Twitter et al all have huge headquarters the size of small towns. Surely they themselves are not scared of technology?
    Maybe they get better results by working together under one roof (social animals interacting, brainstorming etc) instead of all working from home (which they could easily do today).

  64. a reader says:

    You might see some office jobs shift to WFH but not many. People need to switch off from their jobs. I’ve hated working out of my bedroom. I don’t have another space to utilise so I’m stuck with it. I can’t wait to get back to actually working properly.

    My four closest friends: 2 are doctors, 1 is studying medicine and the 4th is a flight instructor. None of them can work from home! If you include all the tradies, retail, medical professionals and lots of others that I know-the vast majority of people can’t work from home. MS Teams is a massive drain on the computer and Zoom is pretty crap

  65. BorisG says:

    I can speak about myself. I used to say that I cannot work from home unless on something extremely urgent because there are too many distractions. Now I don’t want to go back to the office because there will be so many distractions.

    I am now more productive at home and would be even more if not for a ridiculously increased number of meetings – a number that would be physically impossible in the office.

  66. egg_ says:

    a ridiculously increased number of meetings

    Sounds like bullsh1t jobs.

    How much productive work gets done at meetings?

  67. Tim Neilson says:

    I also think the West German revival from 1948 is the way to go.

    Unfortunately there won’t be a Marshall Plan coming our way, but we certainly still could learn a few things from them.

    Strangely enough, also from the post-WWII Brits. Even though at a national level they decided to commit slow economic suicide via the Welfare State, at lower levels there was a different attitude at least for a short time.
    When I first visited London in 1984 there was a ramshackle flimsy looking cafe in Tottenham Court Road, well south of Euston Road. I wondered how such a crappy building could have been put up on such expensive real estate. I was told that immediately after the war, anyone who wanted to build anything on a bomb site and start a business would automatically be given planning permission just to get some activity going. Apparently some of them were so successful that they lasted for decades.
    Alas, when I returned to study for a year in 1988-89 it was gone, and I never did find a location doing the old eggs beans chips and mug of tea quite in the same traditional style.

  68. Zulu Kilo Two Alpha says:

    Strangely enough, also from the post-WWII Brits. Even though at a national level they decided to commit slow economic suicide via the Welfare State, at lower levels there was a different attitude at least for a short time.

    Interesting – Britain received twice as much in Marshall Aid Plan funds as Germany. Britain spent their funds on welfare and the NHS, Germany spent theirs rebuilding their industry.

  69. Tel says:

    How may “tradies” can “work from home”?

    Sparkies? Bricklayers? Tilers? Carpenters? Roof tilers / roofers in general? Plumbers and Drainers?

    I accept there are some jobs where the “work from home” technology is unlikely to catch up anytime soon.

    That said, home handyman tools are a lot better than they used to be.

  70. BorisG says:

    Sounds like bullsh1t jobs.

    How much productive work gets done at meetings?

    On average not much. Of course there are meetings and meetings. You can’t design a project without a number of meetings. You can’t carry out a project without regular progress reviews. But there are also many useless meetings.

    Even in normal life we have too many meetings. Not sure how to manage it more effectively. At least from home I can multitask.

  71. egg_ says:

    Of course there are meetings and meetings. You can’t design a project without a number of meetings.

    Insecure Project Managers call multiple meetings, decreasing staff productivity.

  72. Watch Your Back says:

    The Marshall Plan was part of it, but the important thing in West Germany was cutting taxes and regulations, and allowing wages to find their market level. This is what was in my mind.

    The Marshall Plan was not excessive and was used to rebuild productive capacity – factories, plant, railways. Not too many bridges to nowhere or vanity projects. I hope we can resist the pile on for vast spending on ‘infrastructure’ projects.

  73. Tim Neilson says:

    I hope we can resist the pile on for vast spending on ‘infrastructure’ projects.

    As far as CFMEUistan is concerned, that would require being transported to a parallel universe.

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