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Remote-Work Experts Are in Demand as Return to Office Begins Anew

Business school professors who studied working from home long before it became cool have become sought-after advisers to the C-suite.

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Illustration: Larissa Hoff for Bloomberg Businessweek

When Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom did his first study on working remotely in 2004, the field was an academic backwater. Less than 5% of all full workdays took place at home, making the subject a low priority for business schools and corporate leaders. Then came Covid-19. “In March 2020,” Bloom says, “the thing just took off.” Two years into the pandemic, Bloom still gets two or three calls a day from corporations, hospitals, schools, government agencies, and universities looking for guidance.

As the omicron variant recedes, leaders everywhere are grappling with whether—or how much—to make working from home a feature of their organizations. Should they go fully remote and save on real estate but take a potential hit to productivity or culture? Or demand that workers return full time to encourage teamwork but risk losing talent to more flexible competitors? For many, the hybrid model is most compelling but comes with its own vexing trade-offs.