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Coronavirus pandemic likely to lead to reevaluation of telework, Mason professor says

May 13, 2020

Matthew Cronin. Photo by Creative Services.

The avalanche of employees forced to work remotely for the past few months will likely lead to new ways of thinking about both the benefits and detriments of telework, according to George Mason University management professor Matthew A. Cronin.

“Most people walk around the world making all sorts of assumptions. One assumption might be that if you let people telecommute, they will slack off on their work,” Cronin said. “Now that so many people have been telecommuting, our perspective should have changed. We can reexamine the value of remote work, learning from this experience.”

Cronin teaches negotiations at Mason’s School of Business. His research focuses on creativity, collaboration and the dynamics of decision-making. He co-wrote “The Craft of Creativity.”

The coronavirus pandemic forced many nonessential workers throughout the world to do their jobs from their homes for months. During that time, each employee experienced the remote work environment differently. That means, said Cronin, that managers and employers have fresh data from which to make decisions about the value of telework.

Before we “forget what happened go back to old habits,” managers should gather information from every team member about their experiences with remote work.

“Some people may say ‘I was really productive, but I missed my colleagues,’ and some people may say they didn’t like being confined at home,” Cronin said. “What worked, what didn’t—there will be a chance to reflect on all that, and use the feedback going forward. We should immediately capture what we learned as opposed to letting it float into the ether. “

Cronin said that managers could use the information gathered to create more flexible rules about remote work or to create a work environment that creatively integrates remote work into its design.

“The information could lead to different work solutions, which would then be tested, revised, and then tested again,” Cronin said.

Matthew Cronin can be reached at mcronin@gmu.edu

For more information, contact Anna Stolley Persky at apersky@gmu.edu

About George Mason
George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 38,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.