EC A Working Narrative

Since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, debates about the future of work have been a fixture of the zeitgeist. In the early days, we read and wrote about who would be working remotely. By mid-pandemic, we read and wrote about how remote work would…well…work.


Today we are all reading and writing about the most important question of all:

How much of this is going to be permanent?

No, this question is not new. It has been a part of the background to the discussion of remote work since the beginning. What IS new is that starting in late March and reaching a fever pitch by early June, we have observed two changes in the narrative structure of how remote work will continue or end as the pandemic fades in the United States.

First, we have observed that it has shifted from a background topic in the broader discussion of the workplace impact of COVID-19 to the dominant topic. In Epsilon Theory parlance, our measurement of its narrative attention has risen dramatically. This shouldn’t be surprising. Frankly it isn’t all that interesting, either. As CDC and state-level restrictions fall along with infection rates, of course businesses and companies are grappling with the question more than they were. So of course it is a more frequent topic of discussion. So of course it is grabbing more of the narrative attention, even from the perspective of a natural language processing algorithm.

Second, we have observed that the discussion has transitioned from a mess of generalized, survey-level musings about the future of work to a clearly bi-modal narrative structure. That is a fancy way of saying that there are two distinct narratives being promoted, each of which has some linguistic distance from the other, and each of which has relatively strong internal linguistic cohesion.

I’m sure you can guess what these two poles are: one camp arguing that remote work is here to stay, and the other arguing that rumors of the death of the office have been greatly exaggerated. Or something like that.

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Disclosure: This commentary is being provided to you as general information only and should not be taken as investment advice. The opinions expressed in these materials represent the personal views ...

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