Coronavirus and the 'Working From Home' Economy

Douglas A. McIntyre

The coronavirus currently spreading from country to country has caused extreme concern in nations where the number of cases is growing. So far, the United States has been spared, although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it has plans in place in the event it begins to spread here. The United States has more than one advantage, economically, if this happens.

Nothing can offset the effects of closed factories, airlines with sparsely filled planes, and empty stores and fast-food establishments. However, American businesses have adopted “working from home” programs. These are possible due, very substantially, to the nation’s broadband infrastructure. The only places where broadband availability is low are rural areas and in poor portions of many large cities.

Much of the thriving tech economy does not require people to work in any one place. This is true of many people who work for companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Netflix. Some workers in the financial industry do not need to work at offices, with the exception of those who work in customer-serving branches. Many people who work at pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer do not need to work from offices. The same is true of some consumer products companies, including Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble.

The “working from home” economy will not keep the United States from an economic slowdown if the virus starts to spread in a significant way in America. However, it will keep some of the most critical parts of the business world from crumbling.