The end of the summer holidays and the reopening of schools have sparked a lively debate over the future of remote working. From the US to the UK, politicians and employers are nudging workers to return to the office even though the pandemic is not over. But these requests put employees in a very awkward place — caught between fearing for their health and fearing for their job.

Following two key principles may resolve some of the tension. First, the government should have no say in this decision, so long as states can avoid new lockdowns and with the obvious exception of managing the public service. Second, it is up to employers, in conjunction with employees, to make the call on returning to the office, and there is no point in forcing it if remote working hasn’t hurt productivity and profitability...

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