Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, Steven Davis, 27 July 2021

Employers in the US are grappling with whether and how to bring employees back to the office or other place of work. Using survey-based evidence, this column finds that four in ten Americans who currently work from home at least one day a week would seek another job if employers require a full return to business premises, and most workers would look favourably on a new job that offers the same pay with the option to work from home two or three days a week. High rates of quits and job openings in recent months appear to partly reflect a re-sorting of workers based on the scope for remote working.  

Sergei Soares, Florence Bonnet, Janine Berg, 25 April 2021

At the onset of the COVID-19 crisis, scholars around the world estimated the potential of working from home, given its efficacy as a measure to mitigate the spread of the contagion while allowing productive activities to continue. This column uses household survey data for 31 countries to update previous estimates of working from home during the pandemic. The new data suggest that that during the second quarter of 2020, 557 million workers worked from home, accounting for 17.4% of the world’s employment.  This estimate is remarkably close to the previous estimate from May 2020, based on an expert assessment of teleworkability adjusted for occupational distributions.

Morris Davis, Andra Ghent, Jesse Gregory, 18 April 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted a radical shift in how much people work from home. This column argues that, through learning and technology adoption effects, this enforced shift has boosted the productivity of working from home, which will lead to higher lifetime incomes for the working population. While these productivity gains would likely have happened eventually, the pandemic accelerated this process.

Charles Gottlieb, Jan Grobovšek, Markus Poschke, Fernando Saltiel, 18 March 2021

The ability to work from home, which has proved crucial to the resilience of labour markets during the Covid-19 pandemic, may have shifted employment patterns permanently. Data on this shift have thus far come largely from advanced economies. This column proposes a measure of the ability to work from home in low- and middle-income countries. It indicates that fewer than 10% of urban jobs in developing countries can be done remotely, and in particular workers in low-wage occupations and the self-employed have fewer opportunities to work from home.

Kristian Behrens, Sergey Kichko, Jacques-François Thisse, 13 February 2021

Containing Covid-19 has required more people to work from home, accelerating the trend towards telecommuting. This column uses a general equilibrium model to analyse the long-term effects of this trend, and finds that it may prove to be a mixed blessing. Working from home saves time that would be spent commuting but deprives firms of the benefits from information and knowledge spillovers. Firms use less office space, but workers require more space at home. Overall, GDP will likely be maximised when working from home occurs one or two days per week.

Marta Angelici, Paola Profeta, 28 March 2020

The outbreak of coronavirus has led to a huge increase in ‘smart working’ across the world, but little is known about the economic effects of this mode of working. This column uses an experiment with workers in a large, traditional company in the multi-utility sector in Italy to show that the introduction of smart working can have a positive effect on productivity, wellbeing and work-life balance. By removing the rigidity related to particular hours of work, it may contribute to reducing gender gaps in the labour market.

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