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.

Arie Kapteyn, Elena Stancanelli, 17 April 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that more people are working from home and women are disproportionately losing paid work. This column uses daily activity diaries from the American Time Use Survey to look back at the impact of the unemployment benefit extensions that were triggered by the Great Recession on hours worked from home. The overall picture is one of increased gender inequality in the labour market, with women but not men increasing work hours and effort in response to the Great Recession and the consequent changes in the duration of unemployment benefits. 

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.

Arjun Ramani, Nicholas Bloom, 28 January 2021

The pandemic has pushed against many of the central forces that create economic agglomeration in cities. This column presents evidence on how US real estate markets have responded to the pandemic and the rise of working from home. The authors find that real estate demand reallocates from high-density regions where many people work from home to low-density regions where fewer people work from home within metropolitan areas for both residential and commercial properties, but do not find much evidence of demand reallocating across metropolitan areas. These changes appear to be limited to highly populated ‘superstar’ cities.

Abigail Adams-Prassl, Teodora Boneva, Marta Golin, Christopher Rauh, 02 September 2020

Working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic has provided shelter from both the health risks and the economic shock brought about by the pandemic. This column uses survey data from the US and the UK to demonstrate systematic variation in individuals’ ability to work from home both across and within occupations and industries. In addition, men and workers with a college degree can do a substantially higher share of their tasks from home, while workers on low incomes report being able to do a smaller share. This polarisation has increased over the course of the pandemic, as workers who were already able to carry out a large share of tasks remotely have become able to do even more from home.

Charles Gottlieb, Jan Grobovšek, Markus Poschke, Fernando Saltiel, 29 August 2020

Many countries have implemented social distancing and lockdown policies to tame the spread of Covid-19. This column discusses the potential GDP and employment effects of lockdown policies for a broad cross-section of countries ranging in income per capita from Niger to Luxembourg. It shows that the employment and GDP effects of lockdown policies are U-shaped in income per capita. While workers in rich countries have a substantially higher ability to work from home, which mitigates declines in employment and GDP, poor countries concentrate employment and value-added in essential sectors that are not shut down. Middle-income countries see the largest declines as they feature relatively large employment shares in non-essential sectors and relatively low work from home ability

Santo Milasi, Martina Bisello, John Hurley, Matteo Sostero, Enrique Fernández-Macías, 14 August 2020

The growth in teleworking seen during the Covid-19 crisis has been strongly skewed towards highly paid occupations and white-collar employment, raising concerns about the emergence of a new divide between those who can work remotely and those who cannot. Nonetheless, enforced closures of economic activities due to confinement measures resulted in many new teleworkers amongst low and mid-level clerical and administrative workers who previously had limited access to this working arrangement. This column presents new estimates of the share of teleworkable employment in the EU and discusses factors determining the gap between actual and potential teleworking – including elements of work organisation. It also discusses how telework patterns could develop in the future and related policy implications.

Cem Özgüzel, Paolo Veneri, Rudiger Ahrend, 15 July 2020

Places differ in the degree to which they can maintain economic activity through remote working in the face of shocks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This column assesses the capacity of regions in 30 developed economies to shift to remote working during a lockdown. Based on individual-level data on occupations from labour force surveys, it shows that cities – and in particular capitals – typically have a higher share of occupations suitable for remote working. This may offset some of the stronger negative economic impacts of COVID-related policies on cities. Regional disparities in the capacity for remote working also clearly reflect the level of education of the workforce.

Toshihiro Okubo, 25 June 2020

The Japanese government’s policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic was to ask people to refrain from leaving their homes and to encourage teleworking. This column examines the effect of COVID-19 on the uptake of teleworking in a country that has the lowest use among developed countries. Overall, teleworking increased about 4 percentage points from January to March 2020, driven by industries and occupations related to information and located in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Teleworking is not suited to face-to-face services and manual labour, which saw substantial declines in worker incomes.

Richard Baldwin, 29 May 2020

Has Covid accelerated the future of work? This column argues that Covid has changed the future of work via four shocks: massive job losses, massive digital transformations, massive debt burdens, and massive costs of socially distanced office space. These matter in two ways. First, due to sunk cost hysteresis, re-hiring workers is very different than retaining workers. Second, the digital transformations, office-space costs, and debt burdens will push firms to replace domestic workers with ‘telemigrants’ or ‘white-collar robots’. The jobs that return will be those that require face-to-face interactions and involve tasks that AI cannot handle. 

Janine Berg, Florence Bonnet, Sergei Soares, 11 May 2020

Working from home can help mitigate the public health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. This column estimates the share of workers across the different regions of the world who could potentially perform their activities from home, using a Delphi survey of labour market experts from across the world and then weighing these estimates by countries’ occupational shares. The analysis shows that approximately one in six workers at the global level, and just over one in four in advanced countries, could potentially work from home.  

Teresa Barbieri, Gaetano Basso, Sergio Scicchitano, 27 April 2020

Many countries are now designing exit strategies from the sectoral lockdowns put in place to contain the outbreak of Covid-19. This column provides new evidence from Italy on the degree of workplace risk of exposure to the virus. Unsurprisingly, the health sector is the most exposed to diseases and infections, while the services sector is the most risky in terms of physical proximity. These and other findings can help in deciding which activities to reopen first and where to reinforce security measures.

Masayuki Morikawa, 10 April 2020

Japan, similar to many countries hit by the COVID-19 shock, has experienced a sudden increase in people working from home. This column exploits the teleworking arrangements implemented at the author’s workplace to investigate the impact on productivity. In a survey, workers indicate that they are, on average, less productive at home than in the office. While some of the reasons for this, such as lack of familiarity with remote access software, will fade over time, other factors suggest that a productivity gap will remain.

Tito Boeri, Alessandro Caiumi, Marco Paccagnella, 09 April 2020

In getting people back to work before a vaccine is developed, policymakers will have to balance medical risks and economic risks. This column presents some calculations on the number of jobs that can be carried out without putting workers at risk of being infected by COVID-19. The findings suggest that the share of jobs that can be performed without putting workers’ health at risk is limited, and probably does not reach 50%. Importantly, this share is even lower in strategic industries that supply the health sector.

Jonathan Dingel, Brent Neiman, 07 April 2020

Evaluating the economic impact of ‘social distancing’ measures taken to arrest the spread of COVID-19 raises a fundamental question about the modern economy: How many jobs can be performed at home? This column describes the results of classifying the feasibility of working at home for all occupations. In the US, 37% of jobs can plausibly be performed at home.


CEPR Policy Research