Nicholas Bloom, Paul Mizen, Shivani Taneja, 15 June 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a collective shift to working from home. This column argues that though the shift was surprisingly easy, returning to the office will be hard. New evidence from a survey of 2,500 employees in the UK shows a preference in favour of home working 2-3 days a week, with lingering concerns of overcrowded transport and offices. But allowing workers to choose when to work from home will leave empty offices Monday and Friday, and many tasks such as large group meetings are more effective in person than online. Hybrid working will be the solution.

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. 

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.

Shivani Taneja, Paul Mizen, Nicholas Bloom, 15 March 2021

Attitudes towards working from home have changed substantially since the start of the pandemic. This column discusses the findings from a survey of 5,000 working adults in the UK in January and February 2021, which suggest that about half of the UK labour force are currently working from home. Two days a week at home is the most commonly expected working pattern post-COVID, with implications for many large and medium-sized businesses.

Masayuki Morikawa, 12 March 2021

Working from home has become much more prevalent across advanced economies during the Covid-19 pandemic. This column uses survey data from Japan to explore how widely working from home has been adopted across industries and how productive employees are at home. It finds that the overall contribution of working from home to labour input is surprisingly small. Even where firms adopted the practice, many employees did not exploit it; and even those who did work from home did not necessarily do so throughout the week. The firm survey responses suggest that across industries, the average productivity of employees when working from home relative to at the workplace is 68.3%, which is similar to the findings from an employee survey. The results suggest that there is room for improvement to make working from home more feasible.

Gianni De Fraja, Jesse Matheson, James Rockey, Daniel Timms, 11 February 2021

The Covid-19 outbreak has led to an unprecedented rise in the number of jobs done from home. This column discusses the implications of this shift for locally consumed services such as restaurants, hairdressers, and gyms. Using precise data on the location of homes and offices of workers across the UK, it finds that there is large heterogeneity in the impact of working from home on these businesses. While city centres suffered a significant drop in demand for services, suburban neighbourhoods experienced an increase in demand. Policies aimed at helping the service industry should take this diverse impact into account.

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.

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

Alex Bartik, Zoe Cullen, Edward Glaeser, Michael Luca, Christopher Stanton, 19 July 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has necessitated a rise in remote working, but many challenges to its broader adoption remain. This column uses survey data from thousands of small businesses representing a wide set of industries, firm sizes, and regions across the US to understand how businesses are adjusting to the crisis. It finds that transition to remote working is uneven, with businesses in industries with higher income and better educated employees more likely to transition to remote working. Productivity effects are also uneven, with many firms becoming less productive as a result of the transition.


CEPR Policy Research