The New York Times – Miserable as it can often be, remote work is surprisingly productive — leading many employers to wonder if they’ll ever go back to the office. “…In a May working paper, Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor in management science at M.I.T., and a group of academics reported survey results indicating that half of those who were employed before the pandemic were now working remotely. That’s a significant increase — pre-Covid-19, the paper estimates, the figure was about 15 percent. (In 2018, a U.S. Census Bureau survey found that just 5.3 percent of Americans worked from home full time.) It’s a situation deeply skewed toward the privileged: Many employees who work in health care, public transportation or the service sector, for instance, have never been given the option to work remotely, during the crisis or before. At companies where remote work is possible, though, many now expect it to continue for quite some time….
Output often rises when people work remotely. In 2012, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, headquartered in Northern Virginia, began a program allowing patent examiners to live anywhere. For those who chose to work remotely, productivity rose by 4.4 percent, according to a study last fall by Prithwiraj Choudhury, a professor at Harvard Business School, and two colleagues. A 2015 case study by Nicholas Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford University, and others found that when one Chinese travel agency assigned a random group of employees to work remotely for nine months, their productivity went up by 13 percent, generating an increase of roughly $2,000 in annual profits per employee. (It later rose even higher, to 20 percent.) The company’s chief executive had actually expected productivity to decrease; he figured the shift would yield savings that made up for the lost output…”