A New Study Showcases a Hidden WFH Benefit for Workers and Employers

According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, working from home can actually help everyone

A laptop and coffee and a notepad on a table. Working out of office and/or at home is showing to be more productive for both workers and businesses.
Lose the hour commute and you'll be more productive
Andrew Neel / Unsplash

While some company bigwigs think work-from-home employees are “phoning it in” the truth is that a home office provides plenty of benefits for both employers and workers — such as saving time. In a new paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (as reported by Tech.co), the study’s authors suggest WFH employees are saving about 55 minutes per day in the U.S. and longer on average globally – and benefitting both themselves and their companies.

Obviously, almost all of that can be accounted for by the lack of a commute. And for bosses who think that extra time is going to waste, the paper notes that “workers allocate 40 percent of their time savings to their jobs and about 11 percent to caregiving activities” (later, they note that 34 percent goes to leisure activities). Which, doing some quick math, means if a person saves an hour a day overall, five days a week, they’re actually putting two hours more into their job.

The report covered full-time workers, aged 20-59, who finished primary school in 27 countries. The survey included questions about demographics, labor market outcomes, current and planned WFH levels, commute time and more.

Beyond that, the final numbers don’t even give the full benefit of workers at home. The figures in the report only capture the commute time savings associated with WFH. “The full private value of working from home is greater for several reasons,” writes the NBER. “First, avoided commutes bring monetary savings as well as time savings. Second, workers spend less time grooming and getting ready for work when they WFH…third, working from home offers more flexibility in time use over the day and greater personal autonomy. The upshot is that the direct private value of working from home, say, two or three days a week is greater than suggested by travel time valuations applied to commute time savings.”

And it’s actually not that great of a time save in the U.S. In China, for example, the report suggests WFH could save up to 102 minutes per day.

Overall, we’re not saying WFH is a solution for everyone. There are legitimate mental health concerns and some creativity and collaboration can be lost if you’re not in the same office (and many jobs literally can’t be performed remotely). But given a recent trend of companies demanding workers return to a pre-2020 state of cubicle working, maybe CEOs should really consider what constitutes productivity. Because numbers suggest WFH is pretty good for everyone.

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