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Some Remote Work May Be Here To Stay Because Workers Like It, Economists Say

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Jan 9, 2023


Remote work is not over yet, despite a looming recession, waves of layoffs, and increasing pressures from companies to force their employees back to the office, the New York Times reported.

Remote work stabilized at about 30 percent last year, well above pre-pandemic levels, the Times reported, citing the latest Survey of Working Arrangements and Attitudes (SWAA). Thirteen percent of full-time employees were fully remote, 58 percent were full-time on site, and 29 percent were in a hybrid arrangement as of the fourth quarter of 2022, the survey found.

In 2019, around 5 percent of fully paid working days in the United States were completed remotely, according to census data cited by the Times. By May 2020, that proportion was more than 60 percent, the survey found.

“We are all back to pre-pandemic trends in online shopping, but permanently up on online work,” Nick Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford and a co-author of the monthly survey, told the Times.

People prefer working remotely for many reasons, among them the avoidance of commuting, the lack of office distractions and improved wellbeing, an October 2021 Gallup poll found. “Flexible working” was also a consideration for those seeking a new job, a June 2022 survey by McKinsey found.

Remote working is also beneficial for companies, the Times reported, citing a ZipRecruiter survey that reported job seekers on average saying that would take a 14 percent pay cut in order to work remotely.

Bloom and other colleagues also found that many of the senior business executives surveyed each month by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta had expanded remote work as a way to “keep employees happy and to moderate wage-growth pressures.” The Times mentioned that workers may take fewer sick days when they work from home or they may opt to work remotely if they also have to attend to a personal matter, when they would previously have taken a full day off.

There are, of course, concerns about working remotely, such as security considerations, new software purchases and compliance issues when hiring in multiple states or countries. But companies have already adapted, Steven Davis, a professor at the University of Chicago and a co-author of the SWAA, told the Times. “We had almost three years of experience doing this,” he said.

But remote work may be here to stay for the simple reason that it is hard, if not impossible, to return to the way things were before the pandemic.

“Many, many companies in recent months have insisted that people come back to the office five days a week, only to reverse that mandate within about a week after hearing that they’d lose their best and brightest,” Julia Pollak, ZipRecruiter’s chief economist, told the Times.