At Least 16 Percent of Employees Will Remain At-Home Workers Long After COVID-19 Recedes

Christopher Stanton Photo: Harvard Business School)

BOSTON–A new survey by researchers at Harvard Business School suggests that at least 16 percent of employees will remain at-home workers long after COVID-19 recedes.

The results of the survey of 1,800 people in both small and larger businesses, which published in the Working Knowledge of the Harvard Business School, also found:

  • While overall levels of remote work are high, there is considerable variation across industries.
  • Remote work is much more common in industries with better educated and better paid workers.
  • Respondents in better educated and higher paid industries have also observed less productivity loss from the transition to remote work.
  • More than one-third of firms that had employees switch to remote work believe that it will remain more common at their company even after the COVID-19 crisis ends.

“These estimates suggest that at least 16 percent of American workers will switch from professional offices to working at home at least two days per week as a result of COVID- 19,” the researchers conclude. “This would represent a dramatic and persistent shift in workplace norms around remote work, and has implications for companies, employees, and policymakers alike.”

The working paper, What Jobs Are Being Done at Home During the COVID-19 Crisis? Evidence from Firm-Level Surveys, was conducted by Harvard Business School Assistant Professor Zoe Cullen and Associate Professors Michael Luca and Christopher Stanton, with colleagues Alexander Bartik, an economics professor at the University of Illinois, and Edward Glaeser, a Harvard University economics professor.

To read the original article by Kristen Senzin in the Working Knowledge, please click here.

“The pandemic has brought about tremendous changes, and we couldn’t have anticipated the scale or speed at which they have occurred,” Stanton, the Marvin Bower Associate Professor of Business Administration at HBS, told Working Knowledge. “I think there’s an important question about the extent to which this is going to be a more permanent change or not, so for me, that’s the main motivation for the paper, as well as trying to explore whether people are more or less productive given this new environment.”

Here are some other findings from the report:

  • Higher-paying jobs that require more education have a higher capacity to become remote jobs, highlighting concerns about inequality.
  • While past research suggests that many American workers could successfully perform their jobs from outside the office, companies have been slow to adopt remote work arrangements for a variety of reasons.
  • Information and science firms stayed productive.
  • Administrative support and realtors thrive remotely.
  • Education and finance companies chose remote work.