Remote Work is Here to Stay—Not Everywhere, but Definitely in Boston and San Francisco

Raffaella Sadun (Photo: HBS)

BOSTON–Remote work is here to stay, but not everywhere, and not in all companies, according to a recent article published in the Working Knowledge of Harvard Business School. The article is based on a study conducted by Raffaella Sadun, Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration at HBS, and Stanford University’s Nick Bloom.

“As the business world emerges from the pandemic, some companies are demanding a full return to the office. Others are embracing remote work options for their employees. New research suggests how people work now depends on company location, industry, skill set, and even an individual company’s cultural preference,” according to the article.

From 2019 to 2023, job postings for one or more remote work days per week climbed more than three-fold in the United States. In Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, openings skyrocketed by at least a factor of five. That said, in Miami; Savannah, Georgia; and Memphis, job listings with one or more days remote have slowed or leveled off, according to the report.

“There has been a discrete change,” says Prof Sadun as quoted in the article. “The notion that we will go back to a point in which at least some firms will not commit to remote work—we’ve passed that moment. Having said that, we are also clearly not, at the other extreme of remote work, seeing a universal type of practice that every firm is going to apply.”

San Francisco and Boston lead remote offerings

“Remote-work posting shares vary greatly across occupations, industries, and cities,” the authors write as reported by Working Knowledge.

Jobs based in San Francisco, Boston, and New York continue to offer a high-level of job postings with one or more days a week of remote work. Miami, among other cities in the southern US, is almost back to its pre-pandemic shares of remote work advertised, as reported by Working Knowledge.

“The disparity also depends on profession. Finance, insurance, information, and communications have the highest remote-work shares, the authors found. Skills play a role, too. Higher-paying jobs with computer use and education requirements are more likely to offer a remote option than those that require direct customer interactions, the researchers write,” reports Working Knowledge. “Take listings with “computer and mathematical” requirements. Before the pandemic, just one in 20 job posts offered remote work. By 2022, more than one-third mentioned the option.”

Here are other highlights from the report:

  • Individual corporate culture also appears to play a big part in offering remote work. While one company may offer work-from-home options, a competitor may not, the authors found.
  • Take the automotive industry. In 2019, almost no jobs from Honda, GM, Ford, or Tesla promoted the possibility of remote work, according to the authors.
  • By 2022, Honda offered half of new engineering hires the option to work at home at least one day a week. GM ads offered less than half that, while fewer than one-sixth of Ford’s listings had a remote component. Tesla, whose CEO Elon Musk famously opposes off-site work, offered few remote possibilities either year, the researchers found.