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Research: Working From Home Frees Up Two Hours a Week, Time Many People Spend Doing Work

laptop and calculator on a couch to signify remote work

The anti-WFH, pro-RTO propaganda has chilled out a bit in recent months as boomer and boomer-adjacent Gen X CEOs wait out the next big recession but even those pinstriped menaces in the C-suite who think all remote work is the domain of the lazy can appreciate this info we are about to share with you.

We already know working from home saves time that would otherwise be spent commuting and putting on pants but just how much? That obviously depends on who you ask. For purposes of this discussion, we’re going by this National Bureau of Economic Research study “Time Savings When Working from Home” [PDF] which says:

We quantify the commute time savings associated with work from home, drawing on data for 27 countries. The average daily time savings when working from home is 72 minutes in our sample. We estimate that work from home saved about two hours per week per worker in 2021 and 2022, and that it will save about one hour per week per worker after the pandemic ends. Workers allocate 40 percent of their time savings to their jobs and about 11 percent to caregiving activities [emphasis ours]. People living with children allocate more of their time savings to caregiving.

Using the The Global Survey of Working Arrangements (G-SWA) — which covers full-time workers, aged 20-59, who finished primary school in 27
countries — researchers found that workers in the United States save about an hour a day working from home and spend 42% of it on their primary or secondary job (shout-out OE). This is higher than time spent on “Leisure” (e.g. dicking around. Kidding, it’s watching TV, reading, exercise and the like) as you can see from the table below:

Researchers also broke down daily commute savings by education level, sex, age, and family status, including those living in sin:

Note: researchers did not have data on marital status and the presence of children in some countries, hence the two samples.

From there, they broke things down even further. Assuming this is meaningful information to people who did not fail Algebra II like most of the Going Concern editorial team did:

Say the researchers:

When we account for the incidence of work from home (WFH) across people – including those who never work remotely – our data imply that WFH saved about two hours per week per worker in 2021 and 2022, and that it will save about one hour per week per worker after the pandemic ends. For a full-time worker, that amounts to 2.2 percent of a 46-hour workweek (40 paid hours plus six hours of commuting). That’s a large time savings, especially when multiplied by hundreds of millions of workers around the world.

We also provide evidence on how workers allocate these time savings. On average, those who WFH devote 40 percent of their time savings to primary and secondary jobs, 34 percent to leisure, and 11 percent to caregiving activities. These results suggest that much of the time savings flow back to employers, and that children and other caregiving recipients also benefit.

So the next time some partner is giving you an earful about how people working from home get nothing done go ahead and send them this. IT’S SCIENCE.

Time Savings When Working From Home [National Bureau of Economic Research]