- U.S. employees who work from home daily save 55 minutes in commuting time on average and channel 23 of the extra minutes to their jobs, according to a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research.
- Findings from the study, which measured how work from home yields commute-time savings in the U.S. and 26 other countries, “suggest that much of the time savings flow back to employers, and that children and other caregiving recipients also benefit,” the researchers said.
- Among all 27 countries, employees who work from home daily save an average of 72 minutes and spend an additional 29 minutes doing work, the researchers said. Daily commute times range from 51 minutes in Serbia and 54 minutes in Poland, to 100 minutes in Japan and 102 minutes in China.
The number of U.S. employees primarily working remotely more than tripled from 2019 until 2021 amid COVID-19 lockdowns and efforts to avert exposure to the virus, according to Census Bureau estimates published in September. During the two-year period the number of remote workers surged to 27.6 million, or 17.9% of the labor force, from 9 million, or 5.7%.
“The pandemic-induced shift to work from home yielded large private benefits in the form of commute time savings,” according to the study published by NBER.
Noting that many remote workers commute some days during the week, the researchers estimate that work from home in the 27 countries saved about two hours per week per worker during 2021 and 2022.
The savings will likely fall to one hour per week after the pandemic ends, or 2.2% of a 46-hour work week, assuming 40 paid hours and six commuting hours, the researchers said.
Remote work yields a measurable payoff to workers, they said. “We estimate that the private value of the commute time associated with work from home will be about 2.2% of after-tax earnings in the post-pandemic economy.”
Remote workers also gain intangible benefits, they said. “The full private value of working from home is greater for several reasons.”
“Commuters strongly dislike unpredictable travel times, and automobile drivers strongly dislike congested road conditions,” according to the researchers. “Long commutes, unpredictable commute times and congested road conditions push the private value of time savings above the after-tax wage.”
In addition, remote workers save money on transportation, often gain more autonomy over how they schedule their day and spend less time grooming and getting ready for work, they said.
On any given day, remote workers in the U.S. on average spend 19 minutes of the time that would otherwise be spent commuting in leisure activities, and four minutes in caregiving, the researcher said.
The NBER working paper does not gauge the impact of remote work on productivity.