While 1 in 12 U.S. employees worked from home in February, that number increased to 1 in 3 by May, according to a report by economists from Virginia Commonwealth University, Arizona State University and the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.
The increase was mostly driven by people who commuted to work every day in February, then switched to working from home entirely, said Adam Blandin, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the VCU School of Business who runs the Real-Time Population Survey with Alexander Bick, Ph.D., an associate professor of economics at Arizona State.
Trends in working from home may have several important effects.
“The ability to work from home provides protection against losing one's job, especially in instances where government mandates close down workplaces,” Blandin said. “Working from home also allows people to minimize their risk of contracting and spreading the [COVID-19] virus, and may provide flexibility in caring for children whose schools have closed.
“One of the biggest unknowns relates to productivity while working from home. While certain jobs are difficult or impossible to do away from the office, some studies have found that many workers are actually more productive when working from home.”
The report — co-authored by Blandin, Bick and Karel Mertens, Ph.D., a senior economic policy adviser in the Research Department at the Dallas Fed — comes from data gleaned from Blandin and Bick’s biweekly Real-Time Population Survey, which has provided policymakers, reporters, analysts and the public with timely labor information during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since launch, their research has been cited widely in national publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Business Insider, Forbes, The New York Times and The Washington Post, and has drawn attention from notable economists worldwide.
Among other key findings in the newest report:
The Real-Time Population Survey is conducted in collaboration with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. The results from this survey do not represent official forecasts or views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, its president, the Federal Reserve System or the Federal Open Market Committee.