Contemporary American society centers around place-based work. Cities like Detroit and New York were built on industry, with modern infrastructure set up to support commerce and expanding workforces. It’s not a stretch to say that Americans tend to organize their lives around work. Citizens live in areas with job opportunities, they receive healthcare from employers and they spend significant time and money commuting from and to work.
The ability to work remotely is a noteworthy shift from this standard. The combination of high speed internet connection, laptop and secure VPN now enables a significant subset of employees to access their workplace without stepping foot inside an office. In the early part of the 21st century, most employers were loath to embrace these technological advances except on an ad hoc basis, perhaps due to concerns about productivity or ability to retain talent. However, the COVID-19 pandemic forced these same employers to institute potentially long-term work-from-home policies. Moving forward, they may continue or expand remote work policies due to employee demand, as a cost-saving measure or due to growing concerns about GHG emissions.
This study estimates that only 37% of American jobs are feasible to be performed at home. Improvements to technologies such as virtual reality may further increase the number of jobs that can be done remotely. The consequences of an increasingly remote workplace are ill-defined, but it’s likely that employees will choose to live in locations central to family or personal interests. Will people move to areas with lower costs of living, or will the networking effects of city life become even more amplified? These shifts are sure to impact business, investment, taxes and healthcare in unforeseen ways.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics conducts an annual American Time Use Survey (ATUS), which measures the amount of time people spend doing various activities, such as paid work, childcare, volunteering, and socializing. This survey (see questionnaire here) attempts to quantify the percentage of Americans working from home on an average day. From years 2009-2019, this number remained within a range of 21-24%. In 2020, this number doubled to 42%.
What will be the percentage of employed persons working at home on an average day in 2030?