Working from home used to be a convenience. In the era of COVID-19, it’s a necessity.
But what percentage of the labor force can realistically work from home? Economists have been hard at work on this problem and they are making progress. According to the latest estimates, close to 40% of all jobs can be plausibly done from home.
This estimate comes from two separate studies. In one study, a team of economists from the University of Chicago examined survey data from the Occupational Information Network. They looked at American workers’ responses to two questions: whether an occupation required daily work outdoors and whether it required operating vehicles, mechanized devices, or equipment. Jobs that had either of these characteristics were marked as unable to be performed from home while all other jobs were assumed to be adaptable to a work-from-home setup.
Merging the survey data with occupational employment counts, they estimated that up to 37% of jobs in the United States could be plausibly done from home.
A second study conducted by a team of economists in Norway came up with almost the exact same number — they estimated that approximately 36% of jobs could be realistically performed from home.
But they arrived at this conclusion in a very different way. The Norwegian economists asked a large sample of online respondents how likely it was that various occupations could be performed primarily from a private home. While the overall work-from-home percentage was estimated at 36%, the researchers found large differences by job category. For instance, approximately two thirds of clerical support jobs were estimated to be remote-friendly while only 21% of craft and trade jobs were seen in the same way. The full list of job categories, along with the remote-friendly percentages, are shown below.
- Managers — 52%
- Academics — 52%
- Technicians and associate professionals — 43%
- Clerical support workers — 67%
- Service and sales workers — 29%
- Skilled agricultural, forestry and fishery workers — 0%
- Craft and related trades workers — 21%
- Plant, machine operators, and assemblers — 0%
- Elementary occupations — 0%
This squares with the analysis performed by the University of Chicago economists, which also showed large differences by occupational sector.
There’s also the matter of how much people enjoy working from home. A new study published by the company Monday.com, a leading work OS, offers insights. Surveying 1,000 full-time employed men and women in the past month, they found that 69% of Americans enjoy working from home more than they thought they would while 54% say they are more productive at home.
What do people dislike about working from home? Forty-four percent of people say they miss their coworkers and 21% miss outside lunch breaks. Moreover, approximately a quarter of working adults miss having specific working hours.
All in all, however, people seem to be adjusting well to remote work. Approximately half of working adults are sleeping later because they don’t have to commute, 37% admit to wearing pajamas during the day, and 17% work with a pet or child on their lap. It will be interesting to see how the productivity numbers hold up.
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