What happens when you let employees work from anywhere?

October 2019—You’ve heard of telework or telecommuting where employees work at least some of the time from home. That trend has been increasing.

2017 Gallup poll reported that 43% of employed Americans had spent at least some time working remotely, and US Census data released in 2018reported 5.2% of U.S. workers being based entirely at home.

But with ubiquitous internet, people can work from anywhere, at least some jobs. According to recent research, this WFA practice can improve productivity. Harvard Business Review refers to a soon-to-be-released study of US Patent and Trade Office.

Our results indicate that examiners’ work output increased by 4.4% after transition to WFA, with no significant increase in rework (re-writing of patent decisions upon appeal from inventors). Supplemental analysis also showed that patent quality (as measured by examiner-added citations) did not deteriorate . The 4.4% productivity increase represents up to $1.3 billion of annual value added to the U.S. economy, based on the average economic activity generated per additional patent granted.

It may also keep Baby Boomers working longer, since they can move to where they want to retire but still work. And others moved to areas with lower costs of living, boosting their disposable income at no additional cost to the employer.

Now what we need is for companies to train and recruit from blighted rural areas to bridge the urban-rural divide.