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Monday Morning Optimism 4/3/23
Work From Home Improves Resource Productivity
Welcome to our Monday Morning Optimism series. To start each week, we’ll send you an economic trend/fact/idea that shows how some aspect of the economy (or world) has improved over time.
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A few weeks ago, we linked to this NYT story that claims “there was 278% more people playing golf at 4 p.m. on a Wednesday in August 2022 than in August 2019,” and the cause of the surge appears to be work from home.
Even if you don’t work from home or play golf, this is good news, and you should feel good about it.
According to data from WFH Research, about 4.7% of Americans worked from home in January 2019. At the time, that was the highest share on record. As of February 2023, the work from home share stood at 27.7%.
When people work from home, they can take a more flexible approach to when they work. For instance, you could get that TPS report done early in the morning or late at night, and that would give you time to play a round of golf in the afternoon.
Before the pandemic, golf courses were relatively empty Monday-Friday and packed on Saturdays and Sundays. To compensate for this, golf courses charged more on weekends.
In my opinion, golf is significantly less enjoyable on a crowded course. So even if I can’t golf on weekdays, the fact that some people are playing on Wednesday afternoons instead of Saturday mornings makes the course less crowded and potentially reduces the premium I pay for playing on a weekend.
This doesn’t just apply to golf. Roads, like golf courses, have a fixed capacity. By shifting some roadway-use to off hours, work from home has alleviated a lot of traffic headaches. According to this Axios analysis of the TomTom Traffic Index, “congestion levels in North America were down 14% in 2021 compared with 2019. At traditional peak hours, the drop in traffic was 31%.”
The same goes for stores. Before the pandemic, the Target near my house was so crowded on weekends that shopping evoked Mufasa being crushed to death by a stampeding herd of wildebeests. Now, it’s somewhat more tolerable because some of those wildebeests, doing their wildebeest-work from home, have time to go to Target during the workday.
By smoothing out the peak and off-hour use of resources, work from home has the potential to increase productivity. Sure, the jury is still out on how working from home affects the productivity of remote employees (one randomized trial shows no effect on productivity but happier workers and less attrition). In the meantime, enjoy your cheaper weekend tee time, lighter traffic, and less crowded stores.
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