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But some workers do not want to go back — and that trend has been shown across countries and industries, a research paper published on Wednesday by an international team of economists has found.
The team, which included Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom, had been gathering data on remote working since the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The findings were based on surveys in mid-2021 and early 2022 of people in 27 countries, skewing towards higher-income employees.
Workers say they are more productive at home, would quit their jobs or look elsewhere if they were forced back to the office and would take a pay cut to maintain the remote working option, the study found.
The shift to remote work “benefits workers”, the researchers said. “The reason is simple: most workers value the opportunity to WFH part of the week and some value it a lot," they said.
On average, those surveyed currently work about 1.5 days from home each week. Employees in countries where commutes are typically longer tend to place more value on working from home.
In India and China, the average time to commute to work is more than 90 minutes, about double the time for employees in the US.
Employees said they would take a 5 per cent pay cut, on average, to keep working from home.
Women, who are more likely to be primary caregivers for children or other family members, value the remote working option more than men, the study found.
In many countries, employees want to work from home more often than they are now. Respondents in Brazil and Singapore said they wanted to work the most days remotely, while in nations including India, staff wanted to spend more time at the office.
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About one third of workers in the US would quit or start looking for another job if they were told to return to the workplace five days a week, which is higher than the global average. The rate was highest in the UK.
The study found that workers do not feel they are any less productive when working from home, bolstering earlier research by academics including Mr Bloom.
The latest paper is based on online polling that is likely to be skewed towards well-educated and higher-income workers, who have better access to technology and more time to answer surveys, the researchers said.
About 90 per cent of respondents in China said they had university degrees, while about 25 per cent of the overall population does.