COVID-19 brought widespread lockdowns and policies that stymied business growth and personal freedom and kept children out of school. However, among the many poorly conceived top-down government policies, there was at least one clear positive impact, primarily brought on by the private sector: remote work. 

How much do you know about remote work and its benefits or downsides? Play this “Two Truths and a Lie” game to find out. 

A. Remote work helps parents raise their children.

B. Remote work can greatly benefit businesses. 

C. Remote work results in lower employee productivity.

A. TRUTH! A study in the Yale Journal of Marriage and Family showed that remote work benefited parents insofar as they could accommodate school and daycare closures. Mothers took on most childcare responsibilities. But, the study also showed that fathers spent an average of an additional 30 minutes per day on housework. Both of these findings suggest that remote work gives both mothers and fathers the flexibility to participate in household chores and raise a family. 

A March 2023 New York Times article also reported that the flexibility of remote work allows fathers, including lower-earning men, to help more with household chores and child-rearing. The article quotes Richard Weissbourd, director of Harvard University’s Making Caring Common project, “For a lot of dads, this was a profound experience… It was really getting what a wonderful relationship with your kids could be like, and it was gratifying.” Remote work can offer mothers and fathers more time with their children. 

B. Truth! The obvious benefit for businesses is the low overhead (overhead refers to ongoing expenses unrelated to creating products) that comes with having either no physical office space or less physical office space. Start-ups, for example, can save as much as $10,600 per employee annually.

Additionally, when businesses have remote jobs, they create the possibility to draw from a wider talent pool. As an organization’s talent needs change, they may need to hire for specific skill sets that are uncommon in the organization’s physical location. Remote work allows an organization to draw from a wider talent pool and recruit employees with specific skill sets.

C. Lie! Prithwiraj (Raj) Choudhury, a professor at Harvard Business School, researched the U.S. Patent and Trade Office’s switch from working from home to “working from anywhere” in 2019, and the results were impressive. His study found that “WFA [work from anywhere] boosted individual productivity by 4.4%, as measured by the number of patents examined each month. The switch also led examiners to exert greater effort.”

Bottom Line: 

Federal and state governments can encourage these positive changes through fundamental policy changes. Tax codes ought to be reformed so that workers are not penalized for working remotely. State governments should deregulate to allow for more economic freedom for businesses and workers. States should ensure that independent contractors are protected. 

It is imperative that Congress and state legislatures enact laws and support policies that enable organizations to pursue remote work policies that advance their business. Remote work is here to stay, and research shows that remote work benefits workers, families, and businesses alike.

To learn more, read the Policy Focus on remote work.