Home & Office

Remote work means less commuting, but more time working

Workers have more time, thanks to less traveling to work -- but how that time is spent is a big question.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer
Image: Getty Images

People who remote work are spending a big chunk of the time that used to go to commuting on doing more work, according to a new study.  

Researchers behind the the National Bureau of Economic Research working paper, Time Savings When Working from Home, estimate that people who work from home use 40% of their commute-time savings on working on primary and secondary jobs. A further 34% goes to leisure, and 11% goes to caregiving. 

"These results suggest that much of the time savings flow back to employers, and that children and other caregiving recipients also benefit," the researchers write. 

The researchers used data collected from 18,995 workers surveyed in 27 countries between 2021 and 2022. The average time savings across countries amounted to 72 minutes per day, which used to go towards unpaid hours commuting. In the US, time savings when working from home amounted to 55 minutes, compared to 99-102 minutes across India, Japan, and China. The US was at the low end of scale of time saved by working from home. 

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The US was fairly close to the average in each of the metrics. Those in the US who work from home spent 42% of their former commute time on work, 35% on leisure, and 8% on caregiving. 

Nations that spent the most of the extra time from working from home on work included Taiwan (53%), Singapore (53%), Malaysia (53%), India (47%), and China (46%). Respondents in Austria, Spain, and Germany allocated more than 40% of their time savings to leisure. 

However, the study noted the benefits of remote work can go further. The full private value of working from home is greater for several reasons, it notes, pointing out that avoiding the commute brings financial savings as well as time savings. Workers spend less time grooming and getting ready for work when they work from home, while working from home also offers more flexibility in time used over the day, and greater personal autonomy. 

"The upshot is that the direct private value of working from home, say, two or three days a week is greater than suggested by travel time valuations applied to commute time savings," the research said.

A similar study by researchers at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York last year found that Americans were allocating their saved commute time toward work, leisure activities, and sleeping, but they had reduced overall paid work hours because they were doing other activities, such as sport and leisure. 

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Most CEOs want staff back at the office and are eyeing 2025 as the year the 9-to-5 day at the office makes a return, according to a KPMG survey of 1,325 CEOs.

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