People want more leisure time

An hour in the office is an hour worked, according to statisticians, economists, and, most crucially, your company’s payroll department. An hour spent at home during working hours is more ambiguous. You can spend it doing work, but if your job is more about output than face-time, the hour is a choice: Put in the time now, or work more efficiently later—in other words, flexibility.

The pandemic provided a natural experiment to help answer the question of what Americans would do if they got a little time back in their lives. Economists at New York’s federal reserve bank analyzed how one fewer hour spent commuting in the second half of 2020 affected the way in which Americans spent the rest of their time. The research found that just an hour of flexibility led to dramatic changes, with most of the time reallocated to sleep and hanging out with family.

Another study, by Stanford economists who conducted a randomized experiment in hybrid working at a large Shanghai tech company, found that remote workers were more productive than their colleagues in the office.

Given the opportunity, people became instantly more efficient. Of course they did. Because the reward for getting your work done faster is logging off to spend more time with family. Call that quitting, if you want, but it’s working.

📬 Sign up for the Daily Brief

Our free, fast, and fun briefing on the global economy, delivered every weekday morning.