A government report says WFH is dying out. A remote work guru says that’s false
A new report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows a steep dropoff in the percentage of companies allowing employees to telework. But a Stanford professor says working from home is still alive and well, despite what the government's data says.
More than 72% of firms said employees worked remotely rarely or not at all last year, according to the Labor Department's new release, up from just over 60.1% in 2021. But there's a flaw in the government's data, says Nicholas Bloom, Stanford economics professor and cofounder of the Working From Home Research Project, which has tracked remote work since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The survey is unfortunately just badly designed," Bloom wrote in an email to Fortune. Bloom says the first question is poorly worded, and it's hard to make conclusions based on it. It asks companies if any employees "currently telework in any amount," and defines telework as working from home or another remote location, including answering work emails. Bloom says most companies should have answered "yes" given that definition. In a tweet, he points out that all firms will have at least one person who reads a work email outside of work in the past year.
A new BLS survey claims 72.5% of establishments have no WFH, far lower than any other data.
Surprised I looked at the key question (below). This would include WFH as one employee doing work email once for 10 minutes at home.
So how did 72.5% say no?https://t.co/S3BVTrORB7 pic.twitter.com/APlG9P8Xam
— Nick Bloom (@I_Am_NickBloom) March 25, 2023
That said, WFH arrangements are slowly decreasing. Bloom's data shows the decline, as does the Census Bureau's Household Pulse survey. But it's not to the degree that the BLS survey indicates. From January 2022 to January 2023, the share of paid full-time remote workdays fell from 32.4% to 27.2%, according to Bloom's research.
More than three years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many firms that had flexible work policies are trying to recall workers to the office. The pressure to return to the office is growing at many firms, including Apple, Disney, and Starbucks.
Bloom's own research, though, finds that the number of job postings for remote-friendly roles—they could be fully remote or a hybrid of in-office and at-home days—is hitting record levels in some cities across the U.S., including Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, and New York. Workers are most unlikely to find these in the South.
And though tech companies have made headlines for their demands that workers return to the office, tech is still one of the top industries for remote work, in addition to other white-collar professions like finance and education. A separate survey of 1,100 corporate executives by the Conference Board found that very few of them plan to decrease remote work opportunities this year.
But while remote work isn't going away, employers are certainly putting restrictions on it, like requiring employees to come in for a certain number of days each week.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com
More from Fortune:
5 side hustles where you may earn over $20,000 per year—all while working from home
UFB Direct savings account is offering an APY above 5%—and with no fees
This is how much money you need to earn annually to comfortably buy a $600,000 home