This working paper report from the Harvard Business School showcases just how the future of work is enabling us to work (and live) from anywhere with increased flexibility.
An emerging form of remote work allows employees to work from anywhere, so the worker can be physically detached from the firm location. While traditional ‘work from home (WFH)’ programs offer the worker temporal flexibility, ‘work from anywhere (WFA) programs offer both temporal and geographic flexibility. We study the effects of WFA on productivity at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and exploit a natural experiment in which the implementation of WFA was driven by negotiations between managers and the patent examiners’union, leading to exogeneity in the timing of individual examiners’ transition to WFA.
Additionally, an employee could become a WFA worker only after first becoming a WFH worker, allowing us to compare their productivity while in the WFA and WFH programs. WFA resulted in a 4.4% increase in output compared to when the worker was on WFH, without affecting the incidence of rework. We also find a positive correlation between work output and the transitions from being an in-office worker to a WFH worker. There are several results related to mechanisms, notably that WFA examiners relocate to locations with lower costs of living and consider their current career stage.