Work-From-Anywhere: The Productivity Effects of Geographic Flexibility
49 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2019
Date Written: November 27, 2019
An emerging form of remote work allows employees to work-from-anywhere, so that the worker can choose to live in any geographic location of choice. 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 from a work-from-home to a work-from-anywhere program. This transition resulted in a 4.4 percent increase in output without affecting the incidence of rework. We also report several results related to mechanisms, notably a correlation between examiners relocating to below-median cost of living locations and increased productivity. We also study how geographic flexibility affects the location choice of WFA workers and find a correlation between career stage and the decision to move to Florida. We additionally employ illustrative field interviews and micro-data on geographic distance from the headquarters, an exogenous mandate to use IT, and proxies for examiner effort to shed further light on mechanisms.
Keywords: Working Conditions, Geographic Location, Performance Productivity, Learning, Cost vs Benefits
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