Work-From-Anywhere: The Productivity Effects of Geographic Flexibility

44 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2019 Last revised: 13 Aug 2020

See all articles by Prithwiraj Choudhury

Prithwiraj Choudhury

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Cirrus Foroughi

Harvard University

Barbara Larson

Northeastern University - D’Amore-McKim School of Business

Date Written: August 7, 2019

Abstract

An emerging form of remote work allows employees to work-from-anywhere, so that the worker can choose to live in a preferred geographic location. While traditional work-from-home (WFH) programs offer the worker temporal flexibility, work-from-anywhere (WFA) programs offer both temporal and geographic flexibility. WFA should be viewed as a nonpecuniary benefit likely to be preferred by workers who would derive greater utility by moving from their current geographic location to their preferred location. 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 results related to a plausible mechanism: an increase in observable effort as the worker transitions from a WFH to a WFA program. We employ illustrative field interviews, micro-data on locations, and machine learning analysis to shed further light on geographic flexibility, and summarize worker, firm, and economy wide implications of provisioning WFA.

Keywords: Working Conditions, Geographic Location, Performance Productivity, Learning, Cost vs Benefits

Suggested Citation

Choudhury, Prithwiraj and Foroughi, Cirrus and Larson, Barbara, Work-From-Anywhere: The Productivity Effects of Geographic Flexibility (August 7, 2019). Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 19-054, Northeastern University School of Law Research Paper No. #3494473, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3494473 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3494473

Prithwiraj Choudhury (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Cirrus Foroughi

Harvard University ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

Barbara Larson

Northeastern University - D’Amore-McKim School of Business ( email )

360 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115
United States

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