Return to Office and the Tenure Distribution

33 Pages Posted: 9 May 2024

See all articles by David Van Dijcke

David Van Dijcke

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; IPSOS Public Affairs

Florian Gunsilius

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Austin L. Wright

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy

Date Written: May 7, 2024

Abstract

With the official end of the COVID-19 pandemic, debates about the return to office have taken center stage among companies and employees. Despite their ubiquity, the economic implications of return to office policies are not fully understood. Using 260 million resumes matched to company data, we analyze the causal effects of such policies on employees’ tenure and seniority levels at three of the largest US tech companies: Microsoft, SpaceX, and Apple. Our estimation procedure is nonparametric and captures the full heterogeneity of tenure and seniority of employees in a distributional synthetic controls framework. We estimate a reduction in counterfactual tenure that increases for employees with longer tenure. Similarly, we document a leftward shift in the seniority distribution towards positions below the senior level. These shifts appear to be driven by employees leaving to larger firms that are direct competitors. Our results suggest that return to office policies can lead to an outflow of senior employees, posing a potential threat to the productivity, innovation, and competitiveness of the wider firm.

Keywords: causal inference, distributional synthetic controls, human capital, return to office, seniority, tenure, work from home

JEL Classification: J21, J62, M54, C14

Suggested Citation

Van Dijcke, David and Gunsilius, Florian and Wright, Austin L., Return to Office and the Tenure Distribution (May 7, 2024). University of Chicago, Becker Friedman Institute for Economics Working Paper No. 2024-56, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4820135 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4820135

David Van Dijcke

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor ( email )

2350 Hayward Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

IPSOS Public Affairs ( email )

Florian Gunsilius

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor ( email )

Austin L. Wright (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1307 E 60th St
Chicago, IL IL 60637
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.austinlwright.com

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