Remote jobs mean some employees run errands, play in the afternoon

  • New research has found that working from home has skyrocketed in weekday golfing.
  • While home workers go out on weekday afternoons, productivity doesn’t drop.
  • That’s good news for leisure businesses and shows that remote working has changed people’s work structures.

‘Do people not have a job? Why is it so busy today?’ a TikToker lip sync in a video while holding an iced coffee. The caption reads, “Me, a 9-5 working woman, at Sephora at 2:24 PM on a Thursday.”

That TikToker isn’t alone, as anyone who’s had a friend or loved one work remotely can attest. When work can be confined to a pocket-sized phone or a few swipes of a mouse to prove you’re active, it could theoretically be done anywhere.

It has turned the many American workers who still work in remote or hybrid roles into the professional version of college students: the days and afternoons are fair game for leisure or errands (or naps), and work can be done just as in a library. nighter, outside office hours.

“The simple story is on work-from-home days, it’s a great opportunity to do things like go to the dentist, play golf, go shopping when it’s quiet,” Nick Bloom, a Stanford University economist whose research on remote working has spanned nearly 20 years, told Insider.

New research from Bloom and his colleague Alex Finan found that working from home created what they called “a huge wave of waves.” Using car GPS data from Inrix and a map of 3,400 golf courses in the US, they were able to track when and how many people visited the greens from April 2019 to November 2022.

The results: More people were golfing overall and the number of weekday afternoon golfers increased by 83% between August 2019 and August 2022. Although the study focused exclusively on golf, the researchers said they thought people were likely using that time for other “leisure activities,” such as going to the gym, exercising or shopping.

While some companies have called employees back to the office, Bloom doesn’t think remote work is going anywhere. The proportion of work from home has fallen from its peak of about 60% in 2020 to about 27% today, according to Bloom’s research. He said he expected it to stabilize around 25%.

All those remote workers hitting the green doesn’t necessarily mean people are working less. The “mature student” economy could be a boon to service spending and productivity.

“If workers stay productive, this could indeed be a good thing,” Bloom and Finan wrote. “Golf courses are being used more and more by spreading play over the day and week, avoiding peak traffic at weekends and before and after work. This will increase ‘golf productivity’ – the number of golf courses played (and revenue) per course .”

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis indicator, workers are no less productive than they were before the pandemic. While labor productivity cooled somewhat in the first quarter of 2022 as the economy began to recover from the pandemic, it grew in the last two quarters of 2022. Workers are working — just maybe not the normal 9-to-5 hours.

Free afternoons can be good for businesses and a double-edged sword for employees

While not every golfer or shopper needs to work extra hours in the afternoon to make up for it, Bloom’s research suggests that many people do just that.

“We see homeworkers shifting hours from the workday when they work from home to evenings and weekends,” he said, adding, “Just as students are choosing to spread their work out – rather than just working 9 to 5. Monday through Friday — employees also choose to stagger their work.”

Microsoft researchers dubbed it the “triple-peak day” after seeing a surge in Microsoft Teams chats between 6 and 8 p.m. as the pandemic began. That’s in addition to the two traditional “productivity peaks” – before and after lunchtime.

However, this blurring of one’s work and personal life will not make all employees better off. Some have had a hard time defining the boundaries between work and personal life and are working more than they did when they were in the office. Of course, some employees have never had the luxury of working from home or are getting more and more calls back, which means they can’t experience time off during the week.

American telecommuters saved an average of 55 minutes by avoiding their daily commute, a Bloom, a research paper co-author found, but spent some of this time savings on work.

So that time on the golf course can be a double-edged sword, as any college student who’s partied on a weeknight can attest: That hole in one could mean another hour of overtime.

“I think my colleague took his Zoom call from the golf course,” a technical director in Palo Alto, Calif., told investigators. “He was on mute and video off, but one time when he was talking I overheard someone talking about the fairway and shots.”

Have you played golf, shopped or done any other leisure activity at work? We want to hear from you. Reach out to these reporters and

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