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Help My Career: Commuting takes a big chunk out of the average worker’s day. So what do remote workers do with all that extra time?

As more employers tell their white-collar workers to show up at the office more often, a new study shows the how much time they spend on those commutes.

Working from home saves workers an average of 72 minutes per day, and a good chunk of the time that would otherwise be spent in a car or on public transit is often devoted to job-related activities, according to researchers who analyzed time-use data from people in 27 countries. In the U.S., the time saved by not commuting is 55 minutes per day, the study noted.

Noncommuters devoted 40% of that extra time to their job, 34% to leisure and 11% to tending to their children or to others.

“These results suggest that much of the time savings flow back to employers, and that children and other caregiving recipients also benefit,” wrote the authors, who include Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University economist who has conducted extensive research on the return-to-office debate.

Remote work saved employees an estimated two hours each week in 2021 and 2022, the researchers found — and once the pandemic ends and more people go back to working in an office, remote work will still save people around one hour per week.

“Noncommuters devoted 40% of their extra time to their job, 34% to leisure and 11% to tending to their children or to others. ”

People who worked remotely also had more time for leisure and sleep, according to an earlier analysis by New York Federal Reserve researchers.

The latest study comes as the return-to-office debate rumbles on. A mix of in-office and at-home work is becoming increasingly prevalent, but questions remain. How many days should be spent on each? And are some jobs or duties better suited to remote work than others?

Starting in March, Disney

CEO Bob Iger announced recently, the company will expect its workers to come into the office four days a week. Jane Fraser, CEO of Citigroup
recently said the bank closely monitors worker productivity, “and if they’re not being productive we bring them back to the office.”

Offices are still far from fully occupied, however. Ahead of the holidays, office occupancy across 10 major cities averaged around 49%, according to an ongoing gauge from Kastle Systems, an office security technology provider. One week in mid-January, the average occupancy reached 49.5% — but that’s with wide variations based on the day of the week and the location, the data showed.

But even as the job market slows — potentially giving employers more leverage to insist that staff come into the office — workers still want that flexibility.

Just under half (49%) of workers said they expect more flexibility around where they work, and 45% expect more flexibility around when they work, according to a report on 2023 trends and issues in the labor market conducted by the job-search company Monster.

“Workers continue to demand control over where and when they work,” the report said. “However, employer sentiment is mixed on what they are willing to offer and has shifted from just one year ago.”

Read also:

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‘We don’t want to work for jerks’: A bad boss can take a toll on your mental health. (It’s the equivalent of being in a bad marriage.)

Goodbye, quiet quitting. Workers want to take on more responsibility — and need greater engagement from their boss in 2023.

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