Business

Remote jobs mean some workers run errands and play in the afternoons

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Some telecommuters do anything but work in the afternoons, Stanford researchers found.
Elena Novello/Getty Images

  • New research has found that working from home has led to a boom in weekday golf.
  • While remote workers head out into the green on weekday afternoons, productivity doesn’t dip.
  • This is good news for leisure companies and shows that telecommuting has changed the way people work.

“Don’t people have jobs? Why is it so crowded today?” A TikToker lip-syncs in a video while holding an iced coffee. The caption reads, “Me, a 9am to 5am woman at a company, at Sephora on a Thursday at 2:24pm.”

That TikToker is not alone, as anyone who has had a friend or loved one working remotely can attest. If the work can be reduced to a pocket-sized phone or a few mouse clicks to prove you’re active, it can theoretically be done anywhere.

It has turned the many American blue-collar workers, still in distant or hybrid roles, into the professional version of college students: the days and afternoons are fair game for downtime or errands (or naps), and work can get done, similarly like in a library. at night, outside of business hours.

“The simple story is that work-from-home days are a great opportunity to do things like go to the dentist, play golf, or shop when it’s quiet,” Nick Bloom, a Stanford University economist , whose research on remote work spans nearly 20 years, Insider said.

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

The results: More people played golf overall, and the number of golfers who did so on weekday afternoons increased by 83% from August 2019 to August 2022 peak weekday golfing time. While the study focused solely on golf, the researchers believed people were likely using this time for other “leisure activities,” such as going to the gym, playing sports, 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 done from home has fallen from its peak of about 60% in 2020 to about 27% today, according to Bloom’s study. He said he expects a 25% stabilization.

All those remote workers going green doesn’t necessarily mean people are working less. The adult-student economy could be a boon to service spending and productivity.

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

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis indicator, workers are no less productive than before the pandemic. While labor productivity cooled somewhat in the first quarter of 2022 as the economy settled into its pandemic recovery, it rose in the last two quarters of 2022. Workers are working — just perhaps not regularly, 9 to 5 hours.

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Leisure afternoons could prove good for businesses and a double-edged sword for workers

While not every afternoon golfer or shopper later works overtime to make up for it, Bloom’s research suggests many people do just that.

“We’re seeing employees who work from home shift hours away from the workday when they work from home into the evenings and weekends,” he said, adding, “Similar to how college students choose to work from home.” spread out – instead of just working 9 to 5 Monday to Friday – employees are also choosing to spread out the training.”

Microsoft researchers dubbed it the “triple peak day” after noticing a spike in Microsoft Teams chats between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the start of the pandemic. This is in addition to the two traditional “productivity peaks” – before and after lunchtime.

However, this blurring of work and personal life may not make all workers better off. Some have struggled to set work-life boundaries and work more than an office. Of course, some workers have never had the luxury of working from home, or are increasingly being called back, meaning they are unable to experience midweek free time.

US remote workers saved an average of 55 minutes by avoiding their daily commutes, research co-authored by Bloom found, but put some of that time savings into work.

So time on the golf course could be a double-edged sword, as any college student who’s partied on a weekday 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 tech executive in Palo Alto, Calif., told researchers. “He was mute and the video was off, but as he spoke once I heard someone talking about the fairway and shots.”

Have you played golf, shopped, or engaged in any other pastime at work? We want to hear from you. Reach out to these reporters below jkaplan@insider.com and jzinkula@insider.com.

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