Remote jobs have some workers feeling like college kids again: They play in the afternoon and work at night


According to recent TikTok videos and research by economists Nick Bloom and Alex Finan of Stanford University, remote work has led to a surge in leisure activities during traditional work hours. Car GPS data and a map of golf courses in the US showed an 83% increase in weekday afternoon golfing, with Wednesday at 4 p.m. as the peak time. Although the study focused on golf, researchers believe workers are likely to engage in other leisure activities as well. While some companies have called workers back to the office, Bloom predicts remote work will remain stable at around 25%. However, this does not necessarily equate to a decrease in productivity, as workers may be able to balance work and leisure activities effectively.

"If employees remain productive, this indeed could be good," Bloom and Finan wrote. "Golf courses are getting higher usage by spreading playing across the day and week, avoiding weekend and pre-, and post-work peak loading. This will raise 'Golf productivity' — the number of golf courses played (and revenue raised) per course."

Workers aren't less productive than they were before the pandemic, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis' indicator. While labor productivity cooled off a bit in the first quarter of 2022 as the economy settled into its pandemic recovery, it grew in the last two quarters of 2022. Workers are working — just maybe not regular 9-to-5 hours.

Afternoons of leisure could end up being good for companies and a double-edged sword for workers

While not every afternoon golfer or shopper is working extra hours later to make up for it, Bloom's research suggests many people are doing just that.

"We see work-from-home employees shift hours away from the working day when they work from home and into evenings and weekends," he said, adding: "Much like students choose to spread work out — rather than just work 9 to 5 on Monday to Friday — employees are also choosing to spread work out." 

Microsoft's researchers dubbed it the "triple-peak day" after spotting an uptick in Microsoft Teams chats between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. when the pandemic began. That's in addition to the two traditional "productivity peaks" — before and after lunchtime.

This blurring of one's work and personal life might not leave all workers better off, though. Some have had a difficult time establishing work-life boundaries and are working more than they did when they were in an office. Of course, some workers have never had the luxury of working from home or are increasingly getting called back, meaning that they won't get to experience weekday leisure.

US remote workers saved an average of 55 minutes by avoiding their daily commutes, a research paper Bloom coauthored found, but put some of this time saving toward work.

So that time on the golf course could be a double-edged sword, as any college student who's partied on a weeknight can confirm: That hole in one might mean another hour working late.

"I think my colleague was taking his Zoom call from the golf course," a tech executive in Palo Alto, California, told the researchers. "He was on mute and video off, but once when he was talking, I heard somebody talking about the fairway and strokes."

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