An Early Look at the U.S. Data Regarding COVID-19 and Remote Work

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on September 28, 2020


“When it comes to remote work in particular, the past 10 weeks have seen more changes than we’ve seen in the previous 20 years.”
— Erik Brynjolfsson quoted in “Small Tech Stocks Soar as the Future Arrives Early” (The New York Times, September 17, 2020)


In April, MIT professor Erik Brynjolfsson began a study with several of his colleagues to learn how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted remote work in the U.S. The resulting report, “COVID-19 and Remote Work: An Early Look at US Data,” found that the share of Americans working from home jumped to about 50 percent this year, from around 15 percent before the pandemic.


Working with John Horton (MIT), Adam Ozimek (Upwork), Daniel Rock (MIT), Garima Sharma (MIT), and Hong Yi Tu Ye (MIT), Professor Brynjolfsson ran a survey in three waves –April 2020, May 2020, and July 2020—that covered a total of 75,000 respondents. Below are excerpts of some of their findings:

  • Of those employed pre-COVID-19, we find that about half are now working from home, including 33.0% who report they had previously been commuting and recently switched to working from home.
  • 10.1% report being laid-off or furloughed since the start of COVID-19.
  • We find that the share of people switching to remote work can be predicted by the incidence of COVID-19.
  • States with a higher share of employment in information work including management, professional and related occupations were more likely to shift toward working from home and had fewer people continuing to commute.
  • We find no substantial change in results between the first two waves, suggesting that most changes to remote work manifested by early April.
  • However, by the third wave in July, employees started to return to workplaces, with 22 percent of those who had initially switched to remote work having switched back to commuting.

Read the full report: “COVID-19 and Remote Work: An Early Look at US Data” by Erik Brynjolfsson, John Horton, Adam Ozimek, Daniel Rock, Garima Sharma, Hong Yi Tu Ye (September 8, 2020).


Read the above mentioned New York Times article that Professor Brynjolfsson is quoted in: “Small Tech Stocks Soar as the Future Arrives Early”.


At the time of this study, Professor Brynjolfsson was the Schussel Family Professor of Management at MIT’s Sloan School of Management. This past summer, he became Director of the Stanford Digital Economy Lab at the Institute for Human-Centered AI (HAI). He holds appointments at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the Stanford Department of Economics. Additionally, he is a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). Professor Brynjolfsson’s research examines the effects of information technologies on business strategy, productivity and performance, digital commerce, and intangible assets.