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Leading researcher on remote work says it improves innovation

Stanford University Economics Professor Nick Bloom says there is research that is misunderstood, and says data shows remote work improves performance.
Leading researcher on remote work says it improves innovation
Posted at 6:36 PM, Jan 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-03 20:36:42-05

As workforces continue to work remotely after the practice increased through the COVID-19 pandemic, a leading U.S. researcher says that studies on the subject have been misinterpreted, and he says data shows remote collaboration improves innovation in work teams. 

Stanford University Economics Professor Nick Bloom, considered to be one of the top researchers on remote work, said at least one important paper on the topic has been "massively misunderstood," and said research shows that by 2023, working remotely was shown to significantly increase innovation. 

Bloom looked at a study published in the journal Nature on the theories of innovation and examined how working a hybrid model — for example, working some days in the office and some days at home — is different from allowing employees to work fully remote. 

Bloom said the study reported how "the average distance between team members' offices has increased from 62 miles to 621 miles over the last 60 years."

In the world of science, Bloom compares working remotely to the work of scientists, and how more and more of them are choosing to work in global teams. Blooms asked his followers on X to please share the study with managers and CEOs to show that working remotely improves innovation.

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Bloom cited research in another post from Oxford academics that showed how innovation increased with remote collaboration after 2010, as technology also caught up to better allow for it in real time. 

And the practice also saves employees money. It's estimated that workers can save somewhere between $4,600 and $6,000 per year working remotely by saving on commute costs and other aspects of daily life like food. Some of the data was garnered from surveys administered by the remote work platform FlexJobs. 

Bloom described the graph of how remote work has evolved in a post-pandemic era as being in the shape of a Nike swoosh. 

He said many employers called workers back into the office, but said the line is now turning upwards and he forecasts a future in which the line will keep rising as the advantages of working remotely become more clear to the workforce. 

Bloom says there will be jobs where the workforce can't work remotely, but he urges employers who have roles that can allow for remote work to be open to it. He says "fully remote has more major upsides."

He says companies have the option of hiring nationally with a fully remote workforce. He says teams can be more creative as well. 

Bloom says companies have the option of calling on employees to attend off-site retreats and other periodic options for some in-person collaboration, but says for employers to have a real purpose for it. 

He says research shows working remotely leads to a 13% increase in performance, and those who work remotely report more satisfaction with their jobs. 


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