Liberty Street Economics

« | Main | »

June 18, 2021

The Future of Remote Work in the Region

The Future of Remote Work in the Region

The coronavirus pandemic abruptly changed the way we work, in meaningful and potentially lasting ways. While working from home represented a small share of work before the pandemic, such arrangements became unexpectedly widespread once the pandemic struck. With the pandemic now being brought under control and conditions improving, workers have begun to return to the office. But just how much remote work will persist in the new normal? The New York Fed’s June regional business surveys asked firms about the extent of remote working before, during, and after the pandemic. Results indicate that before the pandemic, the average firm in the region conducted just a small share of its work remotely, a figure that currently stands at around a third among service firms but well below 10 percent among manufacturers. Once the pandemic is fully behind us, service firms expect double the amount of remote work than before the pandemic, though that figure is less than the share being done currently, while manufacturers expect the amount of remote work to return to where it was before the pandemic.

Remote Work Before the Pandemic
Working from home was not particularly widespread in the region before the pandemic, though it was not unusual for firms to have at least some remote workers. Supplementary questions to this month’s Empire State Manufacturing Survey and Business Leaders Survey asked firms in the region to estimate the share of their workers who were doing at least some work remotely and how many days of the week these remote workers were typically offsite—before the pandemic, currently, and what they expect after the pandemic. Responses indicate that roughly half of service firms and just over one-third of manufacturers had at least some remote workers pre-pandemic. As the chart below shows, we estimate that an average of around 8 percent of all service work and 4 percent of all manufacturing work was done remotely before the pandemic. These estimates are in line with figures from a nationally representative survey conducted before the pandemic that found that roughly 5 percent of pre‑pandemic work was done from home.

The Future of Remote Work in the Region

To calculate the share of work being done remotely for each firm, we multiply the share of workers working remotely by the average percentage of time these workers telecommuted. Our surveys indicate that an average of about 10 percent of workers across the region’s service sector worked remotely before the pandemic, and those workers telecommuted for an average of four days out of a five-day workweek, such that 10% x 80% = 8%. Among manufacturers, an average of just under 5 percent of a firm’s workers were remote, for an average of four and a half days out of the workweek (4.9% x 90% = 4%).

The Rise of Remote Work
Remote work increased sharply in the region during the pandemic and remains elevated. Indeed, several studies (in May 2020, June 2020, and April 2021) find that more than half of all work was done from home early in the pandemic. Responses to our surveys indicate that, on average, about 40 percent of the average firm’s employees are currently working remotely for just over four days per week, suggesting that about a third of all paid work in the region’s service sector is now being done remotely.

Of course, there is wide variation in the amount of remote work being done within the service sector due to differences in the nature of work: it is widespread in the business services, finance, and information sectors, but not particularly common in the construction or leisure and hospitality sectors. The amount of remote work also increased in the region’s manufacturing sector, though not to the same extent as in the service sector. Survey results suggest that nearly 10 percent of manufacturing workers currently work from home for just shy of four days per week, indicating the average share of remote manufacturing work is at about 7 percent.

The Future of Remote Work
What will the landscape of remote work look like in the region once the pandemic is behind us? Undoubtedly, remote work will be more common than it once was, but not as prevalent as it was during the pandemic. Once conditions reach a new normal, service firms in the region expect about a quarter of their workforce to work remotely for, on average, about three and a half days per week, such that the average service firm expects about 16 percent of its work to be performed remotely—about double its pre‑pandemic share. Regional manufacturers expect about 6 percent of their workforce to work remotely for, on average, about four days per week, such that the average manufacturing firm expects 5 percent of work to be performed remotely—just slightly more than before the pandemic. While our data do not allow a full analysis of New York City, we find some evidence that remote working is expected to be more prevalent there than in the rest of the region, especially in Manhattan, where office work is much more common.

Our estimates of the expected share of remote work are somewhat lower than a recent national survey of worker expectations, which found that about 20 percent of work is expected to be done remotely, but are in line with recent estimates from another national survey of firms. Some of this difference may be because workers and firms have different expectations about the future of remote working. Indeed, recent research indicates workers generally would like to work from home more than employers plan to allow after the pandemic.

Interestingly, much remote work was “all or nothing” before and during the pandemic, where workers were remote for the entire workweek or not at all. Our survey suggests that it will be much more common for workers to work from home part of the week and work onsite part of the week after the pandemic than before. Thus, the future of work will likely settle into a blend of both worlds.

Jaison R. Abel is an assistant vice president in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Research and Statistics Group.
 Jason Bram is a research officer in the Bank’s Research and Statistics Group.

Richard DeitzRichard Deitz is an assistant vice president in the Bank’s Research and Statistics Group.

Jessica Lu is a senior research analyst in the Bank’s Research and Statistics Group.

How to cite this post:
Jaison R. Abel, Jason Bram, Richard Deitz, and Jessica Lu, “The Future of Remote Work in the Region,” Federal Reserve Bank of New York Liberty Street Economics, June 18, 2021,

Related Reading
Empire State Manufacturing Survey
Business Leaders Survey
Supplemental Survey Report


The views expressed in this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York or the Federal Reserve System. Any errors or omissions are the responsibility of the authors.

About the Blog

Liberty Street Economics features insight and analysis from New York Fed economists working at the intersection of research and policy. Launched in 2011, the blog takes its name from the Bank’s headquarters at 33 Liberty Street in Manhattan’s Financial District.

The editors are Michael Fleming, Andrew Haughwout, Thomas Klitgaard, and Asani Sarkar, all economists in the Bank’s Research Group.

Liberty Street Economics does not publish new posts during the blackout periods surrounding Federal Open Market Committee meetings.

The views expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the New York Fed or the Federal Reserve System.

Economic Research Tracker

Image of NYFED Economic Research Tracker Icon Liberty Street Economics is available on the iPhone® and iPad® and can be customized by economic research topic or economist.

Economic Inequality

image of inequality icons for the Economic Inequality: A Research Series

This ongoing Liberty Street Economics series analyzes disparities in economic and policy outcomes by race, gender, age, region, income, and other factors.

Most Read this Year

Comment Guidelines


We encourage your comments and queries on our posts and will publish them (below the post) subject to the following guidelines:

Please be brief: Comments are limited to 1,500 characters.

Please be aware: Comments submitted shortly before or during the FOMC blackout may not be published until after the blackout.

Please be relevant: Comments are moderated and will not appear until they have been reviewed to ensure that they are substantive and clearly related to the topic of the post.

Please be respectful: We reserve the right not to post any comment, and will not post comments that are abusive, harassing, obscene, or commercial in nature. No notice will be given regarding whether a submission will or will
not be posted.‎

Comments with links: Please do not include any links in your comment, even if you feel the links will contribute to the discussion. Comments with links will not be posted.

Send Us Feedback

Disclosure Policy

The LSE editors ask authors submitting a post to the blog to confirm that they have no conflicts of interest as defined by the American Economic Association in its Disclosure Policy. If an author has sources of financial support or other interests that could be perceived as influencing the research presented in the post, we disclose that fact in a statement prepared by the author and appended to the author information at the end of the post. If the author has no such interests to disclose, no statement is provided. Note, however, that we do indicate in all cases if a data vendor or other party has a right to review a post.