Every day in the home office, office workers in this country spend 65 minutes less commuting. For the most part, however, the Germans do not use this extra workload to work harder at home. Rather, they enjoy 46 percent of this plus or around 30 minutes more free time per day. This puts them at the forefront in an international comparison.
The figures come from a study recently published by the US National Bureau of Economic Research (Nber). Using two waves of surveys in 2021 and 2022 in 27 industrialized and developing countries from Australia to India and the USA to Ukraine, the economists found that the average daily time saving when working from home is 72 minutes. Savings are highest in China and Japan, at 102 and 100 minutes respectively, and lowest in Serbia at 51 minutes.
What is the extra time used for?
Across all countries included, employees spend 40 percent of their “free” time doing additional work at home for their employer or for financially rewarded sideline jobs. Around 11 percent flow into domestic tasks such as looking after children and other relatives or housekeeping. Teleworkers use 34 percent of the saved commute time for leisure activities such as reading, watching TV, films or sports.
In addition to the Germans, those surveyed in Austria and Spain also use more than 40 percent of their time savings for leisure. With 45 percent, the citizens of the Alpine Republic come in second behind Germany. In countries such as Malaysia, France, India, Singapore, Russia, Taiwan and the Ukraine, on the other hand, less than 30 percent of the minutes gained are used for free time.
Germans like hybrid working models
The extra time spent on full-time and part-time jobs absorbs 53 percent of the savings in Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan, but less than 35 percent in Germany, Greece, Japan, Italy, Poland and Spain. The Federal Republic comes here at the lowest value with 31 percent. In Singapore and South Korea, only 6 percent of the time savings is attributable to additional care activities. In Greece, Italy, Poland and Serbia it is 15 percent or more. Germans invest 8 percent of the additional time for this purpose.
‘Working from home offers more flexibility in timing during the day and greater personal autonomy,’ the researchers write. The immediate private value of working from home, for example two or three days a week, is therefore greater than the pure time savings from commuting would suggest. Germans prefer hybrid working models with alternating days in the office and at home.
Positive aspects of working from home
“More working from home also means a lower load on the transport systems and, above all, less traffic jams at peak times,” the researchers emphasize. Available evidence indicated that telework reduces energy use and pollution across the economy.
The differences between men and women in sharing their time savings are not large. While men spend more time on extra work, the daily difference is just 2.4 minutes. Men also use about two minutes more for free time. Women invest an additional 0.7 minutes of their daily gain in childcare activities if there are no children under the age of 14 living in the household. Otherwise it is 2.4 minutes more. In Germany, the team surveyed over 1,000 full-time workers online during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
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