As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work as a result of social distancing mandates has become the norm for many companies (including Plus).
By one measure, 88 percent of organizations across the globe have encouraged or required employees to work from home. And while many workers will make their way back to the office at some point, many others could end up working remotely on a permanent basis, representing a significant societal shift. This trend could be especially pervasive in the tech industry.
With remote work set to be a big part of the post-coronavirus future, an important question arises: “Which countries are best set up to succeed in this environment?” A research team at MIT recently attempted to answer that question by constructing an index that analyzes the economic impact of remote work in 30 different countries.
The index looks at the mix of jobs in each country and the degree to which these jobs require being close to others. For example, a country with a large share of dentists, waiters or other personal service providers will see their score drop, because their work can’t realistically be done remotely.
Conversely, countries with a high number of high-tech workers will be less impacted by social distancing guidelines. Some low-tech occupations (such as agricultural workers) would also score well here, because the work can be done away from other people, even if it can’t be done from home.
The index then adds in three additional components: internet access and quality, the percentage of households with a child in the home, and the percentage of employed workers who already work from home on occasion.
Who leads the way? Luxembourg, which has the highest internet penetration rate of any country on the list, as well as the fourth-highest rate of employees with previous experience working from home. Sweden comes in second, then the Netherlands, Canada and Belgium round out the top five.
The U.S. ranks 11th; while the country has the second-highest rate of workers with previous remote working experience, it ranks last in occupational mix, meaning a large share of American jobs require close proximity.
In general, the results show that countries in the developed world will likely have the easiest shift to working from home. Although these countries tend to have a larger share of people working in high-proximity personal services — for which the demand grows as a country becomes richer — their more risk-prone occupational mixes are outweighed by strong scores in internet quality, experience working from home, and demographics.