• The researchers from the Booth School of Business estimate 34% of U.S. jobs, especially those in the legal and computer industries could be performed from home
  • The jobs most suited for telecommuting account for 44% of wages
  • There is 4 billion square feet of office space in the U.S., worth $1.7 trillion and it is unclear whether it will remain necessary


A pair of University of Chicago researchers estimate a third of U.S. jobs could be performed at home – a number that far exceeds anything that had been implemented before the coronavirus pandemic upended the economy.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates only 7% of the U.S. workforce had access to telecommuting before the virus began its rampage across the United States, and only 3% of children were homeschooled.

There is roughly 4 billion square feet of office space in the U.S., valued at $1.7 trillion.

Research fellow Jonathan Dingel and research associate Brent Neiman of the U of C’s Booth School of Business issued a working paper – titles “How Many Jobs Can Be Done at Home?” – that concludes 34% of jobs require no outside work like operating heavy machinery and, therefore, conceivably could be accomplished without the need for office space.

“If we assume all occupations involve the same number of hours of work, the 34 percent of jobs that can plausibly be performed at home account for 44 percent of all wages,” the researchers wrote.

The concluded: “Identifying which jobs cannot be performed from home may be useful as policymakers try to target social insurance payments to those that most need them. Likewise, the share of jobs that could be performed at home is an important input to predicting the economy’s performance during this or subsequent periods of social distancing.”

Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for, said he doesn’t see the need for office space disappearing.

“While telework and conferencing have all been used widely, they're gaining further credibility in the current environment. Still, many enterprises will continue to depend on having central locations for work as they have traditionally,” Hamrick told IBTimes.

The top five statistical areas for such work include San Jose, California; Washington, D.C.; Durham, North Carolina; Austin, Texas, and San Francisco. The areas least likely to have such jobs include Grand Rapids, Michigan; Bakersfield, California; McAllen, Texas; Fort Myers, Fla., and Stockton, California.

“Whereas most jobs in finance, corporate management, and professional and scientific services could plausibly be performed at home, very few jobs in agriculture, hotels and restaurants or retail could be,” the authors said.

What jobs are prime candidates for home work? Professional, scientific and technical services (with legal occupations and those involved with computers and mathematics at the top of the pile); management of companies and enterprises; educational services; finance and insurance, and information.

“An individual worker’s productivity may differ considerably when working at home rather than her usual workplace. More importantly, there are likely important complementarities between jobs that can be performed at home and those that cannot,” Dingel and Neiman noted.

“From a business standpoint, moving to a remote workforce provides a lot of protections, such as the case of coronavirus. Not to mention the cost savings,” said David Waslen, CEO and co-founder of HedgeTrade. “But as with any major changes in an administrative-heavy business environment, it may take a while for work culture as a whole to embrace remote work.”

Kelly Crane, president and chief investment officer at Napa Valley Wealth Management, said demand for commercial real estate already had fallen off before the virus hit. He said companies that don’t feel their employees are productive enough will keep their offices open but there is likely to be a shift.

“We will … likely see a shift in the use of commercial office space, for example, more server data storage rentals,” he said.