The latest salvo in the remote work wars had been fired by a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which shows that office workers can be 18% more productive than their remote peers.

This is a significant improvement in productivity and it seems to drive a massive nail in the coffin of remote work but perhaps it might wise to have a quick perusal of the paper:

This study implements a randomized control trial in the data entry industry in the South Indian city of Chennai. We selected this sector since it provides five benefits for our analysis. … Fifth, it is straightforward to collect detailed productivity and output measures from data entry work (e.g., input per minute, errors, time working, etc.). Furthermore, this type of data collection is common in the industry, allowing us to avoid imposing an artificial monitoring system.

mmm .. Ok, so data entry workers in Chennai are more productive in the office. This is hardly relevant for the majority of remote work.

I particularly like how they’ve used data entry because its productivity is easy to measure, I guess we’ll just extrapolate for all other types of remote work. Obligatory xkcd

To be clear, it seems it’s mostly advocates of office work that are talking up the 18% figure, not necessarily the authors.