National Productivity Week 27th November 2023 | Visit Website

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leading experts, policymakers
and practitioners

The Institute’s key research themes
are led by ten academic partners
spread across the UK.

We’re a UK-wide research
organisation exploring what
productivity means for business

Businesses are crucial to solving
the UK’s productivity problems.

The work-from-home revolution and the performance of cities

In this paper we set out the relationships between the behavioural, technological and spatial changes in systems that allow for heterogeneous responses to working-from-home by different types of actors, and also identifies the channels via which such changes take place. Unlike all other papers on the subject, the analytical framework we propose centers explicitly on the role of frequency of commuting.

In particular, we find that the optimal frequency of commuting is positively related to the opportunity costs of less-than-continuous face-to-face interaction and inversely related to the travel plus travel-time costs. The results also support recent empirical findings of a “donut effect” with greater growth in the suburbs and hinterlands around large cities, but also capture inter-city effects for the first time. Counterintuitively, the reduction in the frequency of commuting makes larger cities and their hinterlands more desirable places, in spite of longer commuting distances. Taken together, our results imply enhanced productivity of larger cities over smaller cities.

This paper was updated on 06 October 2022 with an extra explanatory sentence before equation 40.


  • Geography & Place




S. Bond-Smith, P. McCann (2022) The work-from-home revolution and the performance of cities . Working Paper No. 026, The Productivity Institute.