Research / BFI Working PaperJan 08, 2021

COVID-19 Shifted Patent Applications toward Technologies that Support Working from Home

Nicholas Bloom, Steven J. Davis, Yulia Zhestkova

We examine the text content of U.S. patent applications, identifying those that advance technologies in support of video conferencing, telecommuting, remote interactivity, and working from home (collectively, WFH). The share of new patent applications that advance WFH technologies more than doubles from January to September of 2020, greatly surpassing its previous peak, and following an upward trajectory since the onset of the pandemic. This evidence suggests that (re-)directed technical change in reaction to COVID-19 will raise the quality and efficiency of remote work, thereby reinforcing a shift to working from home even after the pandemic ends. 

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