Productivity, Organizational Structure and Work-From-Home

Recently, there has been a great deal of discussion about the effect of the pandemic on productivity. Has the shift in work, especially the increase in work from home (WFH), boosted productivity? Will a return to the office lead to more or less productivity? Or, to put it another way, will the return to the office enhance or degrade the key intangible asset of organizational competence?

Articles by David Rotman at MIT’s Technology Review, Heather Long in the Washington Post, and Neil Irwin in the New York Times paint a positive picture over the overall trend in productivity.

But, as Chip Cutter points out in the WSJ, companies are struggling with how to reopen the office that is not disruptive. 

The answer to the productivity question depends on the interaction between organizational changes and new technologies. Most of the productivity optimism is based on an expectation of continued deployment of advanced technologies, specifically artificial intelligence, machine learning, automation, and robotics. But experts such as Erik Brynjolfsson have long argued that concomitant organizational changes are need for deployment of these technologies (for example, see here and here).

For the most part, these changes in organizational structure are needed to take advantage of the productivity-increasing features of the new technology. The classic example is the change in factory layouts due to the shift from steam-driven belt and pulley system to individually electric engine driven machines.

But equally important is the role of a shift in work organization in facilitating the acceptance of new technologies. The pandemic-induced forced shift to WFH seems to have broken down barriers to the deployment of digital technologies. As a recent large survey of companies by Barrero, Bloom, and Davis concludes, “the pandemic created the conditions for coordinated experiments with WFH in networks comprised of firms, customers and suppliers, yielding lessons and know-how that were hard to acquire beforehand. In sum, the pandemic swept aside inertial forces related to experimentation costs, biased expectations, and coordination within networks that had previously inhibited remote work.”

The challenge facing companies now is how to harness these productivity drivers. Can they take advantage of the window of opportunity of lower barriers to technological change and use the WFH experience to create the new organizational structures needed to operationalize the new technologies? Or will forcing workers back to the office reimpose the pre-pandemic organizational structure and negate any organizational learning?

My guess is that we will see a mixed result. We are in the middle of a huge social experiment. Researchers, managers, and workers will need to monitor the experiment closely for lessons-learned and new “good practices.”


As a side note, I find the ongoing discussion on the impact of the elimination of the work commute on productivity to be somewhat confusing. It has been argued that the shift to work-from-home has raised productivity. For example, the Barrero et al. survey cited above concludes that WFH will increase productivity by 4.8%, half of which is due to reduced commute times.

But this is a case of working longer, not working smarter. Official productivity measures do not include commuting time as work time. Adding in time previously spent commuting increased the total number of hours worked. Working more hours presumably increases production (the amount of work you get done). This does not necessarily increase labor productivity (as measured by output per hour). And if the result of working from home doesn’t lead to a measurable increase in output (a distinct possibility for office work), then productivity actually goes down (more hours, same output). Also, any reduction in commuting time is a one-shot improvement (assuming that the number of people working from home does not continue to increase) and may be reversible (as workers are required to go back to the office at least part-time). And of course, it does increase company profits if workers are not paid more for those extra hours – and likely they are not (more output due to more hours for the same amount of expense).

July employment shows continuing growth

This morning the BLS announced that employment in July increased by 943,000 – more than expected. And the unemployment rate dropped to 5.4%. Employment growth was across the board. As in previous months there was a continued resumption of economic activity in two areas which have direct public contact. Employment in Accommodation & Food Services was up by 2.6% and Arts, Entertainment & Recreation employment was also up 2.6%. Only Tangible Education and Health Services saw a decline.

As I mentioned last month, the data continue to show the economy settling back into the pre-pandemic pattern of tangible-producing versus intangible-producing industries of the last decade.

From 2000 to around 2010, employment in tangible-producing industries slowly declined while employment in intangible-producing industries rose. And as a result, the share of total employment in intangible-producing industries passed that of tangible-producing industries some time in 2009. This was the continuation of a long trend in the growth of the intangible economy.

But around 2010 something happened. Employment in tangible-producing industries started growing at about the same rate as employment in intangible-producing industries. And the split between the two in terms of percentage of total employment stabilized. The pandemic reversed that trend with employment in tangible-producing industries dropping much faster than in intangible-producing industries. We now have enough post-crash data to clearly see that the 2010-2020 trend of equal employment growth is reasserting itself.

So, what happened in 2010? I suspect that the long-awaited Information Society (or Post-Industrial Society if you prefer the older title) finally arrived and with it a change in the tangible producing process. The nature of the output between tangible and intangible may be different, but all production processes are becoming intangible-heavy. For example, manufacturing is now a knowledge-based activity. Another explanation may be the fusion of tangible and intangible output (often referred to as “servitization”). Companies no longer sell just tangible products but combine the physical with an intangible service (such as home alarms).

The pandemic lockdown disrupted the economy. But it did not fundamentally alter this shift.

For more on the categories, see my explanation of the methodology in an earlier posting https://intangibleeconomy.wordpress.com/2020/06/11/which-jobs-got-hit-in-the-covid-crash-tangible-versus-intangible/

Growth in knowledge-related business investment continues in 2Q 2021

While the GDP growth in the 2nd quarter of 2021 was not as strong as some expected, it was still a healthy 6.5%. Importantly, business (non-residential fixed) investment in knowledge-related areas continues its strong growth. Investment in software grew by over 12% while R&D spending was up by over 6.3%. In contrast, total business investment in all other areas remains the same – due in large part to a decline in investment in transportation equipment.

Knowledge related business investments did not suffer as great a cutback as other business investments in the COVID-19 slowdown and have been growing since 2Q20. They now account for 57% of total business investment (up from 50% in 3Q19). Looking at only the two digital-related investments of ICT equipment and software, this subcategory makes up 40% of business investments.

[Note: I define knowledge-related investment as the combination of investment in Information Processing Equipment, R&D, and Software. The first of these three categories is reported in the GDP data as a subcategory of Non-residential Fixed Investment: Equipment. The latter two are reported as subcategories of Non-residential Fixed Investment: Intellectual Property Products.]

Background paper on the new challenges facing IP

[Posting has been updated to correct links to event video]

The Global Federation of Competitiveness Councils (GFCC – https://www.thegfcc.org) has put out an excellent background paper on intellectual property (IP) as part of their “Frame the Future” series of discussions (registration at https://framethefuture.thegfcc.org/ and intro video at https://youtu.be/HmwZfbQB9ZQ?t=12). The background paper, “Intellectual Property Systems”, is available at https://drive.google.com/file/d/11AMnsQRtIt7zQPW8tt76oVnCP4N-aO3q/view. The full video of the event is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=spiI0BLVwOc.

The paper outlines a number of trends affecting and challenges facing IP. Among those is the increasing importance of data leading to greater emphasis on data governance and stewardship.

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) poses an interesting new challenge – both in the protection of AI algorithms and data as well as the application of IP to AI created knowledge. For example, how to you patent a non-transparent algorithm and who gets IP rights to AI-created content?

Not touched upon in the discussion but mentioned in passing in the paper is the trend of more countries look to IP taxes to boost IP applications and incentives for innovation. It would be interesting to hear more on this, especially in light of the recent agreement on global corporate taxation which has major implications for the location of IP ownership.

Then there are all of the ongoing operational issues of any IP system: global enforceability, the cost and time it takes to get a patent, the cost and time of licensing IP, barriers to successful technology transfer, the use of IP to block rather than facilitate innovation, the disproportionate burden on smaller firms, and the difficulty of any IP system keeping up with accelerating technology development.

A large part of the discussion looked at the perennial issue of what to share versus what to protect. This discussion is often framed as “open” versus “closed” or “strong” versus “weak.” But such an either/or view misses the complexities of IP. As the paper (and the discussion) noted, the real question is how to share and protect at the same time. This is becoming increasingly important as organization increasingly embrace concepts of open innovation and co-creation and as IP driven innovation becomes more collaborative, creative, and inclusive.

Balance between creator and user is part of the answer, as noted in the discussion. But as was also noted in the discussion, companies such as Lockheed both share and protect their IP depending on the business situation. I think a successful IP system must have this flexibility as well as balance.

And as I pointed out in the discussion, IP is just one part of intangible assets. And successful utilization of IP requires concomitant intangibles such as worker skills and organizational capacity. Thus, any IP system needs to be embedded not only in the context of an innovation strategy but also as part of a broader set of policies to facilitate investment in and utilization of intangible assets.

Today’s GFCC discussion was a good step forward in addressing IP systems around the world. I hope the discussions continue.

Pattern of intangible v. tangible jobs continues in June

June was a good month for jobs: the BLS announced that employment increased by 850,000. And there was a continued resumption of economic activity in two areas which have direct public contact that had been curtailed due to the pandemic. Employment in Accommodation & Food Services was up by 269,400 (2.2%), Arts, Entertainment & Recreation employment was up 73,600 (3.7%), and Personal & Laundry Services was up 28,200 (2.1%). Three sectors were down slightly: Telecommunications, Tangible business services, and Financial Activities.

More interesting to me is what the data says about employment in tangible-producing versus intangible-producing industries. As the chart below shows, from 2000 to around 2010, employment in tangible-producing industries slowly declined while employment in intangible-producing industries rose. And as a result, the share of total employment in intangible-producing industries passed that of tangible-producing industries some time in 2009. This was the continuation of a long trend in the growth of the intangible economy.

But around 2010 something happened. Employment in tangible-producing industries started growing at about the same rate as employment in intangible-producing industries. And the split between the two in terms of percentage of total employment stabilized. The pandemic reversed that trend with employment in tangible-producing industries dropping much faster than in intangible-producing industries. We now have enough post-crash data to clearly see that the 2010-2020 trend of equal employment growth is reasserting itself.

Thus, the question remains: what happened in 2010? Did the Great Recession somehow fundamentally change the structure of the economy? I suspect that part of the answer can be found in the changing nature of the tangible producing process. The long-awaited Information Society (or Post-Industrial Society if you prefer the older title) has finally arrived. The nature of the output between tangible and intangible may be different, but all production processes are becoming intangible-heavy. For example, manufacturing is now a knowledge-based activity. Another explanation may be the fusion of tangible and intangible output (often referred to as “servitization”). Companies no longer sell just tangible products but combine the physical with an intangible service (such as home alarms).

Likely both explanations are true. Both process and products throughout the economy have become more intangible-based. This is true even as we consume more tangible-based (physical) services. More on this later.

For more on the categories, see my explanation of the methodology in an earlier posting.

Federal government investments in intangibles: FY2022

Today I am releasing the latest analysis of the U.S. federal government’s proposed investments in intangible as outlined in the President’s budget request for FY 2022. This request continues the increase in intangible investments, rising to over a quarter (28%) of discretionary spending and over two-fifths (42%) for nondefense discretionary spending. Yet, the federal government has no coherent set of policies for fostering intangible assets nor any management plans in place for the appropriate utilization of these intangible assets in any systematic way for revenue generation.

The full analysis can be found here:

Earlier budget analysis can be found here: Federal investments in intangibles – President’s proposed FY 2014 budget and Federal investments in intangibles – President’s proposed FY 2016 budget.

April was a strange month for jobs

This morning’s employment data from BLS came as a surprise: employment increased by only 266,000 in April compared to the expectations of over 1 million. The unemployment rate was basically unchanged at 6.1%. In addition, data for March was dramatically revised downward from the earlier reported 916,000 to 770,000.

However, the slowdown did not occur in the sectors many expected. Contrary to some expectations, there was a continued resumption of economic activity in two areas which have direct public contact that had been curtailed due to the pandemic. Employment in Accommodation & Food Services was up by 241,400 (2.0%) and Arts, Entertainment & Recreation employment was up 89,600 (5.0%). It was all the other sectors that showed sluggish or negative growth.

As noted above, besides the growth in Accommodation & Food Services, employment in the tangible producing industries was mixed. Construction and Mining employment was essentially flat, Manufacturing, Tangible education & health services, and Trade, Transportation & Utilities were down slightly. Telecommunications, and Tangible business services were up slightly. Repair & Maintenance and Personal & Laundry Services were both up.

For the intangible producing industries (beyond Arts, Entertainment & Recreation), employment in Information (excluding telecommunications) and Professional & Business Services were down. Financial Activities, Education & Health Services, and Government were basically flat. Membership associations and organizations showed some growth.

For more on the categories, see my explanation of the methodology in an earlier posting.

Beyond broadband access

In his recent address to a Joint Session of Congress, President Biden called for expanding access to the internet and put Vice-President Harris in charge of the effort. As he noted, his Americans Jobs Plan includes $100 billion for expanding broadband. This is a needed step forward to closing the digital divide. However necessary, it is not sufficient. As I have pointed out before, the issue is not about technology diffusion but about inclusion. That will require steps to improve digital literacy and changes in work organization so that everyone has the skills and opportunities to make use of the technology.

That was the theme of a 2001 conference report I wrote on Inclusion in the Information Age: Reframing the Debate. The insights from that report are still valid today:

Point one: Focus on the transformation, not the technology.  

 At its heart, the issue of the “digital divide” is not simply a question of technological deployment. The broader issue concerns the transformation to what, for lack of a better term, we call the Information Age. The end purpose is not to narrow some gap, but to ensure that everyone has access to the expanded opportunities. Our framework should be one of inclusion for all in the broader activities that make up society and the economy. Our goal should be to facilitate the transformation to help everyone participate in civic and economic activities, however those activities are carried out in this new information age.  

 Point two: Review and coordinate efforts.

The problem has aspects of telecommunications policy, such as infrastructure and standards, and elements of technology policy, such as research and development and technology deployment. It also draws from information policy in the areas of content. But it also has aspects of policies on training and workforce development, education, economic development, housing and community development, human services and trade.  

 Reaching our goal requires a coordinated approach – in the private, public and non-governmental sectors – that combines the various elements of providing opportunity and inclusion in the information age.  

 In terms of governmental policy, this means that the focus of digital opportunity efforts should be the White House, not any one department or agency. Since the issue spans agency boundaries, the point for coordination of efforts must be the National Economic Council (or whatever structure the President chooses to coordinate policy at the White House). The bully pulpit of the Presidency should be used to highlight local community initiatives and promote government and private sector programs.  

 It is also time to take a new look at some policy areas. For example, a comprehensive approach is needed toward all parts of managing the information commons: privacy, intellectual property rights, “right-to-know” policies and other related areas.  

 Point three: Work to ensure that everyone has access to the technological infrastructure.  

 As discussed throughout this report, barriers to access to the infrastructure are many. Ways of overcoming those barriers are also varied, including public access facilities that can combine access with training and other activities, as well as home access.  

 With respect to access in the home, we must return to the question of universal access. The concept of universal access is built on the notion of a necessary public utility that requires government action to ensure that it is available to all. As the convergence of telecommunications and media takes place, is IT and the Internet more or less a public utility? And if so, what is the role for the government in guaranteeing universal access? We need to re-look at the concept of universal access in light of the coming convergence.  

 The development of broadband capabilities around the country is rapidly becoming a predicate for access – both at home and at work. Some worry about an over-built broadband system.57 Tell that to the millions of people in rural America and the inner cities who don’t have access to broadband – and to those who struggle to get POTS (plain old telephone service).  

 Since the conference, a number of competing proposals have come forward to facilitate the development of broadband. It is beyond the scope of this report to examine those proposals. However, as part of our discussion of universal service, we should examine our goals for broadband deployment. For example, Canada has committed to having broadband reach every community by 2004. The goal is to utilize the technology for on-line education and health care, especially in rural areas – and to help Canadian small- and medium-size businesses compete.58 Whether or not the Canadian model is applicable here is an open question. It is, however, a question that should be discussed.  

 It is important to recognize that there is no single model for the places where the public may gain access to the new IT infrastructure. Both home use and public access points are important. Multiple access public points are needed, such as existing public facilities, training centers, libraries, and after-school centers. For such public access sites, maintenance and on-going operational support is a must. This includes mundane issues, such as security, janitorial support, utilities as well as the more IT specific, such as network administrators and other technical support personnel. We need to bolster and expand programs, such as those at the Commerce and Education Departments, which support these activities.  

 Beyond support for on-going operations, there is the issue of funding for organizational development. There are many community efforts throughout the country to promote access, all of which struggle with organizational problems. Sustainability is the key. A grant here and there from the government and foundations is not enough.  

 The bottom line is not just access to information technology, but the utilization of that technology by organizations and individuals to better peoples’ lives. We must work to weave information technology into the operations of community groups in a way that will both help individuals use the technology and will make those groups more efficient and effective in their core mission.  

 Some of the barriers to digital inclusion are physical: the usability of the technology. This is not, as commonly thought of, an issue only for those with disabilities. The problems of usability and human-machine interfaces affect all of us. Surveys show that one major reason people do not use computers and the Internet is that it is too difficult. Research on ways to increase access for those with disabilities will pay off in increased usability for all. Recent Federal rules require that government web sites be accessible to the disabled. We need to build upon these efforts to make usability and accessibility part of all web sites, and a regular part of a good web design training program.  

 Point four: Encourage and facilitate participation and involvement by all in the digital economy and information society.  

 Participation and involvement begins with the usability of the technology. Technology must meet people’s needs – not define those needs. Information technology can help people in their day-to-day lives if it is designed and structured in such a way that it helps answer their questions and solve their problems. Otherwise it becomes a barrier and a source of frustration. This is the danger of what some refer to as the “over-wired” world.  

 It is important to understand that individuals have different needs. A one size- fits-all may help some – and increase their participation and involvement – but will block others. By focusing on “demand-pull,” rather than “technology-push,” we can better tailor the technology to meet individual needs.  

 Development of meaningful content is one of the ways to increase the level of participation. Involvement will increase as compelling content is available. For example, information on health care is a major draw for many. Increased educational content and help for parents and teachers in using that content is another way of promoting utilization. The other way to increase participation is through support for the development of locally-based content. Not only does locally-based content give individuals a reason to participate, the process of creating community-relevant content itself stimulates involvement. Some foundations have stepped up to this task. But more can and should be done by both the public and the private sectors.  

 In the area of e-government and political participation, the question of involvement and access takes on a special significance. We need to make sure that egovernment is available to all. If a government (Federal, state or local) is going to deliver services or make information available through electronic means, then it is incumbent that the government promote access for the purpose of allowing these services to be widely delivered to everybody in the community. No services or information should be removed or dramatically cut back from traditional means of dissemination in favor of electronic dissemination until and unless all members of the community have access to that electronic means as easily as they have to the traditional means.  

 Point five: Focus economic development on the Information Economy, not the Internet Economy.  

 The information age will require a new approach to economic development. It is not about replicating Silicon Valley. It is about helping existing businesses and existing (and potential) entrepreneurs become more competitive by using technology. Key to the process is using and developing assets: financial, social, skill-based, and information assets. We must focus on building the local economy’s vitality and ability to compete in the age of globalization and help people make the switch to the new economy. One of our first tasks should be the development of processes for identifying and assessing local assets.  

 Revitalized programs for training the existing workforce should also be a top priority. Training programs should not be only for those who are laid off or are looking for a job. The new information age requires constant updating of skills. On-the-job training and incumbent worker training must be a large part of our workforce development activities. We must also expand our focus on all the various levels and forms of literacy and basic skills, including critical thinking skills.  

 We need special emphasis on how SMEs are making use of information technologies. It’s relatively easier for large firms, compared to small businesses, to incorporate new technologies into their operations. One idea that surfaced at the conference was to support mechanisms for collaborative learning amongst companies looking at the comprehensive use of information technology in small business.  

 We also need to foster entrepreneurship at all levels. New technology-creating (“high-tech”) businesses are important – but so are new businesses that use the technology. New entrepreneurial opportunities arise from the economic assets and the market demands of an area. Those may be high-tech based or not. The important point is not to replicate someone else’s strategy, but to grow the economy from the local assets, whatever they may be.  

 New innovative financial mechanisms are needed, both for dealing with “intangible” assets and to reach out to those communities left behind. Individual Development Accounts, micro-loans, and the New Markets Initiative in the FY2001 budget deal are cases in point. The New Markets Initiative is an example of a true bipartisan effort, which the Bush Administration and Congress would do well to emulate and build upon.  

 Collaborative learning and sharing of information is also important in the larger process of economic development. There are a number of examples of information assets being applied within businesses and local economies: the example given at the conference of ACEnet is a case in point. Economic development is an information intensive activity. We need to utilize new knowledge management techniques and old-fashioned communications techniques to collect, disseminate and better utilize that information.  

 Point six: We need a better understanding of what is going on.  

 One of the frustrations many people felt during the conference was based on their inability to describe what was happening in the economy. Since the date of the conference, the debate about the “old” and “new” economy has only sharpened. The concern is especially heightened in local economies. As one conference participant put it, “we’ve been gathering the same old data about the state of local economies in the same old way for 30 to 40 years and we haven’t caught up with the real trends and the underlying issues in local economies.” We need to re-look at the data needed for economic development in the information economy.  

 The problem of data extends beyond the scope of local economic data. We need both better data and expanded analysis of the socioeconomic aspects of the information technology. To quote the National Academy of Sciences:

Despite the significance of these impacts [of information technologies] for society, there has been relatively little investment in research to help understand, predict and shape them.60 We need to make those investments.  

 Expanding social science research is not enough. That research must be translated into policy relevant terms. In a cost-cutting effort in the 1990s, Congress eliminated the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). This may turn out to be an example of false economy. OTA was widely praised as an authoritative and nonpartisan source of information on a variety of technology related issues. Congress should seriously consider re-establishing this agency.  

 Point seven: The decision-making process must be open.  

 True inclusion and opportunity can only occur in if the process of decision making is open and transparent. Information technology has a tremendous potential for opening and maintaining channels for general input and advocacy. However, decisions made about the technology can have the effect of closing off the process rather than opening it up. We must insure that all parties are at the table when decisions, including issues such as standard setting, are made. As noted earlier, having people with grass roots experience in on the discussions would greatly enrich the process. Everyone – the innovators and social entrepreneurs as well as “everyday people” – should be included.  

 The decision-making process will also affect the future development and utilization of information technology. Issues of trust, such as privacy and security, are key factors in that development. An open and transparent decision-making process will help foster trust and thereby foster technology utilization. A closed process will retard future development.  

 The need for an open process extends beyond the actions of the government. In America, we value and respect the rights of private citizens (individual and corporate) to conduct their business in private. However, the freedoms which are associated with the marketplace also need to be accompanied by responsibility. Issues of corporate responsibility are moving higher up on the agenda in connection with the issue of globalization. Some conference participants suggested that we need to start a national dialogue about corporate responsibility in the information age.  

 Point eight: Innovate and experiment.  

 We are in a time of transformation and change. The speed of that change and the pace of economic activity will vary. Yet the change is real and will continue.  

 In such a time, we must often invent new ways of coping with our problems and new policies for guiding our economy and society. This does not mean that we should throw out the old models and values. On the contrary, we should build upon what we cherish and what has worked in the past. But we cannot be bound by the constraints of “that is the way we always did it.”  

 In the area of public policy, we need to view our activities and programs as a series of experiments. As June Holley noted:  

Policy needs to be much more rapid – prototyping, we call it. So you get some innovations happening out there, and then you set up an environment when you can learn from those innovations…and begin to build sort of this moving wave of policy in that fashion.

 Such experimentation will require great policy discipline, however. It will require the ability to drop a policy or program when it is not working – regardless of how hard we fought for it in the first place. It also requires accepting and expanding a policy or program that work – no matter how much we opposed it originally. It also requires a strong, unbiased means of evaluating programs and policies. We must support and strengthen those organizations and institutions that undertake such evaluation.  

 We must also find means to ensure that the evaluations are timely for the fast-moving policy arena. The goal in evaluation is not simply proving the effectiveness of an action – it is to facilitate learning. Learning is the hallmark of the Information Age. Our public policy process must embrace that concept as tightly as the rest of our economy and society already have.

GDP data show growth in knowledge-related investment

Obviously the big story with today’s GDP numbers is the rebound in consumer spending. But the more important story for long run economic growth is what is happening in business investment. And there the picture looks bright.

Overall, private fixed non-residential investment grew at a health rate in the first quarter of 2021 (1Q21). The one exception was investment in non-residential structures (i.e., factories and commercial buildings) which declined ever so slightly.

More importantly, business (non-residential fixed) investment in knowledge-related areas is leading the way in the recovery. I define knowledge-related investment as the combination of investment in Information Processing Equipment, R&D, and Software. The first of these three categories is reported in the GDP data as a subcategory of Non-residential Fixed Investment: Equipment. The latter two are reported as subcategories of Non-residential Fixed Investment: Intellectual Property Products.

Knowledge related business investments did not suffer as great a cutback as other business investments in the COVID-19 slowdown and have been growing steadily since 2Q20 (see charts below). The now account for 57% of total business investment (up from 50% in 3Q19). Looking at only the two digital-related investments of ICT equipment and software, this subcategory makes up 40% of business investments.

[Note that the third subcategory of Intellectual Property Products category is Entertainment, Literary & Artistic Originals. Investment in this category was just barely up. Interestingly, this sluggishness comes despite the rise of non-fungible tokens (NFT) as an investment. I’m not sure how NFTs are incorporated into the GDP.]

Being productive is not necessarily the same as productivity

I keep hearing commentators tout the benefits of work at home for productivity by eliminating commutes. Less time commuting will not per se raise productivity (not accounting for the impact of less stress when reaching the office on productivity). It simply adds working hours to the day. More hours producing (i.e., “being productive”) does not increase the amount produced per hour (productivity). It does however increase GDP by working harder rather than working smarter. We need more working smarter.