A New Way to Work
The 2020 Coronavirus pandemic has affected so many areas of our lives, one of which is the shift from working in an office to working from home. This shift has created a lot of changes in our economy and in the lives of many U.S. employees.
Companies have tried to keep their workers safe by having them work from home for part or all of their working week, and in doing so have also slashed their costs in several ways:
- Lower real estate costs
- Reduced absenteeism
- Reduced turnover
- Better disaster preparedness
Global Workplace Analytics has estimated that a typical employer can save an average of $11,000 per year per half-time remote worker. Employers have also seen an increase in productivity. As a result, companies aren't expected to return to 100% working onsite, even when the pandemic greatly subsides.
Employees are estimated to save between $2,000 to $4,000 per year by working from home half the time. These savings are mainly from gas, parking, and eating out. They also save an equivalent of 11 workdays per year from commuting.
Notes on Work-From-Home Statistics
We've collected data from many different sources. Much of this data is from surveys, and was collected at different times, so occasionally data from one survey are different from other surveys. We've included all the data that we feel is relevant, with the objective to create a clearer picture of the work-from-home economy that we're living in. We've organized the data by themes as well as by where it came from.
Statistics from Stanford Research
Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom explains his research on the new work-from-home economy:
- As of June 29th, 2020, 42% of the US labor force now works from home full time; 33% aren't working, and 26% (mostly service workers) work at their company. This equates to almost twice as many people working from home as at their workplace.
- Work-from-home employees account for over two-thirds of the U.S. gross domestic product.
- From a survey done by Stanford Research, only 51% of respondents can work from home and these are people who can do their jobs on computers. These respondents reported an 80% efficiency rate.
- People who work in healthcare, retail, transport, and business services need to work with equipment or customers.
- Many Americans lack the facilities or sufficient internet capacity to work effectively from home.
- More than 50% are working in a shared room or their bedroom.
- 65% report having fast enough internet to do video calls.
- 35% have poor or no internet and can't do video calls.
- These changes can result in further inequality because those who can afford good internet and have enough space to effectively work from home are able to advance their careers. Those who don't have access to fast internet speeds and space will be left behind.
- Growth of city centers is expected to stop as workers no longer frequent restaurants and businesses there. Revenue in these businesses is expected to be cut in half.
- Many firms are planning on cutting the number of workers in their offices in half and may rent office space in industrial parks and low-rise buildings, leading to a demand for office space.
- Social distancing creates some major obstacles for workers in densely populated buildings. If 6-foot social distancing is respected, elevators and mass transit won't be able to bring workers to their destination all at the same time.
- Bloom predicts that when there's a vaccine, companies will be reluctant to return to densely packed offices due to the fear of another pandemic.
Opinions and Habits of Employees Working From Home
Owl Labs has compiled some interesting data from employees working at home:
- 77% of survey respondents agree that after the pandemic, being able to work from home would make them happier
- Workers are using video meetings 50% more in 2020 than in previous years
- 50% of workers would move if they could work from home part or full-time
- 75% are as productive or more productive working from home
- 50% of workers won't return to their jobs if they aren't able to work from home
- Working remotely saves 40 minutes per day because there's no commute
- 20% report working more during the pandemic
- Only 20%-25% pay or share home office costs
- 80% believe that there should be one day per week with no meetings
- 81% believe their employer will continue remote work after the pandemic
- 44% don't believe it's necessary to get dressed up for a video meeting
- During the pandemic, workers are saving an average of $479.20/month
Why people want to work remotely:
- 79% are afraid of getting Covid
- 79% want to avoid the commute
- 74% want to reduce stress
- 72% want a better work/life balance and time with family
- 70% believe they have better focus and increased productivity
The top concerns for returning to the office:
- 71% getting Covid
- 65% having to wear a mask all day
- 62% sitting in a conference area or enclosed area
- 61% dealing with crowds getting in and out of buildings
- 56% having an employer who wants them to come back sooner than they're comfortable
Where people are working from in their homes:
- 67% home office
- 49% dining room
- 49% couch
- 42% bedroom
- 15% closet
Regarding moving, employees who live in an urban area were asked if they could work from home most or all of the time, would they move, and where:
- 50% said they wouldn't move
- 29% said they would move to the suburbs in the same area
- 12% said a suburb somewhere else
- 9% said a rural area
When workers were asked how fair it was to reduce their salary if they moved to a less expensive area:
- 71% said it would be unfair to adjust their salaries
- 40% said it would be very unfair
- 31% said it would be somewhat unfair
- 22% said it would be somewhat fair
Indeed reports that employees working from home have more time on their hands that they're using wisely:
- 48% report getting more sleep
- 35% report exercising more
- 35% report spending extra time with children and loved ones
However, Indeed's survey reports that the lack of commute has a few surprises:
- 50% of workers miss the commute
- 66% understood that the commute marked a break between work and home
- 42% report that without the drive, they're less informed on news
- 45% miss in-person work meetings
- 73% miss socializing at the office
- 68% say that remote work makes it harder to maintain a relationship with their manager
And the work/life balance with children has some serious challenges:
- 72% anticipate possibly reducing their work hours to accommodate their children's remote learning
- 42% say they may need to quit their jobs
Indeed's survey respondents' feeling towards their last few months of working remotely:
- 80% say they've adjusted well
- 63% found that the transition was easier than anticipated
What Careers Work From Home the Most?
Bloomberg has compiled a list from the U.S.Bureau of Labor Statistics of the careers most likely to work remotely as of September 2020:
- 64.8% Computer and mathematical
- 54.7% Business and financial operations
- 54% Life, physical, and social science
- 53% Finance and insurance
- 49.8% Professional and technical services
- 48.7% Architecture and engineering
- 47% Community and social services
- 44.6% Information
- 42.5% Education, training, and library
- 39.1% Art, design, entertainment, sports, and media
- 35.5% Management
- 33.4% Public administration
- 27.2% Utilities
- 26% Real estate and rental and leasing
- 25.7% Social assistance
- 24% Office and administrative support
- 21.8% Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction
- 21.5% Wholesale trade
- 2.2% Food preparation and serving
- 2.1% Farming, fishing, and forestry
Working-From-Home Prior to the Pandemic
Global Workplace Analytics shares a lot of data on pre-pandemic work in the U.S.:
- Based on 2018 American Community Service data, 5 million employees worked from home - only 3.6% of the U.S. workforce.
- Regular work-at-home has grown 173% since 2005, 11% faster than the rest of the workforce.
- According to Gallup State of the American Workplace data from 2016, 43% of employees work remotely with some frequency.
- 56% of employees could do at least some of their job from home.
- 62% of employees said they could work remotely according to a 2019 Citrix poll.
- Multiple studies have shown that desks are vacant 50%-60% of the time.
- Owl Labs State of Remote Work 2019 found that 80% of employees want to work from home at least some of the time.
- A federal Employee Viewpoint Survey from 2018 showed that only 12% of employees would not want to work from home at least part of the time.
- A State of the American Workforce poll by Gallup in 2017 found that 35% of workers would change jobs to be able to work remotely full time (47% of millennials and 31% of boomers). 37% would work remotely some of the time (50% millennials and 33% boomers).
- Flexibility was rated as one of the highest-ranked benefits by millennials, above student loan or tuition reimbursement (State of the American Workforce poll by Gallup in 2017).
- More than 33% of workers would take a 5% pay cut to be able to work from home some of the time; 25% would take a 10% pay cut; 20% would take an even larger pay cut (Owl Labs State of Remote Work 2019).
Work-from-home employee demographics:
- The average worker who works from home is 45 years old, college-educated, earns $58,000 while working for a company that employs more than 100 people.
- 75% of employees who work from home earn over $65,000 per year, which puts them in the 80th percentile of all U.S. workers.
- Owl Labs states the amount of work-from-home employees who made more than $100K rose from 26% in 2019 to 43% in 2020. Non-work-from-home employees who made more than $100K in 2019 accounted for 8% compared to 27% in 2020.
- Larger companies are more likely to offer the option of working from home
- New England and Mid-Atlantic companies are the most likely to offer remote work to their employees
- Full-time employees are four times more likely to have the option of working from home
- Non-union workers are twice as likely to have the option of working from home, but that is changing rapidly
- 40% of U.S. employers offered remote work compared to 5 years ago
- Only 7% make it available to most or all of their employees
How often did employees work from home in 2019?
- 3.6% work half of their workday or more
- 43% work remotely occasionally
- 2-3 days per week seems to be a popular balance of working from home and collaborating at the office
Challenges of Employees Working From Home
Forbes has compiled a list of statistics regarding the shift to a remote workforce and the challenges faced by the remote worker:
- KPMG reports that 70% of large-company CEOs plan to downsize their office space
- 25% of workers under 25 have lost their jobs
- 40 million Americans are receiving some form of unemployment now
- A Nulab survey found that 72% of workers don't have a dedicated office space
- 40% don't even have a dedicated desk
- Nearly 20% are working in their living room
- 28.5% work from their master bedroom
- 56% were unable to bring equipment from their office to home
- One-third have purchased equipment to help them work from home
Indeed reports that the costs for working from home were paid by:
- 55% covered the costs themselves
- 27% received partial assistance from their employer
- 18% were fully reimbursed by their employer
Apollo Technical gathered some interesting data about the productivity of work-from-home employees:
- An Airtasker survey from March 2020 showed that employees avoided work 15% less, spent about 1.4 more days per month working, and took more breaks.
- Workers in the same survey reported that they were less distracted by co-workers, spending 30 minutes less talking about non-work topics, and 7% less time talking to management.
- They report that companies like Splunk, Microsoft, and Affirm saw a large increase in productivity initially during the pandemic, but over time, the loneliness of working at home decreases productivity and job satisfaction.