Coronavirus has forced employees to work from home. Now, almost 1 out of 3 are less productive.

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Last Updated on June 5, 2020

Within a few weeks, the COVID-19 pandemic has upended nearly every aspect of daily life in the U.S., including where and how Americans work. Roughly 22 million people have filed for unemployment in the wake of stay-at-home mandates implemented to stop the virus’ spread. Millions of others who are still employed are now working at home, which brings its own unique challenges.

Partnering with YouGov, a recognized authority in public opinion data, we surveyed 2,909 American employees ages 18 to 55+ who are currently working from home and found that the shift in work locale, as well as a lack of prior work-from-home experience, anxiety about the disease, and other distractions are having a major impact on their productivity.

Overall, employees who have transitioned to working from home are working fewer hours per day than they normally do, with more than 30 percent of respondents saying that even during the hours they are working, they are less productive than usual.

More than half of employees had never worked from home before COVID-19

One of the main factors contributing to the dip in productivity may be the newness of the situation itself. Nearly 54% of survey respondents said this is their first time working from home, which aligns with other data showing relatively low levels of consistent remote work prior to COVID-19.

Fifty-four percent of those surveyed are working from home as a direct result of COVID-19 safety measures. Even under normal circumstances, working from home has its advantages and disadvantages, and transitioning to combining your home and workplace has a learning curve. Add in the fact that many workers had to make the change suddenly, against a backdrop of illness and uncertainty, and it is not surprising that a significant percentage of employees are struggling with productivity

30% of employees are now less productive working from home during COVID-19 pandemic

While slightly more than one-third of survey respondents said that they are equally as productive while working from home, 30.4% of respondents are experiencing difficulty maintaining their usual work output.

Almost 20% of survey respondents said that they are somewhat less productive than usual, and an additional 10.4% said they are much less productive. Employees in the Northeast are struggling the most, with 34% of workers in this region saying they are less productive, compared to 31.2% of employees in the West, 30.1% of employees in the Midwest, and 27.7% of employees in the South.

Employees’ ages do not seem to have a major impact on challenges with productivity. Among individuals ages 18-34, 30.4% said they are less productive. Rates were similar for respondents ages 35-54 (32.1%) and ages 55 and over (28.3%).

Surprisingly, 70% of respondents said they are equally or more productive while working from home. Eliminating the daily commute, as well as other typical workplace distractions may help individuals maintain or boost their productivity levels.

Of those employees who are less productive working from home, almost 30% say it’s due to anxiety about COVID-19

For others, however, working from home has only increased distractions. Anxiety about the COVID-19 pandemic is making it harder for employees to focus, particularly for younger individuals. Nearly 44% of respondents ages 18-34 cited coronavirus anxiety as a main reason for decreased productivity, compared to 23.7% of respondents ages 35-54, and 11.4% of respondents ages 55 and older.

The most-cited reason for productivity struggles was a lack of collaboration, with 33.2% of respondents saying they found working alone affected their output. While 29.6% of respondents said less mental stimuli is affecting their productivity, many also pointed to in-home distractions like TV and streaming media (29.7%), sleeping more (29.5%) and taking longer breaks (26.1%) as the top culprits for lowering productivity. Just over 22% of respondents said that their kids and/or spouse or partner have had a hand in making them less productive.

2 out of 3 employees are working less than 8 hours a day at home

Working from home is not just affecting employees’ overall productivity. On a day-to-day basis, most employees are getting fewer hours of actual work done, with the majority of workers putting in less than the standard eight hours of work per day.

The previously mentioned distractions likely contribute to this, as does the fact that, with most of the nation’s public and private K-12 schools closed, millions of parents are spending more time supervising their children and effectively homeschooling them. Other disruptions, like caring for a sick family member or the simple lack of normal structure, can also make it more difficult to put in a regular eight-hour workday.

66% of employees are working less than 8 hours while working from home

Approximately two-thirds (66.3%) of employees are getting less than eight hours of actual work done while working from home. When working outside the home, 55.4% of respondents said they spend less than eight hours doing actual work.

Surprisingly, roughly the same number of respondents said they get more than eight hours of work done per day, regardless of whether they are at home (19%) or in a specific workplace setting (20%).

The amount of hours that people are working on a daily basis while at home vary, from less than eight hours (14.7%) to one hour or less (4.8%).

Individuals in the Northeast were the least likely to put in eight hours or more of work, with only 16.7% of respondents saying they worked at least that much each day, while the Midwest has the highest percentage of employees (20.1%) working at least eight hours each day.