As the COVID-19 pandemic approaches its sixth month, many Americans have grown accustomed to the measures to help slow the disease’s spread, such as working from home.
According to our survey conducted in April, a significant number of Americans who are working from home due to the pandemic reported being less productive and working fewer hours than normal. Anxiety about COVID-19, a lack of collaboration, and distractions like TV, family members, and longer breaks all contributed to this lack of productivity.
In a more recent survey, we partnered with YouGov, a recognized authority in public opinion data, and found that the majority of individuals who are working from home are eager to get back to their offices and workplaces.
Of the 3,903 American workers aged 18 to 55+ who were surveyed, 70% are not working from home. Among the 30% who are, the majority want to return to working in-person once state and federal governments lift restrictions. However, roughly half of those individuals want the flexibility to work from home sometimes, while the other half want to go back to being at their workplace full-time.
Based on these survey results, the pandemic experience has shown American workers the advantages of working remotely, although it can’t replace all of the benefits of having a separate workplace, including social interactions, amenities, structure, and a separation of work and home life.
While many respondents to the original survey said that they are less productive while working from home, when asked by this survey why they want to return to their workplaces, 46.8% said it’s because they want to have social interactions with their co-workers.
Being more productive at a separate workplace was fourth on the list; 31.6% of respondents said this is a reason they want to return to working in-person.
The second most popular reason, cited by 44.8% of respondents, is that they miss the structure and normalcy of the workplace, while 37.5% of respondents said they like having an alternative space to work. More than one-quarter of individuals, 26.4%, said there are too many distractions at home.
Men and women are generally in agreement on the reasons they want to go back to their workplaces, except when it comes to proximity to amenities like gyms, and restaurants. Twenty-five percent of male respondents said this is a key reason why they want to return to their workplaces, compared to 16.5% of women. Access to these kinds of fitness and entertainment options are also a priority for 27.8% of 18-34 year-olds.
More than 25% of parents say there are too many distractions at home
Our survey found that 28.9% of individuals living with children want to return to their workplaces because there are too many distractions at home. A slightly higher number of married couples, 29.7%, gave the same reason.
For 51.7% of married people, the structure and normalcy of the workplace is the number one reason they want to stop working remotely, while social interaction with co-workers is the top priority for 45.7% of parents and guardians.
Almost 1 out of 2 employees are worried about catching COVID-19 if they return to their workplace
With the pandemic ongoing, 46.6% of American workers said they don’t want to return to their workplace because they are worried about contracting COVID-19. An additional 10.9% said they are worried their employers are not doing enough to keep them safe when they return to their workplace.
Despite evidence that COVID-19 may affect older adults more severely, concerns about catching COVID-19 in the workplace are about the same across all age groups, including 48.2% of people 55+; 49.4% of 35-54 year-olds, and 41.6% of 18-34 year-olds.
For people in the Northeast, the epicenter of the U.S. pandemic, 61.3% of workers said COVID-19 fears are the main reason they do not want to return to their workplaces. For 60.2% of Midwesterners, not having a commute is the main reason they want to continue working from home. Sixty percent of respondents in the West, and 62.1% of those in the South want to continue working from home primarily because they like the flexibility it offers.
More than half of remote workers prefer the flexibility of working from home
Overall, the flexibility working from home provides is the most popular reason for not wanting to return to the workplace, with 58.6% of all survey respondents citing this reason. The number was slightly higher for 35-54 year-olds (64.9%) and 18-34 year-olds (58.9%). For 51.3% of individuals aged 55 and older, the top reason was that they are more productive at home.
For 54.5% of Blacks, flexibility is the main reason they want to continue working from home. Flexibility and not having a commute are nearly tied as the top reason for whites, getting 61.4% and 61.7% of votes, respectively. Meanwhile, for Hispanics, concerns about contracting COVID-19 took precedence, with 46.5% of these respondents saying this is why they don’t want to return to their workplaces.
71% of Americans are not working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic
Despite the significant impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on unemployment rates and practices, according to our survey, only 21.2% of Americans are working from home full-time, with an additional 8% primarily working from home, but going to their workplaces occasionally. Overall, 70.8% of survey respondents said they are not working from home.
Younger individuals are slightly more likely to be working from home; 29.1% of those aged 18-34 years-old said they are working from home, compared to 26.3% of those aged 35-54, and 12% of those aged 55+.
1 in 3 Americans who make more than $80K annually are working from home
Income and education level appear to play a large role in determining who is working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our survey found that those with higher-paying jobs are more likely to be working from home.
Among those who make more than $80,000 per year, 34.5% are working from home, compared to 22% of those who make between $40,000 and $80,000 annually, and 13.1% of those who make under $40,000. Nearly 80% of people who make less than $40,000 per year are not working from home.
Similarly, more than 80% of individuals who only have a high school education are still attending their jobs in person, as are 73.9% of individuals with two-year degrees, or some college education. Almost three times as many Americans with a postgraduate degree are able to work from home as Americans with a high school diploma (52.3% compared to 18.5%).