We’re all familiar with the usual reasons workers cite for wanting to stay remote even after lockdowns have long ended: flexible schedules, not having to commute, and of course, increased productivity. In fact, we ran a survey earlier this year that found 51% of workers believe they are more productive working from home than in the office, a trend that has been confirmed by many additional studies this past year and a half. The lack of a commute has been especially effective, increasing productivity in the U.S. economy by 5%.
However, productivity isn’t the only reason people want to stay away from the office. We recently surveyed 1,000 remote workers to find out what else is keeping them tied to their work-from-home lives, from caring for pets to concerns about appearances. Take a look at the findings below:
75% of Remote Workers Want to Stay Home With Their Pets
During the lockdowns of 2020, pet adoptions soared as people who previously weren’t able to stay home with a pet were allowed to work remotely. Now, it seems those pandemic pets are a main reason why workers wish to stay remote, with three out of four respondents saying they want to be able to stay home to take care of their pets, higher even than the 68% of respondents who said caring for children was a factor. It’s no wonder, when for a year-plus pet owners spent practically 24 hours a day with their furry friends.
“For me, it’s because my French bulldog Olivia has separation anxiety. If I leave her alone for more than two hours, she starts making a mess of the house. So now I only work remotely, which allows me to be with her for the majority of the day,” says Cristian Ungureanu, growth marketer at QuickMail.io.
Valeria Heredia at Real Beauty School agrees, commenting “I also have two beautiful dogs that have separation anxiety and having them next to me while I work is very beneficial for them and for me!”
72% Want the Freedom to Nap or Exercise During the Day
An afternoon siesta? A 5K before lunch? Nearly three out of four remote workers surveyed also stated that the ability to take a nap or work out during the workday was one of the reasons they wanted to stay home. Though these activities may very well increase worker productivity, there’s no doubt that a nap on the kitchen couch would be frowned upon in the office.
“During lunch, I can go for a walk, take a nap, or even just lay down for a while. If I were to go back to the office, I’d be giving up this little luxury of mine and I’ve come to realize that it’s something I’m not willing to part with,” comments Jason Brandt, director of customer success at Podopolo.
Amy Brownstein of PR Studio USA agrees, adding “I want to stay at home because I have my Peloton right next to my office and I stare at it all day. I’m much more likely to bike during my lunch hour, shower and come back to work, than when I left the office.”
73% Say They Want to Watch TV While Working
This finding especially may have some business owners rolling their eyes. Three out of four respondents again say that being able to entertain themselves with TV, podcasts, music, or other media is one of the reasons they want to keep their work-from-home lifestyle, as this may not be an option allowed by employers while workers are supervised in the office.
Kfir Cohen, manager of global operations at SDC International Shipping agrees, saying “My favorite thing about working from home is that I can listen to my favorite music at a high volume without any headphones and stay in the zone.”
62% Cite Concerns About Their Appearance and Going Back to Work In-Person
Well over half of respondents stated that they are concerned about their coworkers seeing them in-person again after such a long time apart. Whether it’s weight loss or gain, not having the right clothes, or another concern about appearance, most would rather not have to worry about the way they look to their coworkers outside a Zoom call.
“The real reason I want to work from home is because I get ownership of my day. I don’t have to dress up for work, worry about my appearance or smile and make small talk when I feel like trash,” adds Naida Allen, content writer at Tutor House. “There’s no one breathing down my neck, watching my every move and analyzing whether I’m ‘working hard enough’.”
Kids and Commutes Still the Most Important Factors
When asked to choose the reason that most affects their desire to keep working from home, 17% stated that their pets are the number one factor. It seems likely that both pets and their owners have developed some attachment issues over the past 18 months! More predictable answers like caring for children and lack of a commute were the most common number one reasons.
“The most important reason that I will be continuing to work remotely is the extra time I get to spend with my family,” says Eric Kim, program director at LA Tutors. “I have two children, and being able to spend time with them during the day is priceless. One goes to daycare a few days a week, but I’ve realized that I won’t be able to get this time back once it’s passed, and I want to treasure these moments while I still can.”
14% Report They Will Not Go Back to Work In-Person, Even if Required By Employer
As many employers are bringing workers back to the office at least part-time, some employees will not be cooperating. Though the majority would rather keep their jobs and go back to the office, 14% of respondents stated that working remotely was so important to them they would not go back to work in-person even if their employers required it, instead giving up their positions to presumably find other remote opportunities.
When asked if he would return to the office if required, Cristian Ungureanu continued, “I adopted [my dog] Olivia right when the pandemic started. I would start looking for another remote position without question. There are plenty of remote opportunities out there, even more now because of the pandemic, and not one job is worth risking important parts of my personal life for.”
Valeria Heredia agreed, saying “I adopted my dogs during the pandemic. And I’m so glad I did it because they became a crucial factor for me while I was fighting the lockdown anxiety. I definitely would rather work remotely than in an office! And If I were required to go back to the office, I wouldn’t. I would find another remote job. The benefit of having my kids and my dogs next to me is just the best scenario to work for me!”
Are workers becoming more entitled, or do they just have higher expectations for their employers? Since many studies have shown that people can be just as productive at home, it makes sense that a percentage of remote workers want to stay that way for the foreseeable future, and there are ways that employers can make this situation work by monitoring work-from-home productivity.
From a Business Owner’s Perspective
Dennis Consorte, small business and startup marketing expert, comments that, “Many businesses can thrive with a remote workforce. Set several short meetings throughout the week to keep people connected, and show them how the work they do matters. One great way to keep people energized is to periodically bring teams together to dive into the mission and vision of your company.”
He continues; “Show each person how their responsibilities are important, no matter how small they may seem. Include everyone in your vision for a shared objective, and show them that your products and services have an effect on real people’s lives. Do this, and you’ll be way more productive than a company with a culture driven by punching a clock and staying in your lane.”
In addition, 55% of those surveyed said they would be more willing to go back to work in-person if employers would meet them partway by providing benefits like kids or pet days for the office or relaxing dress code and headphone use rules. Employees and business owners are going to have to be a little more flexible in order to establish a productive balance in a post-COVID world.
“More people are starting to realize that there’s tremendous value in having the flexibility to work remotely,” Dennis adds. “They get to travel, to spend time with their families, to care for pets, and to work without a boss constantly checking up on them. Businesses should embrace this reality and offer more flexibility, not less. Start paying more attention to the value that each worker produces, and less attention to the hours they spend glued to a desk.”
“And, remind them that they have a community of like-minded people that they can connect with either virtually or in person,” he says. “Many people prefer to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. A company that’s intentional about giving people purpose and community will retain far more people than one that doesn’t.”
All data found within this report is based on a survey commissioned by Digital.com and conducted online by the survey platform Pollfish. In total, 1,000 U.S.-based remote workers who wish to continue working remotely were surveyed. This survey was conducted on July 27, 2021.