ORLANDO, Fla. – Americans believe the coronavirus pandemic has changed the workforce forever, most saying working from home is the future of the U.S. labor force, according to a new survey.
Working from home became part of the new normal for many people in the U.S. as social distancing and stay-at-home orders forced employers to shut down offices in the interest of public health safety.
Before the pandemic, only about a quarter of workers did some of their duties from home, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. About 15% of people worked exclusively from home.
These statistics drastically changed as the pandemic worsened across the country. As all 50 states are slowly working to revive their economies and roll back on social distancing restrictions, a new WalletHub survey shows that beyond mask mandates and extra sanitation measures, those surveyed also believe working from home is a viable option post-pandemic.
WalletHub’s report reflects the results of a nationally representative online survey of over 300 respondents. Responses were organized by age, gender and income so the sample would reflect U.S. demographics, according to the survey’s methodology report.
Surveyors asked the representative sample questions regarding their thoughts about working from home during the pandemic and a potential return to an office, including how being at home has affected productivity and what people miss most about the office.
More than 60% of respondents think COVID-19 has changed the way people work for the better. Yet, about half of parents with young children at home who responded to the survey said they aren’t as productive as they work from home.
“If employers also see the benefits of these arrangements, too, like, if they find workers to still be reasonably productive and that they are saving money, then perhaps more people can maintain their work from home arrangements when this is all over,” said Dr. Melissa Knox, a senior lecturer at the University of Washington’s Department of Economics.
“Unfortunately, evidence from the Great Recession shows that employment quality fell during and after the economic recovery from that crisis. This means an increase in temporary and contract work, with lower pay, less job security, and fewer benefits. There is no reason to think that the recovery from the COVID-19 crisis will be any different, or that people in professional jobs will be safe from those changes, although they will certainly be less vulnerable than other workers.”
If forced to return to the office, more than half of those surveyed say their employer should foot the bill if they get sick with coronavirus. And if given the option to work from home or conduct business from the office, respondents seem to agree that those who choose the latter should get paid more.
Though about a third of respondents think the traditional office will become part of the past, most believe their co-workers aren’t as productive when working from home.
If working-from-home would extend post-pandemic, a third of those surveyed say choosing where they live would be less dependent on where they worked. Instead, choosing their home would be based on proximity to family or activities nearby.
WalletHub’s data also explores what workers may miss from the office. Co-workers are the most-missed part of most workplaces, according to the survey, yet almost a similar number reported that they don’t miss anything about working from an office.