Most Americans now teleworking from home want to keep doing so, with more than half saying they would work remotely after the pandemic, a new Pew Research Center report finds.
The national survey of U.S. adults reveals that while the coronavirus may have changed the location of our jobs — whether in an office or from home — it hasn’t significantly reshaped our work duties and culture for a majority of employed adults.
“Another third said they’d want to work from home some of the time. A very small share want to go back to the office full-time,” said Juliana Horowitz, associate director of social trends research at Pew Research Center and one of the coauthors.
As for meeting on web platforms, “a majority see that as a good substitute for in-person contact,” Horowitz said. “We don’t see ‘Zoom fatigue’ in our survey.” Videoconferencing and webinar fatigue showed up among an estimated 37% of those surveyed, she said.
Among workers who remained in the same job but shifted to remote work, more than 60% are as satisfied as before the pandemic and saw no change in productivity or job security.
Those working from home all or most of the time now see clear upsides with telework. About half (49%) of Americans now have more flexibility to choose when they put in their hours, and 38% say it’s easier to balance work with family responsibilities, according to Wednesday’s report.
Still, for most Americans (62%), jobs can’t be done from home. And that’s exposed a clear class divide between workers who can and cannot telework.
Those working from home mostly have college degrees, about two-thirds with a bachelor’s degree or beyond. That compares with only 23% of those without a four-year college degree working from home.
Similarly, while a majority of upper-income workers work from home, most lower- and middle-income workers cannot. The Pew Research Center survey of 10,332 U.S. adults was conducted between Oct. 13 and 19.
The analysis was based on 5,858 adults among the respondents who are working part-time or full-time and who may have multiple jobs but have only one position they consider their primary employment.
Workers’ ability to do their job from home varies by industry. Americans in information and technology sectors (84%); banking, finance, accounting, real estate, or insurance (84%); education (59%); and professional, scientific, and technical services (59%) can mostly work from home.
Public-facing workers and frontline employees such as restaurant staff, nursing and health care, police and fire, and waste management aren’t so lucky.
About three-quarters or more of those employed in retail, trade, or transportation (84%); manufacturing, mining, construction, agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting (78%); and hospitality, service, arts, entertainment, and recreation (77%) say their jobs can’t be done from home. Two-thirds of those in the health-care and social-assistance sector say the same.
Among those in government, public administration, or the military, the divide is roughly even: 46% say their job can be done from home and 54% say it cannot.
Also, the pandemic has exposed an age gap in virtual work.
Among those working from home, Americans 50 or younger are significantly more likely to say it’s been difficult for them to get their work done without interruptions (38% for workers ages 18-49 vs. 18% for workers 50-plus and older). The youngest workers in the survey are among those most likely to say they lack motivation: 53% of those ages 18-29 years.
Men and women who can work from home are about equally likely to say they’d want to continue after the pandemic. Women are more likely than men to want to work from home all of the time (31% vs. 23%).
That’s the case whether they have minor children or not. In fact, the shares of workers with or without children below 18 who say they would work from home permanently are nearly identical.
“Women are more likely to want to work from home. Period,” she said.
When it came to balancing work and family, parents with young children found it harder to do so, “and mothers, in particular, much more than fathers.”
Among employed adults with some college or less education who say they can do their job from home, 60% say they would want to work from home all or most of the time post-pandemic, compared with half of those with at least a bachelor’s degree.
“For those who can’t work from home, there are big differences about concerns about exposure to the virus and unknowingly exposing others and their families,” she said.
The Future of Work is produced with support from the William Penn Foundation and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Editorial content is created independently of the project’s donors.