Telecommuting jumped up 48% in the last 5 years

By: David M. Higgins II, Publisher

The coronavirus threat pushed employers and employees into the remote workspace in record time, accelerating a digital transformation that has been underway since the advent of the personal computer.

Historically, however, many organizations remained wary of letting their staff work from home – this despite substantial evidence that letting people work remotely boosts productivity and worker satisfaction.

According to Flexjobs, 3.4% of the total US workforce telecommuted
in 2019, up from 2.9% in 2015. By early April 2020, the percentage of Americans working from home had climbed to about 50%.

The pandemic left organizations with little choice but to participate in
the world’s largest work-from-home experiment – and now the world of work may never be the same again.

How have workers fared with working from home? Do they want to keep working remotely or are they eager to return to the office once it’s safe to do so? getAbstract has conducted a survey to find out. The online survey, which was conducted between April 16 and 17, 2020, included more than 1,200 full-time people who are working from home in the United States during the pandemic. Survey participants included a nearly equal number of women and men respondents from a range of ages, income levels and careers. Many survey participants already had at least some experience with home office prior to the pandemic. Forty percent of respondents said they had been working from home regularly at least one day per week.

Asked about whether they would like to go back to their pre-COVID-19 work arrangement, 43% of respondents said they would like to work remotely more of the time going forward, while 35% indicated that they would like to go back to their former schedule. Only 12% said the experience of being sequestered at home is making them want to spend more time in an office environment.

The decisive factor, however, will be how employers will respond to shifting employee attitudes toward telecommuting. Nineteen percent of respondents said that their company already had a flexible policy on remote work in place prior to the pandemic, while another 20% said implementing such a policy is currently under active discussion at their company. Another 26% expressed optimism that their employer will offer them more flexibility in the future.

The top three reasons among survey participants for wanting to work remotely were: Not having to commute; enjoying a more flexible schedule; and being more productive at work. Respondents also stressed the advantage of having more time to pursue hobbies or spend with loved ones.

Asked about what they perceived as the biggest drawback of working from home, over a quarter of respondents mentioned feelings of isolation. Others were concerned about imperfect telecommuting technologies or feared becoming detached from their company and co-workers. Seventeen percent felt that distractions at home would pose a significant challenge.

Virus-related health and safety concerns, however, were not top-of-mind for a majority of respondents. Only 25% said they did not feel safe returning to the office after the pandemic.

The survey underlines the strong popularity of remote work options, making it almost impossible to imagine that organizations will go back to how things were before the pandemic. “Our survey is the tip of the iceberg on the seismic, long term changes the coronavirus pandemic is bringing to how people work, cities develop and employers invest in offices and technology,” says Andrew Savikas, chief strategy officer at getAbstract.

While the exact implications of these unprecedented shifts in work arrangements remain uncertain, Savikas believes they could bring societal changes that rival the entry of large numbers of women into the workforce decades ago. As employees and employers discover new ways of working together, they are not just creating an opportunity. They are creating history.

Data via FlexJobs and GetAbstract

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/Editor

David M. Higgins was born in Baltimore and grew up in Southern Maryland. He has had a passion for journalism since high school. After spending many years in the Hospitality Industry he began working in...