Remote work has been on the rise for a while now. But the 2020 onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic forced employers around the world the adopt full-time remote working for their entire workforce on especially short notice.
At first, many feared for the worst. How would managers keep tabs on their teams? How would employees stay on top of their workloads? How would communication function without personal contact?
But as employees and employers alike get increasingly comfortable with thought of never returning to the office, the nature of “office jobs” is being redefined. While advocates have been calling remote work the “future of work” for much of the past decade, coronavirus has made this forecast more tangible than ever.
Here are 29 work-from-home statistics that suggest that COVID-19 has put the world on the fast-track towards an office-less future:
Statistics about working from home in the U.S. pre-coronavirus
While the coronavirus pandemic temporarily made working from home the only option for many professionals, remote work had already been trending upwards for a while. It had already become increasingly common for companies to allow a certain degree of remote work, and many surveys suggest that employees everywhere enjoyed these policies.
A 2019 survey of over 7,300 US-based employees found: [A]
- 52 percent of respondents had sought to negotiate flexible work arrangements with their employer.
- 80 percent felt they would be more loyal to their employers if granted flexible work options.
- 30 percent had at some point left a job because it did not accommodate flexible work arrangements.
- 69 percent of respondents cited flexible working options as one of the most important factors they consider when evaluating a job prospect.
- In most cases, wanting to work from home had little to do with the office environment itself. While 33 percent of respondents cited “Avoiding office politics and distractions” as a motivation, more respondents mentioned work/life balance (75%), family (45%), time savings (42%), and commute stress (41%) as key reasons for wanting to work from home.
Preparedness to work from home
Working from home may have been on the rise prior to COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean that everyone was ready for what was coming. The global onslaught of the coronavirus came as a shock to many people, least of all many employers. In March of 2020, millions of employees around the world began to work from home. A survey conducted by OWL Labs of 1,239 full-time employees in the United States showed that some were more ready than others: [G]
- A third of respondents felt their company was ill-prepared for the scenario that all employees would be forced to work from home.
- Only 23 percent of respondents worked for companies who had an existing Work From Home Protocol before the onslaught of COVID-19.
- Companies with 51-200 employees were less than half as likely to have an existing protocol than companies with 1,001 to 5,000 employees.
- Only 52 percent of respondents who were working from home because of COVID-19 had a dedicated office set-up in their homes.
A lot to like
Though the suddenness of the transition left many employees and employers a bit rattled during the first few weeks of full-time WFH, many people are starting to enjoy not having to head to the office. And there are lots of compelling reasons why employees might prefer to work from home.
- Employees who work at least half of the week at home save between $2,500 and $4,000 per year due to reduced costs for travel, parking, and food. This is the net gain after calculating increased energy and grocery costs. [H]
- By working from home at least half-time, the average employee in the U.S. would reduce their commute by the equivalent of 11 work days per year. [H]
- In the wake of COVID-19, a survey of 5,787 voters in swing states revealed that 47 percent of respondents were using time they would have otherwise spent commuting to be with their families. [L]
- By some estimates, if everyone in the U.S. who could telework were to do so only half-time, this would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 54 million tons each year. [I]
- Employees who work from home get nearly half an hour more exercise during the week than employees who commute. [J]
- Remote workers are generally more productive than commuters, working an average of 1.4 more days every month and reporting 38 percent less idle time compared to their commuting colleagues. [J]
- 60 percent of swing state voters now working from home because of COVID-19 reported feeling just as productive if not more productive compared to working in the office. [L]
Is working from home the new normal?
Between productivity gains, reduced costs, and happier employees, businesses everywhere are beginning to rethink just how important the physical presence of their employees actually is. Could COVID-19 mark the end of the office as we know it?
- In April 2020, 74 percent of companies planned to permanently shift to more remote work post-coronavirus than they had pre-coronavirus. [F]
- Global Workplace Analytics estimates that 25 to 30 percent of the U.S. workforce will still be working from home multiple days a week by the end of 2021. [H]
- 43 percent of full-time American employees would like to keep working remotely more often after the economy has completely reopened. [K]
- A survey of 3,500 remote workers from around the world indicated that 98 percent would prefer to keep working remotely for the rest of their careers. [Q]
- 72 percent of recruitment professionals believe that flexible schedules and remote work options are important to the future of talent acquisition and HR. [M]
How the shift to working from home is shaping the market
COVID-19 has wrought havoc on many industries. In having forced much of the workforce to leave the office and work from home, businesses are shifting their spending. An April 2020 forecast from the IDC shows that, overall, the IT sector is taking a hit. [B]
- The COVID-19 pandemic and the global shift to working from home has taken a toll on many IT companies. Spending on new hardware and devices is down -8.8 percent in 2020. [B]
- Working from home has not led to a tremendous boom in the markets for software or internet infrastructure on the whole. While both industries are seeing growth in 2020 (1.7% and 5.3%), these numbers are far lower than the YoY growth experienced in 2019 (10% and 8.8%). [B]
But while the shift to working from home hasn’t been great for IT as a whole, there are certain sectors in IT that are booming. Corporations may be dumping their own data centers and internal tech infrastructures on the one hand, but they are investing heavily in cloud computing on the other [C]. Fueled by the number of people working from home, many companies offering teleconferencing software are seeing explosive growth.
- During the first quarter of 2020, Zoom saw a 354 percent increase in the number of paying business customers with 10 or more employees. [D]
- Microsoft Teams saw a 70 percent increase in daily active users from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic through the end of April 2020. [E]
Another market that is bound to change as working from home becomes the standard is office real estate. With so many office buildings sitting empty during the pandemic, spending on commercial office space is already seeing dramatic shifts that will certainly continue to evolve.
- In 2018, the U.S. market for office real estate was estimated to be worth $2.5 trillion. [N]
- Returns on office real estate property dropped -17 percent from April 15, 2019 to 2020. [P]
- Despite stay-at-home orders, 90 percent of U.S. office tenants managed to pay rent in April 2020. [O]
- In March 2020, 74 percent of investors in commercial real estate reported having temporarily shelved plans to invest further. [P]
[A] “FlexJobs 2019 Annual Survey.” (2019, August 13) Published by FlexJobs. https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/survey-flexible-work-job-choices/
[B] “IDC Expects Worldwide IT Spending to Decline by 2.7% in 2020 as COVID-19 Drives Down Forecasts.” (2020, April 2) Published by IDC. https://www.idc.com/getdoc.jsp?containerId=prUS46186120
[C] “Big Tech Could Emerge from Coronavirus Crisis Stronger than Ever.” (2020, March 23) Written by Daisuke Wakabayashi, Jack Nicas, Steve Lohr, and Mike Isaac. Published by The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/23/technology/coronavirus-facebook-amazon-youtube.html
[D] “Zoom Video Communications Inc (ZM) Q1 2021 Earnings Call Transcript.” (2020, June 3) Retrieved from The Motley Fool. https://www.fool.com/earnings/call-transcripts/2020/06/03/zoom-video-communications-inc-zm-q1-2021-earnings.aspx
[E] “Microsoft Teams jumps 70 percent to 75 million daily active users.” (2020, April 29) Written by Tom Warren. Published by The Verge. https://www.theverge.com/2020/4/29/21241972/microsoft-teams-75-million-daily-active-users-stats
[F] “COVID-19 Bulletin: Executive Pulse” (2020, April 3). Published by Gartner Research. https://www.gartner.com/en/documents/3982949/covid-19-bulletin-executive-pulse-3-april-2020
[G] “Are Companies Prepared to Work from Home?” (2020, March 12). Published by OWL Labs. https://www.owllabs.com/blog/coronavirus-work-from-home-statistics
[H] “Work-at-Home after COVID-19: Our Forecast” (2020, March 13). Written by Katie Lister. Published by Global Workplace Analytics. https://globalworkplaceanalytics.com/work-at-home-after-covid-19-our-forecast
[J] “The Benefits of Working from Home” (2020, March 31). Published by Airtasker. https://www.airtasker.com/blog/the-benefits-of-working-from-home/
[K] “National Survey: A Majority of US Employees Want Remote Work Arrangement to Stay.” (2020, April). Survey by getAbstract. https://journal.getabstract.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/ga_remote_survey_2020_compressed.pdf
[L] “As working from home becomes more widespread, many say they don’t want to go back.” (2020, April 25). Reporting by Jackson Burke. Research by CNBC and Change Research. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/24/as-working-from-home-becomes-more-widespread-many-say-they-dont-want-to-go-back.html
[M] “Global Talent Trends 2019” (2019). Whitepaper published by LinkedIn. https://business.linkedin.com/talent-solutions/resources/talent-strategy/global-talent-trends-2019#
[N] “Estimating the Size of the Commercial Real Estate Market in the U.S.” (2019). Research by Nareit. https://www.reit.com/data-research/research/nareit-research/estimating-size-commercial-real-estate-market-us
[O] “Real Estate Office Outlook – Out of Office” (2020, June 12). Written by Shawn Stevens. Published by Investors’ Corner. https://investors-corner.bnpparibas-am.com/investing/real-estate-outlook-out-of-office/
[P] “COVID-19 Implications for commercial real estate” (2020, May 1). Written by Jim Berry. Published by Deloitte Insights. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/economy/covid-19/covid-19-implications-for-commercial-real-estate-cre.html