With most coronavirus restrictions having been lifted across the United States, a semblance of normality seems to have returned to the nation, with many of the practices the public had become accustomed to during the pandemic disappearing. But one aspect of the coronavirus pandemic that appears poised to outlive the public health crisis is working from home, which continues to be a prominent feature of many working Americans’ lives. In fact, the latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies finds 75% of working Americans are currently working from home—55% in full and 20% in part—and many intend to continue doing so after the pandemic is over.
Among American respondents who indicate that they are working from home and usually worked in an office or somewhere outside of their home before the pandemic, 39% say they intend to work from home full-time and 20% say they intend to work from home part-time after the pandemic is over. Conversely, 31% do not intend to work from home after the pandemic and 10% are unsure. Interestingly, men (50%) are significantly more likely than women (27%) to say they intend to work from home full-time after the pandemic. Instead, a plurality (38%) of women say they do not intend to work from home after the pandemic, compared to 25% of men.
That over half of working Americans plan to work from home—at least partially—after the pandemic has ended is evidently related to the many positive features that respondents indicate they have experienced while working from home. One such feature includes increased productivity, as 56% of respondents say working from home has been more productive for them than working in an office or other location, including 29% who say it has been significantly more productive. 27% say working from home has been neither more nor less productive, while just 10% express it has been less productive. A slightly greater proportion of men (62%) than women (50%) say that working from home has been more productive than working in an office.
The increased productivity that many Americans feel they have experienced is supported by the fact that majorities find it easier to focus on their own work and avoid distractions (57%), to know what they should be doing and how to do it (55%), and to avoid meetings that waste time (54%) when working from home rather than in an office or other location. Less than a fifth of respondents alternatively say they find it harder to focus on their own work and avoid distractions (17%), to know what they should be doing and how to do it (11%), and to avoid meetings that waste time (11%). Therefore, from a productivity standpoint, working from home is clearly favoured by many Americans.
It also appears that working from home has had a positive impact on interpersonal relationships in the workplace, with 50% saying they find it easier to maintain good relationships with their colleagues and 46% saying they find it easier to coordinate projects with their colleagues when working from home. When it comes to maintaining good relationships with their coworkers, 33% of Americans who are working from home say it has made this neither easier nor harder, and just 15% say it is harder than it would be in an office or other location. With respect to coordinating projects with colleagues, 32% consider it neither easier nor harder and a significant 18% consider it harder. Over a year into the pandemic, it seems that many Americans have become comfortable in working with others remotely, and even deem it more effective than face-to-face collaboration.
A plurality of respondents also find it easier to give feedback or criticism (45%) and to ask for feedback or criticism (49%) when working from home, which may be deemed beneficial in improving productivity and interpersonal relationships as well.
Our research finds that the perceived advantages of working from home extend beyond improved efficiency and also include personal benefits as well: majorities say it is easier to stay in good physical health while they work (56%) and to avoid stress (53%) when working from home, compared to 17% and 15%, respectively, who find it harder.
The areas which see the greatest proportions of respondents indicating that working from home has made it harder are hiring someone new (22%) and training someone new to their place of work (27%). That being said, the plurality position on these fronts is still that it is easier to hire (36%) and train (38%) someone new when working from home rather than in an office or other location, with 30% and 25%, respectively, finding these tasks neither easier nor harder.
It thus seems that most Americans who work from home find it superior to working in an office or other location in a wide variety of respects. However, it is important to note that there are often considerable differences in responses based on gender—in fact, with the exception of ‘staying in good physical health while you work,’ a greater proportion of men than women say they find working from home to be easier in every area. The varied experiences of working of home between men and women are particularly visible when it comes to finding it easier to focus on their own work and avoid distractions (63% vs. 51%), to coordinate projects with colleagues (52% vs. 38%), and to ask for feedback or criticism (56% vs. 42%).
Therefore, while working from home appears to have been a raging success in the eyes of much of the American public, the extent to which the experience has been positive clearly varies according to gender, which again may account for why a greater proportion of men than women intend to continue the practice after the pandemic is over. Still, the overall experience of working from home brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly been a welcome change for many—a change which is likely here to stay even after the pandemic is behind us.