Americans who’ve been working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic expect that remote work will continue to be a big part of their “new normal” after the crisis has passed, according to a national survey from edtech firm MindEdge/Skye Learning.
The online survey, The State of Remote Work 2020: The Age of the Pandemic, of 828 remote workers and managers found that almost a third (29%) expect to remain working remotely full-time even after businesses resume “normal” operations. Another 27% expect to work remotely at least part-time – and only 35% expect to return to their old workplaces on a full-time basis.
Among managers, 36% expect that they will continue full-time remote work, and only 29% expect to return full-time to their old workplaces.
About half of the workforce had previous remote work experience
The survey results indicate that a slight majority (52%) of these at-home workers had some previous experience with remote work – though only 17% say they had a great deal of experience with it. The remaining 48% say they had never worked remotely before.
For a large majority of survey respondents, remote work was a direct response to the COVID-19 crisis. Fully 80% say that their employers did not have a remote-work program before the onset of the pandemic earlier this year.
Remote work’s impact on work-life balance
With the sudden shift to working from home, American workers have been increasingly hard-pressed to maintain a healthy work-life balance. Overall, survey respondents express decidedly mixed reactions to the remote work experience: 30% say that working from home made their jobs harder, 26% say that it made their jobs easier, and 40% say the impact of remote work was both positive and negative.
Respondents who were new to remote work had somewhat more difficulty adjusting to the situation: among those with no previous remote-work experience, 34% say that working remotely made their jobs harder, and only 21% say it made their jobs easier. Workers aged 45 and older are also more likely to say that remote work made their jobs harder (33%) rather than easier (24%).
Among respondents who say that remote work has made their jobs harder:
- 44% cite the increased number of meetings and/or phone calls
- 37% cite problems with communication technology
- 33% cite distractions at home
- 23% cite uncertainty about when to end work for the day
Among respondents who say that remote work has made their jobs easier:
- 66% cite increased flexibility
- 59% cite the lack of (or shortened) commute
- 46% cite fewer interruptions
At the same time, 50% of all respondents say remote work has had a negative impact on their emotional or mental health — including 13% who report a very negative impact. This figure is even higher among parents with school-age children in the household: 58% of parents say that working from home has had a negative impact on their emotional or mental health — including 18% who report a very negative impact. Overall, only 12% of respondents say that working remotely has had a positive effect on their mental health.
Survey respondents report trying a wide range of strategies for dealing with the increased stress of working at home. When asked to choose from a pre-selected list of stress-reducing activities:
- 51% say they went outside for a walk/fresh air
- 43% say they caught up on movies or TV
- 31% say they took breaks to spend time with family
- 29% say they cooked or baked
- 28% say they ran or jogged
“The survey suggests that this shift to remote work during the crisis has brought with it a new set of challenges and opportunities,” said Jefferson Flanders, CEO of MindEdge Learning. “Businesses need to find creative ways to support workers struggling with setting boundaries between the personal and professional. Regardless of when Americans return to the office, many employers will find an altered workplace with a greater reliance on digital communication. They would be well served by planning for that changed landscape now.”Jefferson Flanders
A changed landscape for hiring
The COVID-19 crisis has also changed how, and to what extent, companies across the country are hiring new workers. Just under two-of-five (37%) managers report that their companies are still hiring – but a clear majority (57%) report that their companies are not in the market for new workers. Among managers whose companies are hiring:
- 42% are looking to hire more experienced workers
- 17% are looking to hire recent college grads
- 31% say that it depends on the job, or that they do not have a preference
The National Association of Colleges and Employer reports that in 2019 employers planned to hire nearly 11% more graduates from the class of 2019 than they did from the class of 2018. By comparison, this year’s graduating class is entering an already-stressed workforce with only 17% of companies looking to hire recent college graduates. According to the survey findings, the most appealing college majors that managers are looking to hire include graduates with business (31%), computer science (28%), and communications (13%) degrees. The survey also found that managers place a high value on certifications – exam-based credentials awarded by an industry-recognized group. Close to three-quarters (72%) of managers say that certifications on a candidate’s resume hold a great deal or fair amount of value.