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Survey: Better Work-Life Balance, but More Isolation, as People Work from Home in Age of COVID

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Two years into the coronavirus pandemic, 59 percent of U.S. workers whose jobs can mainly be performed from their homes are still working from home all or most of the time, a new survey from Pew Research Center has found. And more people say they’re working from home by choice, rather than by necessity.

Most U.S. workers (60 percent) don’t have jobs that can be done from home. But among those who have a workplace outside their home, 61 percent of those surveyed say they’re choosing not to go into that workplace, while 38 percent say they’re working from home because their workplace is closed or unavailable to them. Earlier in the pandemic, those proportions were reversed.

Among employees choosing to work from home, fewer are doing so because they’re afraid of being exposed to the coronavirus (42 percent now vs. 57 percent in 2020). Today, more say they prefer to work from home (76 percent vs. 60 percent in 2020).

Offering further evidence that they’re not working from home just to avoid illness, 60 percent of workers with jobs that can be done from home say that, given the choice, they’d like to work from home all or most of the time once the coronavirus outbreak has passed (compared to 54 percent who said the same in 2020). Of those already working from home all or most of the time, 78 percent say they’d like to continue to do so after the pandemic, up from 64 percent in 2020.

Among people now working from home at least some of the time (but who rarely or never did before the pandemic), 64 percent of survey respondents say their new arrangement makes it easier for them to balance their work and personal lives. Forty-four percent say that working from home has made it easier for them to complete their work, while 10 percent say working from home has had the opposite effect. Significantly, however, 60 percent of respondents now working from home say they feel less connected to their co-workers as a result.

About half of employees currently working from home all or most of the time — and whose offices are now closed — say they would be comfortable returning to their workplace if it were to reopen in the next month.

Meanwhile, as The Wall Street Journal reported, companies including American Express, Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co. are planning broader office reopenings this month. As the Journal noted, “many companies… are leaving it up to teams and managers to determine when and how often employees come into the office.”

[Photo credit: jacob lund]

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