Working from home during the coronavirus pandemic: study by the Center for the Digital Future and Interactive Advertising Bureau finds strong interest in a permanent shift to remote jobs

(A pdf of this release is here.)

June 4, 2020 — Working from home during the pandemic became an unexpected reality for millions of Americans, and while many want their careers permanently based where they live, hurdles to that goal remain, reports the first comprehensive study of the social and cultural impact of the coronavirus conducted by the USC Center for the Digital Future and the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

“The sudden shift to working from home has worked well for many, but success has been mixed,” said Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future in the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “Many Americans want to continue to work from home when the pandemic is over, but some miss the interaction and structure of the workplace.”

The overall findings released April 29 in the Center’s study, “The Coronavirus Disruption Project: Living and Coping During the Pandemic,” revealed many changes – both positive and negative – in relationships, emotional stability, and personal behavior since the pandemic and safer-at-home restrictions began.

Looking specifically at the issues involved in working from home, the study found a range of benefits and disadvantages affecting Americans:

Working from home: Is the permanent switch to a remote career a possibility?

The survey found for many Americans, working from home could be a permanent reality; 65% of those working remotely said they could adapt at least part of their job to working from home, and 26% said they could do all of their job from home.

However, more than one-quarter of Americans said they could do none of their job from home (26%). Education plays a significant role in that status: Of those with only a high school education, more than half (51%) said they could do none of their job from home.

Compared with their previous work situation, 15% said they work more hours from home (42% report fewer hours); 17% said they work more effectively from home (23% said less effectively).

What do Americans enjoy about working from home?

Dealing with a daily commute was an unwelcome ritual for many workers before the pandemic began, so perhaps not surprisingly almost two-thirds of Americans working from home said not commuting was an aspect of working from home they enjoy (65%). Another 62% said that by telecommuting they have more time to work on their jobs.

Large percentages also report other benefits to working from home: Many Americans said they enjoy the flexibility of a remote job (64%); 61% said they enjoy the relaxed dress and grooming. Other reasons cited were control of the environment (59%), avoiding work politics (38%), no irritating workmates (36%), and fewer disruptions (34%).

What do you miss when working from home?

Although many Americans working remotely enjoy working from home, they also miss aspects of the traditional workplace.

A large majority (63%) miss being in a different place other than their home for part of the day. Fifty-nine percent miss interacting with colleagues or customers, 56% miss the structure of the workplace, and 42% miss the in-person relationship with their supervisor.

Working from home: an adjustment

Beyond the benefits and challenges, the study found Americans identified new issues to consider about working remotely. When asked about problems while working remotely, 45% note the distractions of working from home, such as children, pets, phone calls, and neighbors. Thirty-one percent said they do not like the erosion of the boundary between work and home, while 18% were concerned about the overload of online calls and conferences.

Will you work from home after the pandemic is over?

For many Americans, working from home works; more than half of those working remotely (52%) said they want to work from home more when the pandemic is over.

Coronavirus Study: Methodology

The findings in the Coronavirus Disruption Project are based on an online survey conducted in English during the week of April 6, using a sample of 1,000 respondents from an online panel. The sample is representative of Americans aged 18 and above from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

The study includes more than 100 questions on seven major themes: daily life, personal beliefs, working from home, online education, media and entertainment, shopping behavior, and political views.

Contact the Center for the Digital Future at [email protected].

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June 4, 2020