As more workplaces reopen, most teleworkers say they are working from home by choice rather than necessity

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Pew Research Center conducted this study to better understand the work experiences of employed adults nearly two years into the coronavirus outbreak. This analysis is based on 5,889 U.S. adults who are working part time or full time and who have only one job or who have more than one job but consider one of them to be their primary job. The data was collected as a part of a larger survey conducted Jan. 24-30, 2022. Everyone who took part is a member of Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel (ATP), an online survey panel that is recruited through national, random sampling of residential addresses. This way nearly all U.S. adults have a chance of selection. The survey is weighted to be representative of the U.S. adult population by gender, race, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, education and other categories. Read more about the ATP’s methodology.

See here to read more about the questions used for this report and the report’s methodology.

References to workers or employed adults include those who are employed part time or full time and who have only one job or who have more than one job but consider one of them to be their primary job.

References to White and Black adults include only those who are not Hispanic and identify as only one race. Hispanics are of any race.

References to college graduates or people with a college degree comprise those with a bachelor’s degree or more. “Some college” includes those with an associate degree and those who attended college but did not obtain a degree.

All references to party affiliation include those who lean toward that party. Republicans include those who identify as Republicans and those who say they lean toward the Republican Party. Democrats include those who identify as Democrats and those who say they lean toward the Democratic Party.

“Middle income” is defined here as two-thirds to double the median annual family income for panelists on the American Trends Panel. “Lower income” falls below that range; “upper income” falls above it. See the methodology for more details.

Majority of workers with jobs that can be done from home are teleworking, even as more workplaces have become available

Nearly two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, roughly six-in-ten U.S. workers who say their jobs can mainly be done from home (59%) are working from home all or most of the time. The vast majority of these workers (83%) say they were working from home even before the omicron variant started to spread in the United States, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. This marks a decline from October 2020, when 71% of those with jobs that could be done from home were working from home all or most of the time, but it’s still much higher than the 23% who say they teleworked frequently before the coronavirus outbreak. 

The impetus for working from home has shifted considerably since 2020. Today, more workers say they are doing this by choice rather than necessity. Among those who have a workplace outside of their home, 61% now say they are choosing not to go into their workplace, while 38% say they’re working from home because their workplace is closed or unavailable to them. Earlier in the pandemic, just the opposite was true: 64% said they were working from home because their office was closed, and 36% said they were choosing to work from home. 

For those who do have access to their workplaces but are opting to work mainly from home, their reasons for doing so have changed since fall 2020. Fewer cite concerns about being exposed to the coronavirus – 42% now vs. 57% in 2020 say this is a major reason they are currently working from home all or most of the time. And more say a preference for working from home is a major reason they’re doing so (76% now vs. 60% in 2020). There’s also been a significant increase since 2020 (from 9% to 17%) in the share saying the fact that they’ve relocated away from the area where they work is a major reason why they’re currently teleworking.

For workers who’ve made the switch to teleworking, most have found more balance but less connection with co-workers

Working from home is a relatively new experience for a majority of workers with jobs that can be done remotely – 57% say they rarely or never worked from home prior to the coronavirus outbreak. For those who have made the switch to telework, their work lives have changed in some significant ways. On the plus side, most (64%) of those who are now working from home at least some of the time but rarely or never did before the pandemic say it’s easier now for them to balance work with their personal life. And many (44%) say working from home has made it easier for them to get their work done and meet deadlines, while very few (10%) say it’s been harder to do this. At the same time, 60% say they feel less connected to their co-workers now. Most (72%) say working from home hasn’t affected their ability to advance in their job.

Looking to the future, 60% of workers with jobs that can be done from home say when the coronavirus outbreak is over, if they have the choice, they’d like to work from home all or most of the time. This is up from 54% who said the same in 2020. Among those who are currently working from home all or most of the time, 78% say they’d like to continue to do so after the pandemic, up from 64% in 2020.

Most U.S. workers (60%) don’t have jobs that can be done from home, and others who do have these types of jobs are going into their workplace at least sometimes. For a large majority of these workers, their jobs continue to involve at least some in-person interaction with others at their workplace. About half of those who ever interact with other people at their workplace say they’re very (19%) or somewhat (32%) concerned about being exposed to the coronavirus. This is virtually unchanged from October 2020. Roughly one-in-four (26%) say they are more concerned about this now than they were before the omicron variant started to spread, and the same share say they are less concerned now. A plurality (47%) say they are about as concerned now as they were before omicron.

The nationally representative survey of 10,237 U.S. adults (including 5,889 employed adults who have only one job or who have multiple jobs but consider one to be their primary) was conducted Jan. 24-30, 2022, using the Center’s American Trends Panel.1 Among the other key findings: 

Workers with jobs that can be done from home who are choosing to go into their workplace cite preference and productivity as major reasons why they rarely or never work from home. Six-in-ten of these workers say a major reason they rarely or never work from home is that they prefer working at their workplace, and a similar share (61%) cite feeling more productive at their workplace as a major reason. Relatively few say major reasons for working in-person are that they don’t have the proper space or resources at home (21%), that there are more opportunities for advancement if they’re at their workplace (14%) or that they feel pressure from their supervisor or co-workers to be there (9%).

About half of workers who are working from home all or most of the time and whose offices are closed say they would be comfortable going into their workplace if it were to reopen in the next month. One-in-five say they’d be very comfortable returning to their workplace, and 29% say they’d be somewhat comfortable doing this. In October 2020, a smaller share of workers (36%) said they would feel comfortable returning to their workplace in the next month.

Most workers who are not working exclusively from home (77%) say they are at least somewhat satisfied with the measures their employer has put in place to protect them from coronavirus exposure, but only 36% say they are very satisfied. As was the case earlier in the pandemic, White workers are more likely than Black or Hispanic workers to say they are very satisfied with the safety measures that have been put in place. And upper-income workers are more likely to be very satisfied than middle- and lower-income workers.2

Roughly one-in-five workers who are not working exclusively at home (22%) say their employer has required employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine. About three-quarters (77%) say their employer has not required vaccination (47% say their employer has encouraged it and 30% say they have not). Regardless of what their employer requires, 30% of these workers think their employer should require vaccines, while most say their employer should not (39% say their employer should encourage but not require vaccines and 30% say their employer shouldn’t do either). These views are sharply divided along partisan lines: 47% of Democrats and those who lean to the Democratic Party who are not working exclusively from home think their employer should require employees to get a vaccine, compared with just 10% of Republicans and Republican leaners. 

Frequency of telework differs by education, income

More uptake in telework among college graduates, upper-income workers

There are key demographic differences between workers whose jobs can and cannot be done from home. Among those who say the responsibilities of their job can mainly be done from home, some groups are teleworking more frequently than others. 

College graduates with jobs that can be done from home (65%) are more likely than those without a four-year college degree (53%) to say they are working from home all or most of the time. And higher shares of upper-income workers (67%) are working from home compared with middle- (56%) and lower-income (53%) workers.

A plurality (44%) of all employed adults who are currently working from home all or most of the time say this is because they are choosing not to go into their workplace. About three-in-ten (28%) say their workplace is currently closed or unavailable to them, and a similar share (27%) say they don’t have a workplace outside of their home. The share saying they don’t have a workplace outside of their home is up significantly from 2020, when 18% said this. Adults without a four-year college degree are much more likely to fall into this category than those with a bachelor’s degree or more education (40% vs. 19%, respectively). 

About half of workers whose offices are closed say they’d feel comfortable returning in the next month

Workers who are currently teleworking all or most of the time because their workplace is closed or unavailable to them are divided over whether they’d be comfortable returning there in the near future. One-in-five say, if their workplace reopened in the next month, they’d be very comfortable working there; 29% say they would be somewhat comfortable. About half say they’d be either somewhat (26%) or very (25%) uncomfortable returning to their workplace in that timeframe.

In October 2020, workers had more trepidation about returning to their workplaces. At that time, only 36% of workers who were working from home because their office was closed said, if it were to reopen in the next month, they’d be comfortable returning (13% said they’d feel very comfortable working in their workplace, 22% said they’d feel somewhat comfortable). Roughly two-thirds said they’d be somewhat (33%) or very (31%) uncomfortable doing this.

Those who are teleworking by choice are less likely to be doing so because of health concerns, more likely to say they prefer it, compared with 2020

Fewer workers now say they’re working from home because of concerns about coronavirus exposure, compared with 2020

The reasons workers give for working from home when they could otherwise go into their workplace have changed considerably from October 2020. Today, a preference for working from home is driving these decisions rather than concerns about the coronavirus. Fully 76% of workers who indicate that their workplace is available to them say a major reason why they are currently teleworking all or most of the time is that they prefer working from home. An additional 17% say this is a minor reason why they are working from home, and 7% say this is not a reason. The share citing this as a major reason is up significantly from 60% in 2020.

At the same time, the share pointing to concerns about being exposed to the coronavirus as a major reason for working from home has fallen from 57% in 2020 to 42% today. About one-in-four teleworkers (27%) say this is a minor reason they are working from home, and 30% say it’s not a reason. Women (48%) are more likely than men (37%) to say this is a major reason they are working from home. There’s also a partisan gap: Half of Democrats and Democratic leaners cite concerns about exposure to the coronavirus as a major reason why they’re currently working from home all or most of the time, compared with 25% of Republicans and Republican leaners.

A smaller but growing share of workers (17%) say relocation to an area away from their workplace, either permanently or temporarily, is a major reason why they are working from home. An additional 8% say this is a minor reason they are working from home, and 75% say this is not a reason.

Among teleworking parents whose workplaces are open and who have at least one child younger than 18, 32% say child care is a major reason why they are working from home all or most of the time, down from 45% in October 2020. Some (15%) say a major reason why they are currently working from home is that there are restrictions on when they can have access to their workplace, similar to the share who said this in 2020 (14%).

Most workers who could work from home but are opting not to say a major reason is that they feel more productive at their workplace

About one-in-five workers (22%) who say the responsibilities of their job can mostly be done from home also say they rarely or never telework. For most (64%), this is because their employer doesn’t allow them to work from home more often. But for some (36%), there are other reasons why they’re opting to go into their workplace rather than working from home.

Productivity and preference are main reasons workers who could otherwise work from home are opting not to do so

Again, personal preference is a driving force behind these choices. Six-in-ten of these workers say a major reason why they rarely or never work from home is that they prefer working at their workplace. An additional 19% say this is a minor reason why they don’t work from home more often, and 21% say this is not a reason. A similar share (61%) say a major reason why they rarely or never work from home is that they feel more productive at their workplace. Some 16% say this is a minor reason and 23% say it’s not a reason. 

Relatively few (21%) say not having the space or resources at home to work effectively is a major reason why they rarely or never work from home; 23% say this is a minor reason and 55% say it’s not a reason. 

When it comes to having more opportunities to advance at work if they are there in person or feeling pressure from supervisors or co-workers to be in the office, large majorities say these are not reasons why they rarely or never work from home. Only 14% point to opportunities for advancement as a major reason and 9% cite pressure from their colleagues. 

A majority of new teleworkers say their current arrangement makes it easier to balance work and personal life

For those new to working from home, the pandemic-related shift to telework has changed some things while leaving others relatively the same. For example, among employed adults whose job can be done from home and who are currently working from home at least some of the time but rarely or never did before the pandemic, 64% say working from home has made it easier to balance work and their personal life. Two-in-ten of these adults say balancing work and their personal life is about the same, and 16% say it is harder. 

Six-in-ten of those new to working from home say they feel less connected to their co-workers

Some 44% of those who shifted to telework at least some of the time during the pandemic say their new work arrangement makes it easier for them to get their work done and meet deadlines; a similar share (46%) say it’s about the same, while one-in-ten say it is now harder to get their work done and meet deadlines.  

Some aspects of telework have been less positive, according to those who are now working from home at least some of the time but rarely or never did so before the pandemic. Six-in-ten of these workers say they now feel less connected to their co-workers. Some 36% say it’s about the same, and 4% say they are more connected to their co-workers.

Most workers new to telework (72%) say their ability to advance at work while working from home is about the same as it was before. Fewer than one-in-five say working from home has made it easier or harder to advance.

Assessments of how working from home has changed some elements of work life vary by gender. Women are about twice as likely as men to say working from home has made it easier to advance in their job (19% vs. 9%). And while about half of women who are new to telework (51%) say working from home has made it easier to get their work done and meet deadlines, 37% of men say the same. Men and women are about equally likely to say working from home has made it easier for them to balance work and their personal life.

For those who have at least some in-person interactions at work, concerns about COVID-19 exposure vary across demographic groups

Fully 86% of workers who are not working exclusively from home – either by choice or because they can’t work remotely – say they have at least some in-person interactions with other people at their workplace. Among these workers, 52% say they are at least somewhat concerned about being exposed to the coronavirus from the people they interact with at work, including 20% who are very concerned. A similar share (48%) say they are either not too or not at all concerned. This is virtually unchanged from October 2020

About four-in-ten Black workers say they are very concerned about COVID-19 exposure at work

Black and Hispanic workers are more likely than White workers to express at least some concern about being exposed to the coronavirus at work (72% and 65% vs. 43%, respectively). But Black workers are particularly concerned: 42% say they are very concerned about COVID-19 exposure at work, compared with 24% of Hispanic workers and an even smaller share of White workers (14%). 

Concerns about COVID-19 exposure at work also vary by gender, age and income. Women (59%) are more likely than men (45%) to say they are concerned about being exposed to the coronavirus from people they interact with at work. A majority of workers younger than 30 (60%) express at least some concern, compared with 52% of those ages 30 to 49, 47% of those ages 50 to 64 and 44% of those ages 65 or older. And workers with lower incomes (59%) are more likely than those with middle (52%) and upper (40%) incomes to say they are concerned about being exposed to COVID-19 from the people they interact with in person at work. 

Workers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and have received a booster shot are the most likely to express concerns about being exposed to the coronavirus from those they interact with in person at work: 66% of these workers say they are at least somewhat concerned, compared with 52% of those who are fully vaccinated but have not gotten a booster shot and just 25% of those who have not gotten any COVID-19 shots.  

About half say they are as concerned about being exposed to the coronavirus at work as they were before the omicron surge 

For the most part, omicron has not increased concerns about COVID-19 exposure at work

About a quarter of workers who are not working exclusively from home and who have at least some in-person interactions at work (26%) say they are more concerned about being exposed to the coronavirus at work than they were before the omicron variant started to spread in the U.S. in December 2021. The same share (26%) say they are now less concerned than they were before the new variant started to spread. About half (48%) say they are about as concerned as they were before. 

Black (40%) and Hispanic (32%) workers are more likely than White workers (21%) to say they are more concerned about being exposed to the coronavirus from people they interact with at work than they were before the omicron surge. About three-in-ten employed women (28%) say they are more concerned now than before the new variant started to spread, compared with 23% of employed men.

A third of those who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and have received a booster shot say they are more concerned about being exposed to the coronavirus at work than they were before omicron started to spread. A quarter of those who are vaccinated but have not gotten a booster and just 10% of those who haven’t gotten any COVID-19 shots say the same. 

Fewer than half of workers are very satisfied with the steps that have been taken in their workplace to keep them safe from COVID-19

Most workers who are not exclusively working from home (77%) say they are at least somewhat satisfied with the measures their workplace has put in place to protect them from coronavirus exposure, but just 36% say they are very satisfied. These assessments vary considerably by race and ethnicity, income and age. 

Workers’ satisfaction with COVID-19 safety measures varies by race, ethnicity and income

As was the case earlier in the pandemic, White workers who are spending time in their workplace (42%) are far more likely than Black (27%) and Hispanic (26%) workers to say they are very satisfied with the measures that have been put in place to protect them from being exposed to COVID-19 at work. And while 44% of upper-income workers say they are very satisfied, smaller shares of those with middle (36%) and lower (32%) incomes say the same.

Across age groups, those younger than 30 are the least likely to say they are very satisfied with COVID-19 safety measures at their workplace, while those ages 65 and older are the most likely to say this. A quarter of workers ages 18 to 29 say they are very satisfied, compared with 35% of those ages 30 to 49, 44% of those ages 50 to 64, and 53% of workers 65 and older. 

Vaccination requirements don’t seem to be related to these views. Some 39% of those whose employers have required employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine, and 35% of those in workplaces without a vaccination requirement say they are very satisfied with the measures that have been put in place to protect them from being exposed to the coronavirus.  

Most workers say their employer doesn’t require COVID-19 vaccination

About one-in-five workers say their employer has required a COVID-19 vaccine

About one-in-five workers who are not working exclusively from home (22%) say their employer has required employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine. About three-quarters (77%) say their employer has not required vaccination (47% say their employer has encouraged it and 30% say they have not). 

Workers with upper incomes (31%) are more likely than those with middle (19%) and lower (23%) incomes to say their employer has required employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Among workers with a postgraduate degree, 36% say their employer has a vaccination requirement, compared with 27% of those with a bachelor’s degree, 22% of those with some college and an even smaller share of those with a high school diploma or less education (13%). 

Vaccination requirements are also more common in urban and suburban areas than in rural communities. About a quarter of workers in cities (26%) and suburbs (23%) say their employer requires employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, compared with 16% in rural areas. 

Democrats and those who lean Democratic (27%) are more likely than Republicans and Republican leaners (17%) to say their employer has required COVID-19 vaccination. These differences remain even after accounting for differences in education and income levels among these groups. 

About nine-in-ten workers who say their employer has required employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine (92%) say they are fully vaccinated, including 58% who say they have received a booster shot. A smaller share of those who don’t have a vaccination requirement at work (65%) say they are fully vaccinated, with 38% saying they have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster. 

Most workers don’t think their employer should require COVID-19 vaccination

The survey also asked employed adults who are not working exclusively from home what they think their employer should do when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations, regardless of what their employer is doing. Three-in-ten say their employer should require the vaccine, while most (69%) say their employer should not (including 39% who say their employer should encourage but not require it and 30% who don’t think their employer should do either). 

Somewhat similar shares of White, Black and Hispanic workers think their employers should require employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine, but Black workers are more likely than those who are Hispanic or White to say their employer should encourage employees to get vaccinated (55% vs. 43% and 37%, respectively). 

Wide partisan gaps in views of vaccination requirements at work

Views on COVID-19 vaccination requirements vary widely along party lines. Some 47% of Democrats and Democratic leaners who are not exclusively working from home think their employer should require employees to get a vaccine, compared with just 10% of Republican and Republican-leaning workers. In turn, 53% of Republicans say their employer should neither require nor encourage employees to get vaccinated; only 10% of Democrats say the same. 

Among those who say they think their employer should require employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine, 43% say their employer has, in fact, required it; 41% say their employer has encouraged it but not required it, and 15% say their employer has neither required nor encouraged vaccination. By contrast, a majority of those who think their employer should encourage but not require vaccination (64%) and those who say their employer should neither require nor encourage it (61%) say what their employer is doing is in line with what they personally think should be done.