When California imposed its stay-at-home order in mid-March in an effort to help curb the spread of COVID-19, companies around the state were forced to pivot to a work-from-home model to keep things running.
While some companies experienced a hiccup or two in trying to get their workers the equipment and technology they needed, many people found themselves transitioning to a work-from-home model without much trouble. Now, as stay-at-home orders are being eased and people are being allowed to go back to work, a new survey from WalletHub finds that many Americans believe the way we work is forever changed.
According to Global Workplace Analytics, the number of people regularly working from home has grown 173 percent since 2005. Before the coronavirus pandemic began and stay-at-home orders issued, only about 25 percent of the workforce worked from home on regular basis and only about 14.7 percent worked from home throughout the week. Now, that number has skyrocketed, with many people wanting to remain home - even after the coronavirus pandemic has passed.
While people may enjoy working from home, there are many things people are missing about it. About a third of respondents to WalletHub's survey said they miss their co-workers and look forward to seeing them when they are allowed to return to the office, while about 1 in 5 people say they miss having an excuse to get out of the house on a regular basis. Another 12 percent say they miss their routine of getting up and going to work, while 27 percent say they don't miss the office at all.
Among the other findings in WalletHub's survey:
Employees want harsh penalties for people who don't return to the workplace:
At least 1/3 of Americans believe that businesses should fire employees who refuse to go back to work. Even as 60 percent of people find that working from home has improved their quality of life, those who are going back to the office believe everyone should go back - even if they are worried about catching COVID-19 at the office.
Parents’ work efficiency may suffer at home:
However, while 60 percent of people now working from home say it's improved their life and productivity, the same can't be said for parents who have their kids hanging out at home with them. According to WalletHub's survey, around 50 percent of parents with young children at home don’t think they are more productive working from home.
Working from home seen as the future:
Welcome to the future - Many Americans - nearly a third according to the survey - believe workplaces will evolve beyond having to go into the office every day and they are a think of the past.
Positive changes to the work environment
Almost 60 percent of Americans think COVID-19 has changed the way we work for the better.
According to Dr. James Butkiewicz, a professor at Alfred Lerner College of Business & Economics, University of Delaware, people who like working from home, shouldn't expect it to last forever - especially for those jobs that require in-person interactions.
"Nothing is forever. I have read that only about 37% of workers can work from home," said Butkiewicz. "Are these the people who think offices are a thing of the past? The other 2/3s must still work at their employer’s location. Certainly, educators will be expected to return to their schools. My doctor conducted a video visit, but I know medical professionals will return to their offices. Some working from home may be feasible, but certainly, many workers now at home will return to offices."
And while employees may enjoy the freedom and increased productivity that comes with working from home, Butkiewicz says that enthusiasm isn't necessary shared by their employer.
"I am sure many people find advantages to working from home. From their perspective, they are probably right. However, employers may have a different opinion. For an employer, workers must be close to equally productive or more productive than when they worked in an office," said Butkiewicz. "If they are not, employers will want a return to the office. Also, some people are happy being alone. Others are social and need human interaction. Being at home all the time can become boring or worse."