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The State of Remote Work during COVID

April 14, 2020

by Kristen Herhold

Senior Content Developer & Marketer, Clutch

Most U.S. employees now work from home temporarily because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees say the top advantages of working remotely are no commute and a more flexible schedule, while the biggest challenges are lack of collaboration and frequent interruptions.

The United States has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, with more cases and deaths than any other country. Life as we know it in America has completely changed in the past month, including how we work.

More employees are working from home than ever before, and companies are adjusting to this new team dynamic.

Clutch surveyed 365 workers across the country about their working-from-home habits and what they like and dislike about remote work. We found that 66% of employees currently work from home at least part of the week as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

66% of U.S. employees surveyed are working remotely as a result of COVID-19

Although workers are split on whether they’d rather work remotely or in an office, most say remote work has both benefits and challenges.

Our Findings 

  • Nearly half of U.S. workers (44%) are currently working from home 5 or more days per week as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, up from 17% before the pandemic.
  • There isn’t a consensus on workers’ preferred workspace: 39% would prefer to work in an office, while 40% would rather work remotely.
  • Not having a commute (47%), a more flexible schedule (43%), and not having to dress up (33%) are the three biggest benefits of working from home.
  • Difficulty collaborating with co-workers (33%), frequent interruptions (27%), and problems sticking to a routine (26%) are the three biggest challenges of remote work.
  • The top collaboration tools for remote workers are Zoom (36%), Microsoft Teams (19%), and Skype (17%).

Nearly Half of U.S. Employees Are Working From Home Full-Time During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Forty-two states have mandated their residents to stay home to combat the spread of coronavirus, as of publishing date. This new normal includes working from home.

About two-thirds of employees (66%) are currently working remotely at least once per week as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, 17% of U.S. employees worked from home 5 days or more per week. Now, that number is up to 44%.

Changes in remote work trends due to COVID-19

Just 34% of the workforce has not shifted to any remote work during the pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic has made many office employees remote workers.

Workers Are Split on If They’d Rather Work From Home or in an Office

Over the past month, the American workforce has had time to evaluate their opinion of remote work, and employees are split on how they feel.

Thirty-nine percent (39%) of workers would rather work in an office, while 40% would rather work remotely. About 21% have no preference.

Would workers rather work remotely or in an office?

The pandemic will alter some companies’ work environments permanently. Certain companies plan to allow more remote work even after the COVID-19 outbreak ends.

For example, PPC Protect, a fraud protection software, plans to transition to office work on a rolling basis — three days per week in the office, two days at home.

“We may keep this structure if staff prefer it, as it would give a good balance between the benefits of home-working and office-based working,” Founder Neil Andrew said.

Employees are split on their workplace preferences, and many businesses plan to cater to these differing opinions by mixing remote work with office work, even after the pandemic.

Lack of Commute and More Flexible Schedule Are Top Benefits of Working From Home

The average American spends 4.35 hours a week commuting. Remote work brings many Americans’ commute time down to just a few seconds — walking from one room to another. This is the biggest benefit of working from home, according to U.S. employees.

We found the top advantages of working from home are a lack of commute (47%) and a more flexible schedule (43%).


Top 6 benefits of working from home

Other advantages of working from home include not having to dress up (33%), fewer distractions (28%), and more time with family, roommates, and pets (25%).

Many workers are taking advantage of the time and flexibility they gained from not commuting.

“I commute about an hour each way, so not commuting saves me both time and money,” said Sophie Conner, Marketing Manager of Halo Service Desk, a service desk software company. “With the extra time, I have been able to start running and have more time for my own hobbies. Alongside this, it has given me more time with my elderly dog, who is really enjoying the extra attention.”

“With the extra time, I have been able to start running and have more time for my own hobbies.”

People have saved hours of time not commuting during the pandemic, which leads to a more flexible schedule.

Difficulty Collaborating With Colleagues and Frequent Interruptions Are Top Challenges of Working From Home

The most important feature of a workspace is one that promotes team-building and collaboration (43%), according to a 2019 survey. When working from home, people don’t have access to these collaborative workspaces and can’t have face-to-face interactions with their colleagues.

One-third of workers (33%) say the biggest challenge of remote work is that it’s harder to collaborate with co-workers.

Top 6 challenges of working from home

Around one-quarter of respondents say they struggle with interruptions while working from home (27%) and that it’s harder to stick to a routine (26%) and stop working at the end of the day (22%).

For Charlie Worrall, Digital Marketing Executive at web design agency Imaginaire Digital, the lack of in-person communication is the biggest challenge of working remotely.

“Before this, I could simply ask someone a quick question when they sat next to me,” Worrall said. “Instead, I’ll email them, they take a while to respond, so I’ll call, and it takes up a little too much time.”

Reaching out to a colleague online can be more time-consuming than a quick in-person interaction.

Other workers find working from home distracting, such as T.Y. Hlangwane, of PR firm Magnolia Haus Communications.

“There is always something to do at home: books, TV, kids, and many more distractions at every turn,” he said. “It takes a truly disciplined individual to work at home.”

“It takes a truly disciplined individual to work at home.”

Employees struggle with communicating with colleagues and interruptions when working from home.

Collaboration Tools Increase Communication While Working From Home

Modern technology makes remote work easier than ever before, and companies use a variety of collaborative tools to keep employees in contact with one another.

Currently, more than one-third of employees use Zoom (36%) when working from home, followed by Microsoft Teams (19%) and Skype (17%).

Top 5 collaboration tools for remote workers

Collaboration tools help ease the challenges of remote work by letting employees communicate seamlessly.

Employees at Parlia, an online encyclopedia of opinions from around the world, uses Google Hangouts, Slack, and Asana for remote communication.

“It means we get some face-time with each other, so we get those water-cooler moments even if not physically together,” Managing Editor Nushy Rose said. “Keeping camaraderie up is essential in times like this.”

“Keeping camaraderie up is essential in times like this.”

Rather than waiting for a response to an email or phone call, collaboration tools let people interact with each other in real-time, which reduces communication issues many face with remote work.

Remote Work Isn’t Going Anywhere Anytime Soon

The U.S. workforce is likely to remain working from home for the foreseeable future: Experts predict that social distancing will last many more weeks or even months.

Workers enjoy not having to commute and the flexibility remote working provides, but they struggle with collaborating with colleagues and frequent interruptions.

Businesses should have open conversations with their employees about their successes and struggles with remote working to help make their workday as productive as possible.

About The Survey

Clutch surveyed 365 workers across the U.S.

Forty-three percent (43%) of respondents are female; 35% are male; 22% are unknown.

Respondents are 18-24 (8%); 25-34 (14%); 35-44 (15%); 45-54 (13%); 55-64 (11%); 65 and older (11%); and unknown (27%).

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