Nearly 30% of the U.S. workforce is continuing to do work from home—a six times greater percentage than in 2019.
Those stats, from data collection project WFH Research, come even as President Biden prepares to officially end the national emergency and the public health emergency for Covid-19 on May 11.
The pandemic had driven 61% of the workforce into home workspaces by May of 2020. That’s an increase from just 4.7% in January 2019. Last spring, the back-to-the-office movement in 2021 and 2022 leveled off, and the work-from-home population stabilized around 30%.
“There’s sufficient and growing evidence that people do work well when they’re working from home,” Barbara Larson, executive professor of management at Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business told The Hill. “It’s not like everybody was working hard when they were in the office.”
In fact, research shows that the average home worker has cut 70 minutes a day formerly spent commuting out of his or her schedule—and almost half of that time has been incorporated into doing their work.
The bulk of those who have the option of working from home are suburban, white-collar, mostly college graduates, and generally well-paid. And while it’s impossible for about 55% of Americans to do their jobs remotely, according to Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford University economist and WFH researcher, as of last week the office-access security company Kastle Systems reported that some 49% of office desks in Chicago remain empty, along with 53% in DC, and 51% in New York City and Los Angeles.
That’s caused a real headache for city tax collectors and downtown businesses. In New York City, for example, downtown Manhattan will suffer this year about $12 billion less in its expenditures, according to Bloom.
Nor does everyone want to work from home. Two-fifths of workers aged 50 and above prefer full-time remote work. That’s compared to three-quarters of 20-somethings who want to spend time in the office.