Before 2020 remote work was still considered a job perk. The option to occasionally work from home was a good way for companies to entice new talent and improve employee satisfaction in the same way that health benefits and paid leave time do. For those looking to work remotely full-time the options were usually limited to freelance or consultancy work. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, most companies have had no choice but to embrace remote work at least in some capacity in order to survive. 

By the end of 2020, working from home was the new normal. Now that most employees have had extensive experience with remote work, it looks like the way we do our jobs will be permanently changed. This article will offer key remote work statistics you should know, answer some key questions about the topic of remote work, and show how attitudes have changed during the pandemic. Let’s dive right in! 

How many people were working remotely in 2021?

4.7 million US employees were working from home pre-pandemic. 

According to statistics from Global Workplace Analytics, 4.7 million US employees were working from home pre-pandemic.[1] These statistics from 2019 show a significant increase from 3.9 million in 2015. While the number of employees working remotely was certainly on the rise pre-pandemic, no one could have predicted the global shift to remote work that took place in response to the outbreak of COVID-19.

58.6% of the American workforce is working remotely currently. 

A year into the pandemic, statistics from a survey conducted by Upwork found that over half the American population was working remotely at least in some part.[2] 41% of those workers are fully remote. This is a dramatic increase from the 17% percent of U.S. employees that worked from home 5 days or more per week before the pandemic, per Statista.[3]

58.6% of the total U.S. workforce are remote workers.
58.6% of the total U.S. workforce are remote workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

44% of companies globally don’t allow remote work

According to a report by Owl Labs, 44% of companies don’t allow employees to work remotely.[4] Some companies might have concerns about communication and productivity (although research shows employees are just as productive, if not more, working remotely) but the reality is some jobs are just easier done from the home than others. The percentage of companies that allow remote work also changes based on geography. For example, in Asia only 9% of companies allow employees to work from home.[5] In Africa and Australia, remote and hybrid work structures are much more common with 59% and 65% respectively.[5] 

What are the financial benefits of remote work?

Remote workers make 8.3% more than non-remote workers

PayScale analyzed thousands of salaries and found that remote workers make 8.3% more than non-remote workers with the same job title and qualifications.[6] Among employees who make $100,000 a year or less, the average remote worker makes approximately $4,000 more on their yearly salary than the average office worker. [7]

The average person can save about $4,000 per year by working remotely.

While it is hard to find an exact number, research by FlexJob estimates the average person saves $4000 per year working remotely.[8] According to the same research article the average person spends between $2,000 and $5,000 per year on commuting to work alone. Working from home not only removes the cost of work travel, but it also takes away other costs like investing in office-appropriate clothing and regularly going out to buy coffee and lunch. 

Employers save an average of $11,000 per half-time remote employee

Statistics from a 2019 study by Global Analytics found that employers saved an average of $11,000 per half-time remote employee.[1] When we extend that cost to a full-time, as many companies are doing now we can estimate that every remote worker is reducing company costs by $22,000. Companies that work remotely can save thousands on cleaning costs, rent, utilities, food, and taxes. While there may have been some initial costs for companies that had to suddenly move employees to remote in 2020, such as home office equipment and cloud technology, overall it seems that remote work has saved most employers money in the long run. 

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Which industries are best suited to remote work? 

The finance, management, professional services, and information sectors have the highest potential for remote work. 

A study done by McKinsey in 2020 found that Finance and insurance jobs have the highest potential for remote work with three-quarters of time spent on activities that can be done remotely without any loss to productivity.[9]

Transportation, food services, property maintenance, and agriculture jobs offer little or no opportunity for remote work. 

While people from all industries have been forced to find ways to work remotely during the pandemic, it is more suited to some professions than others. McKinsey’s 2020 report on the state of remote work found that for those that work in transportation, food services, property maintenance, and agriculture there is little to no opportunity for remote work.[9] The pandemic has also demonstrated that just because a job can be done remotely, doesn’t mean it should be. Teachers for example have been working remotely for most of the past 12 months but the majority of parents and teachers believe that job is more effective in person. 

How do employees feel about remote work?  

Remote employees work 1.4 more days per month than their office-based counterparts

A study done by Airtasker in March 2020 found that remote employees work 1.4 days more per month than those who work in an office.[10] But the jury is still very much out on whether this is actually a good or bad thing. From the perspective of an employer, this might seem enticing. However, this study also found that 29% of remote employees struggle with work-life balance and 31% said they needed to take time off for their mental health. 

Pre-pandemic 55% of remote workers would likely look for another job if they were no longer allowed to work remotely

A study done in 2019 by Owl Labs found that for those who have been given the opportunity to work remotely, it has become a key part of their job satisfaction.[4] This study was conducted before the pandemic when remote work was less common. 

82% of employees would like to work remotely one day a week or more after the COVID-19 crisis is over.

The response to the sudden shift to remote due to the pandemic hasn’t been cut and dry. At the beginning of the pandemic, a study by Colliers International found that 82% of employees would like to work remotely one day a week or more after the COVID-19 crisis is over.[11] That being said, studies have also shown that working from home has lead to increased feelings of isolation and loneliness amongst employees. 

20% of remote workers have struggled with loneliness.

According to the 2020 Report of the state of remote work by Buffer and Angel List, 20% of remote workers have struggled with loneliness.[12] While there is no conscientiousness on whether employees want to continue to work from home or go back to the office, it is clear that going forward flexibility and the option to work remotely at some capacity will be important to employees. 

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a forced global experiment in remote work. What we have found is that while not every employee is in the position to work from home full-time, most companies are more than capable of offering remote work as an option. This can be beneficial to both the employee and the employer.

While some companies are preparing to return to the office as the pandemic subsides, in most cases companies will move forward with a more flexible hybrid model that allows employees to work both remotely and internally. With this new trend gaining steam, it’s exciting to see telecommuting and remote work statistics which summarize how the business world is changing.

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Article Sources 

  1. Global Workplace Analytics: Telecommuting Numbers
  2. Upwork: Future Workforce Report
  3. Statista: Change in Remote Work Trends
  4. Owl Labs: State of Remote Work
  5. People Matters Global: Companies That Don’t Allow Remote Work
  6. Payscale: Remote Work Study
  7. Fundera: Telecommuting Numbers
  8. FlexJobs: Remote Work Numbers
  9. McKinsey: Future of Work
  10. Air Tasker: The Benefits of Working From Home
  11. Brel Forum: COVID-19 Could Be The Catalyst of Remote Working as the New Norm
  12. Buffer: State of Remote Work