New Gallup Poll on Working Remotely: The Trends and Future of Work

By at 16 February, 2021, 2:13 pm

by Raymond J. Keating-

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to many life changes as we are all well aware, including new ways in which many people work. Specifically, working from home, or working remotely, took a big jump.

But what’s the latest on people working remotely and their attitudes toward doing so? Gallup released a poll on February 12 with some answers.

First, while coming down from the 70 percent level registered in April 2020, 56 percent of workers reported working remotely “sometimes” or “always.” The trend has shown a leveling off since September. This compares to 31 percent, according to a March 13-15, 2020 survey, just as the virus was starting to spread.

Second, the breakdown is interesting. The initial decline from April to September (as seen in the following chart from Gallup) in remote work was all about a drop among those who “always” work remotely – from 52 percent in April, to 33 percent in September. The range for those “sometimes” working remotely has been pretty steady since May.

Third, Gallup asked about what workers would prefer post-pandemic in terms of work arrangements. Remote workers saying that they would prefer working remotely due to pandemic concerns declined notably, from about 35 percent in July, to 17 percent in January 2021.

Those preferring to get back to an office moved up from 35 percent in September to 44 percent in January. Most interestingly, though, those saying that would prefer to work remotely over heading to a workplace increased from 28 percent in July to 39 percent in January.

As for total workers, in January, 23 percent – or nearly one in four – said that they would prefer to work remotely either “always” (18 percent) or “sometimes” (5 percent). That was up from 19 percent in September.

Even as this pandemic recedes, many have been arguing that remote work would stick as one of the major shifts in how businesses operate and employees work. These numbers seem to bear that out. However, it is still important to point out that a good share of the workforce still prefers the traditional workplace setting.  Whether it’s remote all the time, some times, or occasionally, there is no doubt that technology and broadband have vastly increased our ability to work more dynamically. Today’s entrepreneurs perhaps understand this better than most.

Having seen how remote work is possible without losses in productivity – indeed, often experiencing increased productivity – more business owners and managers need to fully prepare to utilize technology to attract and keep talent by offering greater mobile or remote working opportunities.

For good measure, it seems likely that more people will come to see increased work independence as a path to entrepreneurship. More light bulbs will go off, if you will, saying, “Hey, I can do this!”

Even a grim pandemic can eventually create opportunities for those seeking ways to improve their careers, their businesses, and start up new enterprises.

Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.


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