COVID isn’t the thing keeping people working from home anymore


As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to fade, so too does the number of Americans working from home.

With the latest Omicron spike largely in the rearview mirror, only about 10% of employed Americans worked remotely in March because of COVID, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday. And that’s down by about three percentage points from February. 

Keep in mind, however, that this metric represents only the share of Americans who are working remotely due to the virus over the last four weeks. Those who worked remotely pre-pandemic or worked from home for other reasons are excluded. The overall number of people working remotely for any reason is likely much higher, says Daniel Zhao, senior economist and lead data scientist for Glassdoor’s economic research team.

Most data shows that roughly 25% to 35% of workers are working from home, according to Nick Bloom, a Stanford economics professor and co-founder of the Working From Home Research Project. About 38% of those between ages 20 and 64 who earned at least $10,000 in 2019 were working remotely as of February, according to the latest data available from WFH Research's monthly survey. But even that number has shrunk from earlier in the pandemic, when 61% of those surveyed reported working from home in May 2020.

In many cases, employers have ramped up efforts to get workers back in person over the past month. Over half of workers, 50.9%, reported being required to return in-person full-time, according to Workhuman’s April Human Workplace Index, a monthly survey of 1,000 full-time U.S. workers.

Of those, 71.4% agree with their employers’ decision to return, Workhuman finds. Among those who disagree with employers’ demands to return, nearly half say it’s because they believe it’s unnecessary after successfully working remotely for two years. About 31% believe they should have the ability to choose between working in-person, remote, or hybrid work setups. 

Yet as more workers are recalled in person, 55% of workers are concerned about the extra costs of heading back to in-person work, Workhuman finds. Top of mind for most is the higher commuting costs, particularly around rising gas prices. 

The national cost of gas is currently averaging $4.21 per gallon. If it hits $5 per gallon, it could eat up about 25% of paychecks for lower-income households making less than $15,000, according to a recent analysis from car ownership superapp Jerry. Even those making over $50,000 will spend about 8% of their income on gas. And of course, those living in rural areas and smaller towns face a larger impact than those living in major metros.

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