When the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered workplaces nationwide, society was plunged into an unplanned experiment in work from home. Nearly two-and-a-half years on, organizations worldwide have created new working norms that acknowledge that flexible work is no longer a temporary pandemic response but an enduring feature of the modern working world.
The third edition of McKinsey’s American Opportunity Survey provides us with data on how flexible work fits into the lives of a representative cross section of workers in the United States. McKinsey worked alongside the market-research firm Ipsos to query 25,000 Americans in spring 2022.
The most striking figure to emerge from this research is 58 percent. That’s the number of Americans who reported having the opportunity to work from home at least one day a week.1 Thirty-five percent of respondents report having the option to work from home five days a week. What makes these numbers particularly notable is that respondents work in all kinds of jobs, in every part of the country and sector of the economy, including traditionally labeled “blue collar” jobs that might be expected to demand on-site labor as well as “white collar” professions.
Another of the survey’s revelations: when people have the chance to work flexibly, 87 percent of them take it. This dynamic is widespread across demographics, occupations, and geographies. The flexible working world was born of a frenzied reaction to a sudden crisis but has remained as a desirable job feature for millions. This represents a tectonic shift in where, when, and how Americans want to work and are working.
The following six charts examine the following:
- the number of people offered flexible working arrangements either part- or full-time
- how many days a week employed people are offered and do work from home
- the gender, age, ethnicity, education level, and income of people working or desiring to work flexibly
- which occupations have the greatest number of remote workers and how many days a week they work remotely
- how highly employees rank flexible working arrangements as a reason to seek a new job
- impediments to working effectively for people who work remotely all the time, part of the time, or not at all
Flexible work’s implications for employees and employers—as well as for real estate, transit, and technology, to name a few sectors—are vast and nuanced and demand contemplation.
1. Thirty-five percent of job holders can work from home full-time, and 23 percent can do so part-time
A remarkable 58 percent of employed respondents—which, extrapolated from the representative sample, is equivalent to 92 million people from a cross section of jobs and employment types—report having the option to work from home for all or part of the week. After more than two years of observing remote work and predicting that flexible working would endure after the acute phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, we view these data as a confirmation that there has been a major shift in the working world and in society itself.
We did not ask about flexible work in our American Opportunity Survey in past years, but an array of other studies indicate that flexible working has grown by anywhere from a third to tenfold since 2019.
Thirty-five percent of respondents say they can work from home full-time. Another 23 percent can work from home from one to four days a week. A mere 13 percent of employed respondents say they could work remotely at least some of the time but opt not to.
Forty-one percent of employed respondents don’t have the choice. This may be because not all work can be done remotely or because employers simply demand on-site work. Given workers’ desire for flexibility, employers may have to explore ways to offer the flexibility employees want to compete for talent effectively.
Read the full report at https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2022/07/covid-19-reshaped-americans-work/.