There's no question that the COVID pandemic has accelerated the global transition to remote work. 75% of the American workforce had never worked from home before lockdowns began in March 2020. Remote work isn't the future of work — it's the present.
As we approach the end of 2021, few predicted that offices all around the world would still be closed. Months of lockdowns and remote work has given workers a lot to think about. Workers across all industries are valuing the benefits of remote work, experiencing higher productivity levels, and rethinking their mental models around work-life balance in a post-pandemic world.
While it can be hard to see the forest through the trees, we're in the middle of a massive cultural and economic shift in the way we work. What's changed? How do employees feel about potentially returning to the office? According to the numbers, the overwhelming consensus is in favor of remote work continuing post-pandemic.
Here's our ultimate list of remote work and working from home statistics to help put things in perspective.
Key remote work statistics in 2021
General remote work trends and statistics
- 97.6% of remote workers would like to keep it that way forever
- 46% of companies are planning on permanently allowing remote work
- 1 in 2 US employees won't return to jobs that don't offer remote work
- 83% of employers believe their shift to remote work was successful
- By the end of 2021, 51% of knowledge workers will be remote
- 88% of employers globally asked their employees to work from home when COVID-19 started
- 97% of remote workers would recommend remote work
- 16% of companies worldwide are 100% remote
- 69% of the total U.S workforce are remote workers
- Operations, support, IT, and admin roles made up 40% of remote workers
- Zoom became the most widely used remote collaboration app
- 74% of remote employees work directly with team members in multiple time zones
- Only 7% of U.S. employees worked remotely prior to COVID-19
Benefits of remote work statistics
- 79% of workers believe video conferencing is at the same level or more productive than in-person meetings
- Remote workers are 13% more productive — almost an additional day of output per week
- 75% of remote workers report they have been able to maintain or improve productivity
- 79% of employees say remote work has been a success for allowing flexibility in their lives
- 37% of remote workers stay productive by taking regular breaks
- 77% of employees believe having the option to work from home would make them happier
- 33% of remote workers identified maintaining regular working hours was the best thing to maintain or improve productivity
- The average one-way commute time in the U.S. is 27.1 minutes
- 72% of workers identify more time with family and better work-life balance as why they want to work remotely
- Remote work reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 600,000 cars
- 80% of remote workers sleep better and experience less work-related stress
Challenges of remote work statistics
- 80% of remote workers want at least one day with no meetings at all
- 27% of remote employees report not being able to unplug as their biggest challenge
- Remote workers spend an extra 26 hours every month working
- 16% of workers report loneliness as their biggest challenge with remote work
- 54% of IT professionals believe remote workers as a greater cybersecurity risk
Remote work salary statistics
- There has been a 65% increase in remote workers making over $100k
- Employees who work remotely make 23.7 percent more than non-remote employees
- 69% of millennials would give up work benefits for more flexibility
- 61% of workers would take a pay cut to continue working remotely
- Remote workers save about $7,000 per year
- Companies can save $11,000 per employee per year
Remote work recruiting and retention statistics
- 45% of workers would quit their job if they were forced to return to the office full-time
- 74% of employees expect remote work to become standard
- 9 in 10 workers want flexibility in where and when they work
- 74% of remote workers believe companies will lose major talent if they don't offer remote work
General remote work trends and statistics
97.6% of remote workers would like to keep it that way forever
This might be the single most powerful of the remote work trends on our list. Buffer recently released their annual 2021 State of Remote Work, which interviews thousands of workers all around the world. This one jumped out at us.
97.6% of remote workers would like to continue to work remotely, at least some of the time, indefinitely. The overwhelming preference for flexible work options is pretty clear. This shouldn't come as a surprise, remote workers have had plenty of time now to balance the benefits and challenges of remote work and it's become clear that most knowledge work jobs can be done from anywhere.
This number is backed up by Gallup's recent State of the Workforce study of more than 9,000 U.S. workers. It found that 91% are hoping to keep working remotely after the pandemic, and Growmotely's Future of Work report, which put the number at 97%.
46% of companies are planning on permanently allowing remote work
Here's where it gets interesting. From the same Buffer remote work report, less than half of companies reported that they were planning on committing to a hybrid remote work model. This is quite a stark contrast from the above, and raises the question "What happens when companies don't allow remote work permanently?" We dive into this a little deeper later on and what this means for employee hiring and retention.
Twitter and Square have said that staff can work remotely permanently. Most of Shopify’s employees will permanently work remotely. "Office centricity is over". Brian Armstrong wrote that Coinbase will be embracing a remote-first culture.
1 in 2 US employees won't return to jobs that don't offer remote work
According to Owl Lab's and Global Workplace Analytics' State of Remote Work report, 50% of employees in the US plan to quit and move to a remote-friendly company if they are unable to continue working from home "all or most of the time". We'd argue that a remote-first company would be a better choice.
It's hard enough to attract remote employees, and companies in the US that don't start to offer flexible work options may soon face new challenges retaining and recruiting talent.
83% of employers believe their shift to remote work was successful
As business leaders settle start to recognize the productivity and cost-saving benefits of remote work and get comfortable with the new norm, most companies are reporting that the transition has been "successful".
PwC's surveyed 133 employers and 1,200 workers and found that 83% of employers considered their move to remote work options was successful. Interestingly, PwC conducted the same survey in 2020 and the number was 73% — still a large majority, but the increase is a strong signal that employers are ironing out the challenges of remote work.
By the end of 2021, 51% of knowledge workers will be remote
A hybrid workforce is the future of the work, with both remote and on-site part of the same solution to optimize employers’ workforce needs.
– Ranjit Atwal, Research Director at Gartner
88% of employers globally asked their employees to work from home when COVID-19 started
In early 2020, when COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, 88% of employers either made it mandatory or encouraged their staff to work remotely. 97% of the companies surveyed by Gartner also immediately canceled any work-related travel.
97% of remote workers would recommend remote work
Overwhelmingly, remote workers would recommend remote work to friends and family, according to Buffer's 2021 State of Remote Work. This number paints a pretty clear picture that how remote work has become the new norm and is here to stay.
More and more remote workers value this new work-life balance and are even quitting instead of going back to the office. If this sounds like you, consider asking your boss if you can work from home, and if that doesn't work learn how to find a remote job.
16% of companies worldwide are 100% remote
The majority of remote companies are known as hybrid remote companies, meaning they are a mix of office workers and remote employees. However, we're seeing an increasing trend of companies that are remote-first, meaning they're 100% remote! According to Owl Labs, this number is 16% of global companies that are benefiting from a purely remote model.
A remote-first company is a company that prioritizes a remote working model, encouraging employees to work from home or remotely by default. Remote-first companies usually don’t have physical offices, which helps them save on costs and recruit from a larger global pool of talent all around the world.
GitLab, a software development tool used by over 100,000 companies, was remote-first long before the coronavirus pandemic. Some other notable remote-first companies include Zapier, Slack, Buffer, Webflow, Ghost, Basecamp, Doist, and Hotjar.
69% of the total U.S workforce are remote workers
Operations, support, IT, and admin roles made up 40% of remote workers
Nearly half of remote workers in the U.S. identified as working in the following categories:
- Customer Support
Zoom became the most widely used remote collaboration app
One of the most important challenges faced by remote teams is maintaining employee collaboration and employee engagement. When the world shifted to remote working after the COVID-19 pandemic began, Zoom quickly became the clear winner.
Zoom is a video conferencing app that reported growing 326% in 2020, despite being a decade-old company. The COVID-19 pandemic prompted an abrupt shift to remote work for most companies and employees and transformed Zoom into a household name practically overnight.
74% of remote employees work directly with team members in multiple time zones
The age of asynchronous collaboration is here. According to Buffer's 2021 State of Remote Work, only 7% of employees reported working across time zones as their main challenge, yet 74% of employees work across time zones in their immediate remote teams.
Only 7% of U.S. employees worked remotely prior to COVID-19
According to Pew Research Center, only 7% of employees worked completely remote before the COVID pandemic. This seems like an absurdly low number, especially when you consider that it is estimated that 37% of U.S. jobs before COVID could have been done entirely remotely.
88% of employers shifted to remote work at the start of the pandemic — an economic and cultural shift on a scale and pace not seen in recent history.
Benefits of remote work statistics
79% of workers believe video conferencing is at the same level or more productive than in-person meetings
The COVID pandemic has put to bed the myth that working from the office is necessary for productivity and collaboration. With the right software and collaboration tools, most employees can work from anywhere.
Research by Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics found that the majority of remote workers find video collaboration to be either the same level or more productive than in-person meetings. Popular software such as Zoom and Google Meet are remote tools that have become the new norm — 60% of workers reported using video more than before COVID-19.
Remote workers are 13% more productive — almost an additional day of output per week
Comparing remote employees to in-office employees, a two-year study by Stanford’s Nicholas Bloom and Chicago Booth’s Steven J. Davis found that remote employees were 13% more productive. This equates to almost an entire additional day in productivity throughout the week.
“Working from home under the pandemic has been far more productive than I or pretty much anyone else predicted.”
— Nicholas Bloom, Professor of Economics at Stanford
To learn more about the benefits to employee productivity, watch Nicholas Bloom’s TED talk below.
75% of remote workers report they have been able to maintain or improve productivity
The Boston Consulting Group surveyed 12,000 employees before and during COVID-19 in the US, Germany, and India and found that 75% of employees feel that they have maintained or improved their productivity.
The survey uncovered "unexpected insights", given the speed and scale of the economic shift towards remote work.
"A surprisingly large number said they have been able to maintain or even improve their productivity during the pandemic," the researchers found. "[Given] the fact that employers had no time to prepare staff for the shift to remote work, we expected to see a decline in employee productivity"
FlexJob's smaller survey found that "95% say productivity has been higher or the same while working remotely."
Airtasker surveyed the working and productivity habits of 1,004 workers and found that remote workers exercise more and take more breaks, but they more than makeup for this by spending more time focused on their work. It's a win-win.
79% of employees say remote work has been a success for allowing flexibility in their lives
PwC’s US Remote Work Survey reported that 79% of employees found that the transition to remote work has better allowed the flexibility needed to manage family and personal matters. Remote work is attractive because it increases flexibility and autonomy for employees.
EY has found that 9 in 10 employees want more flexibility in their work and that 50% of employees would quit their current job if not provided post-pandemic flexibility. This finding is supported by research from Buffer (32% of workers state the ability to have a flexible schedule is the biggest benefit of working remotely), Valoir (40% of workers would prefer to work remotely full-time in the future), Zenefits (77% of job seekers consider flexible work arrangements when evaluating future remote work opportunities), Gallup Research (54% of U.S. workers would quit their current job for a remote one) and International Workplace Group (80% of U.S. workers would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working).
37% of remote workers stay productive by taking regular breaks
Airtasker's survey of 1,004 workers found that 37% of remote workers identified taking regular breaks as the best productivity hack. Tony Schwartz, the founder of The Energy Project, teaches this “pulse and pause” mantra.
The surprising productivity of remote work has been a surprise to everyone, but a welcome one. According to Forbes, “remote work is no longer a privilege,” and Fast Company considers it “the new normal.”
77% of employees believe having the option to work from home would make them happier
Owl Labs' State of Remote Work report found that "despite difficult circumstances for working remotely, 77% of respondents agree that after COVID-19, having the option to work from home would make them happier."
It seems most workers aren't keen on returning to the office, with 80% of full-time U.S. employees surveyed as part of the report expecting to work from home at least three days per week after the pandemic.
It's no wonder. According to Time, commuting to work has several negative health connotations, including increased blood sugar levels, higher cholesterol, greater depression risk, increased anxiety, and lower happiness and life satisfaction.
33% of remote workers identified maintaining regular working hours as the best thing to maintain or improve productivity
Airtasker's survey of 1,004 workers found that 33% of remote workers identified maintaining regular working hours as the best productivity hack. One of the most popular reasons for employees to want to work remotely is to be able to set their own schedule.
Maintaining regular working hours doesn't necessarily mean working 9 am to 5 pm like a traditional office environment. Control over your schedule is invaluable when life comes up, and one of the main benefits of remote work is it allows for a better work-life balance and to set your schedule around how you best work or family commitments.
The average one-way commute time in the U.S. is 27.1 minutes
According to The United States Census Bureau, the average one-way commute time in the U.S. is 27.1 minutes. That's almost an hour every day, essentially wasted, traveling to and from the office. These numbers are backed up by Owl Labs' State of Remote Work report. In extreme cases, some workers reported commute times of up to 3 hours daily!
Extrapolated out, this equates to over a month spent commuting each year. Over a 30 year career, that's about 2.5 years. The time sink and opportunity cost this raises is pretty absurd. Control over your commute is one of the main benefits of remote work and is more time you can spend on sleep, exercise, hobbies, and with family. It's months of your life that you won't get back.
72% of workers identify more time with family and better work-life balance as why they want to work remotely
Remote work statistics show some pretty clear benefits of remote work across the board, including better work-life balance, better employee engagement, increased happiness and mental health, and positive job satisfaction. Better work-life balance is the primary reason 72% of employees are shifting to remote work according to Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics.
Most remote jobs come with a flexible schedule. As long as your work is complete and your KPIs are met, remote workers are rewarded for increased productivity with more time with family and a better work-life balance.
Remote work reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 600,000 cars
According to data from Global Workplace Analytics, remote work is good for the planet and lowers greenhouse gas emissions. The coronavirus pandemic and the behavioral changes it brought on (less travel, lockdowns, and working from home) led to slowed deforestation rates, reduced air pollution, and improved water quality across the globe.
Skipping the daily commute is a primary benefit of remote work, and it also means fewer cars on the road. This is a big deal and is even visibly (yes, visibly) improving air pollution in smog-polluted cities around the world. The adverse health effects of poor air quality are widely documented and has significant cognitive costs. Remote work makes you and the planet happier and healthier.
80% of remote workers sleep better and experience less work-related stress
Research by Amerisleep found that most remote workers are less stressed than their office-dwelling counterparts. This is backed up by a well-cited study from the American Sociological Review, which shows that flexible remote workers tend to sleep better, feel healthier, and experience less stress — all three of these compound in a positive feedback cycle.
Even better, a report from the New York Times on the study showed how these positive changes and a better work-life balance cascades down to children, who also reported less stress and better sleep.
Remote work opportunities give power back to employees, allowing them more time and control over their lives to make healthier choices and to disconnect from work-related stress.
Challenges of remote work statistics
80% of remote workers want at least one day with no meetings at all
Too many meetings are a common mistake remote teams make when transitioning to working from home, especially if they're used to more synchronous ways of working with face-to-face chats in the office. Meetings can bring team members together for collaboration, but it's a fine line — they can also break up people's workdays and make it harder to find flow and deep work.
A distraction-free environment is necessary for deep work and one of the pillars of increased employee productivity because it can take 20+ minutes to resume deep concentration after an interruption. Full calendars are a time and focus drain. Encouraging more asynchronous communication is the key to avoiding unnecessary meetings, especially if you are working at an all-remote company.
27% of remote employees report not being able to unplug as their biggest challenge
One of the most common myths perpetuated by remote work detractors is that remote employees are less productive and "slacking off". The reality is this myth is usually correlated with poor management of employees and expectations. This "bums on seats" philosophy doesn’t guarantee productivity, and it certainly doesn’t mean employees have clarity about what they should be working on.
Buffer recently published the 2021 State of Remote Work, which identified not being able to unplug from work as the biggest struggle with remote work. This is a change from their 2020 report, which ranked collaboration difficulties and loneliness at the top.
This increase likely directly correlated to a dramatic shift to remote work in 2020, as new remote workers struggle to find balance and separate work from home life. New employees tend to struggle with this balance even more, as remote work makes it easier to overcompensate in an attempt to build trust with coworkers.
Remote workers spend an extra 26 hours every month working
This is an alarming statistic and ties in with Buffer's findings that 27% of remote workers struggle to unplug from work. According to Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics, remote employees worked an average of 26 hours extra each month during COVID. This equates to almost a whole workday each week. Pair this with the limited social interaction most of us have had due to the coronavirus pandemic and you've got a recipe for burnout.
16% of workers report loneliness as their biggest challenge with remote work
Working remotely agrees with some people more than others, especially when you pair this dramatic shift with the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns. Although working remotely is not the only cause of loneliness, it's clear it can be a significant contributor. This issue can be felt acutely when working asynchronously.
One of the main reasons employees struggle with loneliness while working remotely is because they lose the real-life social interactions that spur from unplanned interactions with co-workers in the office. For some people, these are key parts of their day. Fortunately, there are some great ways to overcome remote work loneliness.
54% of IT professionals believe remote workers as a greater cybersecurity risk
Security is an often-overlooked challenge of working remotely. A recent survey from OpenVPN on the State of Cybersecurity for Remote Work revealed that more than half (54%) of IT professionals believe that remote employees pose a greater security risk than in-office employees.
More companies are taking cybersecurity more seriously to prevent data breaches and protect their customer data. But at the end of the day, IT managers can only do so much on the infrastructure and individual level to keep data secure. The weakest link is usually human error from employees. Thankfully, there are some key steps that employers can take to improve their security posture.
Remote work salary statistics
There has been a 65% increase in remote workers making over $100k
According to Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics, 43% of remote workers in the U.S. made over $100k in 2020, an increase of 65% compared to 2019. This is a strong indicator that more high-paying positions are transitioning to remote.
Decoupling jobs and locations doesn't mean remote workers are paid less, but instead, your salary is more likely to be tied directly to performance and KPIs.
Employees who work remotely make 23.7 percent more than non-remote employees
Recently, PayScale's 2021 State of Remote Work Report analyzed data from 538,438 online salary profiles and uncovered some interesting insights. Notably, employees who work remotely make 23.7 percent more than non-remote employees when data are not controlled for job titles, etc. When these numbers are controlled for factors such as location and job title, remote workers make 1.9% more.
69% of millennials would give up work benefits for more flexibility
Millennials are the first generation to be brought up in the digital age, so it's unsurprising that they gravitate towards remote work opportunities. CBRE’s Live Work Play report found that 69% of Millennials will swap work benefits for better workspace flexibility. Notably, remote work.
61% of workers would take a pay cut to continue working remotely
After months of remote work, many employees are less than happy at the idea of returning to the office. GoodHire's State Of Remote Work In 2021 study found a whopping 61% of employees would prefer to take a pay cut to continue working remotely. Some of the 3,500 U.S. workers surveyed as part of the study suggested they'd accept a 50% pay cut just to avoid the office.
Owl Labs' remote work report found that 1 in 4 people would take a pay cut of over 10% to continue working remotely. It seems employees are realizing the benefits of remote work and the positive effects it has on their lives in the long run.
Remote workers save about $7,000 per year
On top of making more money, one of the key benefits of remote work is it almost always results in a lower cost of living. Cheaper food, rent/mortgages, and savings on commute all add up.
According to Owl Labs, remote workers are saving $479.20 per month (almost $6,000 per year). Tecla puts this number at $7,000 up to $11,000 and research from Howmuch estimates remote workers save $5,000 per year.
Some companies even offer bonuses for remote workers. Stripe, for example, made headlines when they offered to pay employees $20,000 to leave New York City and San Francisco, realizing the cost benefits of a remote future even before the pandemic.
Companies can save $11,000 per employee per year
The financial benefits of remote work aren’t just for the employees — employers can save significant amounts of money in the long run. Recent updates from Global Workplace Analytics report that companies can save around $11,000 per employee per year if they allow their employees to work remotely even just half of the time. This takes into a number of considerations and benefits of remote work, such as increased productivity levels, lower real estate costs, and improved employee retention.
We're still in the early days of remote work, and for many employers, there's still an ongoing belief that open-plan offices are the best way to increase collaboration and productivity and to save costs. However, there is overwhelming scientific consensus that open-plan offices reduce productivity by at least 15% and more employers are coming to terms with the tangible benefits and cost savings that come with remote work.
Early in the pandemic, Spotify announced that it would give its newly remote employees $1,000 to set up their home offices. Twitter and Basecamp followed suit and gave their employees $1,000 for the same purpose.
Work-at-home will save U.S. employers over $30 Billion a day in what would have otherwise been lost productivity during office closures due to COVID-19
– Kate Lister, Global Workplace Analytics
Remote work recruiting and retention statistics
45% of workers would quit their job if they were forced to return to the office full-time
People really don't want to return to the office. GoodHire's State Of Remote Work In 2021 study surveyed 3,500 U.S. workers and found that 45% of workers plan to immediately quit their job if they were forced to return to the office full-time. 31% said that they would be "extremely likely" to look for a new job if they lost the ability to work remotely.
According to a Gallup study, this number is as high as 54% of U.S. employees. Employees more than ever want jobs that allow flexibility and freedom to find a healthy work-life balance.
"Companies seeking to recruit top candidates and retain top performers will need to start to offer home office setups or consider factoring the costs of working from an office into their compensation packages."
– Owl Labs, State of Remote Work
74% of employees expect remote work to become standard
Growmotely's Future of Work revealed that roughly 3 in 4 remote workers believe that remote work will become permanent. 76% of entrepreneurs surveyed for the same report agreed, signaling that remote workers are pretty bullish on remote work becoming the new normal.
Owl Labs' research found that this number is higher — 80% of workers in the U.S. expect to work at home at least three days per week after COVID.
9 in 10 workers want flexibility in where and when they work
Recent research findings from EY reported that 9 in 10 workers value flexibility in where and when they work and are much more likely to quit.
It's pretty clear from these numbers that remote work has become an invaluable benefit to the point that it is now expected from employees who are able to work remotely. Employee retention is one of the hardest problems to solve for businesses of all sizes, and by not offering remote or hybrid-remote benefits, companies are not only risk losing their top talent but will likely struggle to attract new employees.
Zenefits found that 77% of job seekers now consider flexible work arrangements when evaluating future remote work opportunities and International Workplace Group flagged early on in the pandemic that 80% of U.S. workers would turn down a job that didn’t offer flexible working.
“Employees’ willingness to change jobs in the current economic environment is a game-changer. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that flexibility can work for both employees and employers, and flexible working is the new currency for attracting and retaining top talent."
– Liz Fealy, EY
74% of remote workers believe companies will lose major talent if they don't offer remote work
Offering flexible remote work options is one of the most effective ways to improve employee retention. GoodHire's recent survey highlighted a consensus of 74% of remote workers believe companies will lose major talent if they don't offer remote work.
Not only does remote work have immense benefits for both employers, but it can give employees expanded freedom and autonomy, empowering them to do their best work and take responsibility for their role in the company.
Similarly, Buffer has a retention rate of 94%, GitLab’s retention is 85%, and Zapier’s is 94%. These are incredibly valuable numbers, and save remote companies thousands of dollars in lost productivity and output, especially when you compare to once-coveted companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon who are finding it increasingly difficult to keep employees for barely a year.
Remote work in 2022
Post-pandemic normalcy remains elusive, but the popularity of remote work is pretty clear. Many employers are still concerned that committing to a permanent hybrid remote or full remote company will risk a negative effect on culture and employee collaboration. But it's pretty clear from these statistics that the greater risk is not providing remote work and flexibility for employees. Adjusting to this reality and the new norm is imperative for business leaders — failing to do so may not only mean a loss in productivity but a loss of your key talent as well.
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