Remote Work Statistics and Trends: What You Need to Know in 2021

More people are working remotely than ever before, largely due to COVID-19. In this article, you'll find 22 fascinating remote work statistics and trends about productivity, money-savings and work-life balance.

Aleksander Hougen
By Aleksander Hougen (Editor)
— Last Updated: 2021-06-08T10:16:44+00:00

Remote work is becoming a standard part of daily life for an ever-increasing portion of the population around the world. It’s been a developing trend for years, or even decades now, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put the process into overdrive. Here, we’ve collected 22 interesting remote work statistics to show you what this all means.

remote work statistics
Remote work statistics

Key Takeaways

  • Remote work is increasing long term but decreasing from an all-time high during April and May 2020.
  • Most workers and managers say that they or their employees are as productive or more productive when working from home, as compared to coming into the office.
  • Most people who currently work from home would like to continue doing so for the foreseeable future.
  • Many organizations are struggling to adapt to remote work in terms of centralizing workflows and maintaining a strong company culture.

Remote work is often seen as a detriment to productivity, company culture and employee motivation. However, the statistics we’ve gathered below paint a very different picture. Although there’s certainly no clear-cut consensus, the majority of both workers and managers seem to be satisfied overall with the effects of more people working from home.

  • On average, yes. Not only do most workers report increased levels of productivity when working from home, but they also save time on things like commutes, parts of which are then spent working more.

  • According to Buffer’s study of remote workers in 2019, the largest struggle that remote employees face is not being able to properly unplug after work. Loneliness, trouble collaborating or communicating, plus distractions at home follow close behind[6].

Remote work is becoming more and more common, and it has been for a long time. There was an explosive growth in remote work even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced great numbers of people into working from home in 2020. 

Remote work more than doubled between 2005 and 2015, increasing by 115 percent overall[7], according to a 2017 study by Global Workplace Analytics.

In 2015, telecommuters amounted to 2.9 percent of the U.S. workforce, which means that 3.9 million people worked remotely in that year. Besides technology making it easier and easier to not have to come into the office, another key driver in these trends is the fact that a larger number of people desire fully or partially remote positions[7]

How COVID-19 Impacted Remote Work

COVID-19 has accelerated an existing trend toward increasing levels of remote work. The need for social distancing due to COVID-19 may have unprecedented amounts of people out of the office. 

remote work graphic
Remote Work Statistics: COVID-19

However, remote work was on the rise well before the pandemic because of new technologies and shifting workforce trends. Experts estimate that a good portion of the U.S. workforce will continue to work remotely through 2021 and into 2022. 

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at 22 statistics that paint a picture of the current state of remote work.

22 Remote Work Statistics

Here are 22 fascinating remote work statistics that we think may be of interest. If you’d like to take a look at the sources directly, you can click any of the citations or check out our “sources” section at the bottom of this article.

1. Is Remote Work Increasing or Decreasing?

Although remote work has become more common during the pandemic, it reached a peak in the spring of 2020, when 51 percent of the workforce was working fully remote[1]. 

Percentage of U.S. Workforce Working Fully Remote, Spring 2020

Source: Gallup

2. What Percentage of the U.S. Workforce Works From Home?

Since the spring of 2020, remote work has been steadily decreasing again, with October seeing 33 percent of the U.S. workforce working remotely full time, while a further 25 percent work partially from home [1].

3. How Much Has Remote Work Increased Due to COVID-19?

According to Gallup, remote work in the U.S. has doubled since the start of the pandemic, with the average worker now having 5.8 remote workdays per month (or 20 workdays), compared to 2.4 before the pandemic[5] . However, the tendency is now trending downwards from the all-time high in the spring of 2020.

work from home mask covid
More people are working from home now due to COVID-19.

4. Will the Current Trend for Remote Work Continue After 2020?

This moves into the realm of analysis and predictions. Global Workplace Analytics, which has been studying workplace trends since 2006, estimates that somewhere between 25 percent and 30 percent of the U.S. workforce will continue to work remotely through the end of 2021[3]

5. Do Remote Workers Want to Continue Working From Home?

Whether or not people actually like the new normal of remote working has been a point of contention in 2020. Some people hate the isolation, but most remote workers love the increased freedom and lack of commuting. In the U.S. in 2020, 65 percent of people who currently work from home would like to continue to work remotely in the future[1]

6. Do People Save Money by Working From Home?

An unexpected benefit of remote working is that it can save you significant amounts of money. A whopping 92 percent of remote employees say that they save some amount of money by shifting to working remotely full time.

Here’s how it breaks down: 19 percent of remote workers say they saved significant amounts of money from remote working, 25 percent saved moderate amounts, 29 percent saved small amounts and finally, 19 percent saved minimal amounts[4]

The savings come largely from not having to commute to work. However, other factors also play into this, such as less money spent on meals and things like dry cleaning.

Amount of Money Saved by Working Remotely

Source: Global Workplace Analytics

7. How Much Money Can Businesses Save by Switching to Remote Work Long Term?

At the end of the day, it’s the bottom line that matters to a business. By combining their remote work statistics, Global Workplace Analytics has put together an estimate of how much money an average business can save by switching to remote work long term. The savings are significant, as the estimate is that businesses can save $1,400,000 per 100 employees per year[4].

8. How Much Time Do Remote Employees Save by Not Commuting to the Workplace?

A long commute is the bane of any office worker’s existence. One of the primary benefits of working from home then is completely eliminating this concern. When workers get their preferred amount of remote work days, they save an average of 75 hours per year in avoided commute time. Of this time, 47 percent of it is used to get more work done, resulting in increased productivity [4].

Not only is this great for employees and managers due to saved time and increased productivity, but it also leads to an overall reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that workers produce.

9. Is a Home Office More or Less Distracting Than a Regular Workplace?

The amount of distractions is another major concern for remote workers. The default assumption is often that someone’s home has more potential for distractions than the office, but this is not borne out in the data. Remote work statistics indicate that there are actually fewer distractions at home than in the office space.

In fact, on average, respondents to the Global Workplace Analytics study estimated that they experience 78 minutes of unwanted distractions or interruptions per day when working at the office, compared to 43 minutes per day when working from home[4].

mom work from home
On average, office workers experience more interruptions than they do while working from home.

10. How Successful Are Workers When Working Remotely?

A common concern for managers and leaders is whether employees can maintain the same degree of success while working remotely. Although a majority are happy with their success when working remotely, it’s still only 68 percent of remote workers, which means there’s significant room for improvement.

What’s interesting is that there is a huge difference in age groups when it comes to this remote work statistic. The Silent Generation, Baby Boomers and Gen X each hover around 70 percent satisfaction, but the number takes a huge dip for Millennials (59 percent) and Gen Z (44 percent). 

On the surface, this is somewhat surprising, as you’d think younger workers would be more comfortable utilizing technology to work remotely[4]

Satisfaction With Success When Working Remotely, by Generation

Source: Global Workplace Analytics

11. How Has Remote Work Impacted Overall Team Performance?

A slightly larger portion of leaders and managers are happy with their employees’ work-from-home results more so than the remote workers themselves. Additionally, 70 percent say that their teams’ performance is as good or better than it was before switching to remote work, which is two percent higher than what remote workers say[4].

12. How Productive Are People When Working From Home?

Similar to the previous statistic on how successful remote workers feel when working from home, productivity is another huge concern when making this switch. However, an entire 77 percent of employees say that they are “fully productive” when working from home, meaning that they get as much or more done when compared to coming into the office every day.

Again there’s a huge gap between generations, with Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials feeling the most productive at home (83 percent, 85 percent and 76 percent, respectively).

The two extreme ends of the age spectrum, namely the Silent Generation and Gen Z, think they are far less productive, with only 37 percent and 44 percent, respectively, feeling like they are getting as much done at home[4].

Percentage of Full Productivity When Working From Home, by Generation

Source: Global Workplace Analytics

13. How Many Jobs Are Compatible With Remote Work?

With the COVID-19 pandemic, whether or not your field is compatible with a remote work approach can be a significant factor. Only 56 percent of all jobs can be done remotely. This means that about half of the workforce is lucky enough to be able to work remotely, and thus, are protected by various stay-at-home measures[3].

14. Are Organizations Adapting Well to Remote Working?

Shifting an entire organization’s workflow into remote work has been a huge challenge for many this past year, though most companies have handled it well. In a survey of HR and engineering leaders conducted by Terminal, only 37 percent of respondents said that they lack a centralized way to manage their projects and remote worker teams[2].

zoom meeting
Finding the right tools for remote work is critical for project management.

15. How Has COVID-19 Impacted Work Culture in 2020?

Work culture has taken a significant hit in most businesses due to the increased levels of remote work in 2020. In Terminal’s study of leaders, only 27 percent of respondents said that their organization still has a strong work culture with the increased levels of full-time and part-time remote work[2].

16. Can Team Leaders Properly Evaluate Remote Employees’ Productivity?

It can be difficult to be sure how much work is actually getting done when everyone is working remotely at home rather than in the office. However, this isn’t an issue for most companies, as only 19 percent of leaders say that they struggle to evaluate an employee’s productivity when working from home[2].

laptop coffee break
Most leaders have no issues with work-from-home productivity.

17. How Do Team Leaders Track Remote Workers’ Time?

Even before COVID-19 and the remote working boom, some managers were using time tracking software to track employees’ work habits. However, a solid majority of managers (78 percent) prefer simply trusting their remote employees to self-report accurate timesheets rather than to rely on controversial time-tracking software[2]

18. Do Workers Have Adequate Access to Remote Working Tools?

Depending on the job, remote workers may need certain tools to get all their tasks done and stay productive. This can range from ergonomic chairs and standing desks to hardware like dual or ultrawide monitors. People who work remotely might even need access to certain remote work software solutions, like a VPN to connect to the office network. 

Only 72 percent of current remote workers say that they have access to all the tools that they need when working remotely, which means that more than a quarter of remote employees need better remote working conditions[4].

19. In What Parts of the World Are People Happiest to Work From Home?

Given how different work cultures are around the globe, it should come as no surprise that there is no unified global opinion on the positives and negatives of remote work. On average, workers in the Americas are the happiest to work from home, with their ideal balance being two-and-a-half remote workdays per week, which equates to working remote half-time.

The Europe/Africa/Middle East region is second, with people preferring to work remotely at least 2.3 days per week on average, while the Asia/Pacific region is dead last, wanting only 1.8 remote workdays per week on average[4].

Preferred Number of Work-From-Home Days, by Region

Source: Global Workplace Analytics

20. How Many Remote Workers Are Willing to Give up Their Office Desk?

If you work from home most of the time, it’s only natural that you don’t have a reserved workspace at your office for the days that you come in. However, this is a trade-off that not everyone is comfortable with. Depending on the type of office, 48 percent to 60 percent of workers say that they’re fine with not having an assigned desk if they get to work from home as much as they want[4]

21. How Many Office Workers Would Change Jobs if Offered More Flexible Schedules?

Not only can remote work increase employees’ productivity and work-life balance, but it can also be a key part of a business managing to retain talent. According to Gallup, just over half of all workers (54 percent) would be willing to quit their current job and take a new position if it offered more possibilities for remote work and a more flexible schedule[5].

22. What Are the Challenges of Remote Work?

Even though the statistics we’ve shared with you so far paint an overall positive picture of the state of remote work, it’s also not without its challenges. The most common of these challenges is workers finding it difficult to unplug after a day’s work, with 22 percent of respondents to Buffer’s remote work study saying they have this problem.

However, 19 percent say loneliness is the biggest challenge, which shows us that many people rely on the social environment of the office on a day-to-day basis. Also, 17 percent say that they find it difficult to properly collaborate and communicate with other team members, while 10 percent claim that they struggle with distractions at home[6]

Challenges With Remote Work

Source: Buffer

Final Thoughts

Taken as a whole, these statistics paint an overall positive picture of the effects of increased remote work. There are still significant challenges to overcome, such as organizations adapting their workflow management to better suit remote work or the ability to maintain a solid work culture. However, managers and employees alike seem pleased with the effects of working from home.

If you found these statistics enlightening and would like to read more like them — albeit about a different topic — you can check out our previous entry in this series that covers ransomware statistics and trends or dive into our VPN statistics piece.

What do you think of these remote work stats? Were you surprised by anything? If so, which figures stood out to you the most? Let us know in the comments below. As always, thank you for reading.

Sources:

1. Gallup

2. Terminal

3. Global Workplace Analytics

4. Global Workplace Analytics

5. Gallup

6. Buffer

7. Global Workplace Analytics and Flexjobs