69% of Americans think the way they work has changed forever

August 8, 2020, 1:04 PM UTC

We’re living through a once-in-a-lifetime upheaval, and wherever we end up on the other side won’t be the same place we started from. How we work, where we work, and the skills we need will all change. 

Fortune Analytics got an exclusive look at Salesforce’s proprietary data to learn how the pandemic is impacting workers during—and after—the crisis. 

Since early May, the Salesforce Research Consumer and Workforce Research Series has published biweekly polls of the public. And the company’s Customer & Market Insights group regularly conducts surveys among decision makers (director level or higher). Fortune Analytics got special access to both datasets. 

Here’s what we found.


The numbers to know 


  • … of U.S. workers say the pandemic will permanently change the nature of work in their own career. 


  • … of U.S. remote workers say they miss going into the office. 63% say they’ve grown closer to their family during this time, and 67% are interested in incorporating more remote work post-pandemic. 


  • … of U.S workers say they’re considering a career change given their current work situation. 49% want to work in a less volatile role or industry than the one they currently work in.


  • … of business leaders think technology spending at their company will increase due to the pandemic. Only 11% think tech spending will decrease.


  • … of U.S. adults felt isolated in July, down from 46% in May. 42% of Gen Zers felt isolated in July, the most out of any generation, compared to 49% in May.


  • … of U.S adults are extremely concerned about their physical health during the pandemic. 21% are extremely concerned about their mental health.

The big picture

  • Americans believe their work lives aren’t going back to normal. About 7 in 10 U.S. workers say the pandemic will permanently change the nature of work in their own career. Half are considering a career change, and 2 in 3 are interested in incorporating more remote work after the pandemic. 
  • People are under once-in-a-lifetime levels of stress. When you mix a pandemic with unemployment levels above the peak of the Great Recession, you get a once-in-a-generation degree of hardship. Americans are concerned about losing their job (59%), their physical health (82%), their mental health (68%), and their long-term finances (83%). 

A few deeper takeaways

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1. Americans are worried about, well, everything.

We are living through a deadly pandemic that has already claimed the lives of more than 150,000 people in America. It’s no surprise that 82% of U.S. adults say they’re concerned about their physical health. But it’s also taking a toll on mental health, at 68%. For those who are extremely concerned about either, the percentages are incredibly close: 22% say that’s the case about their physical health, and 21% say the same thing about their mental health.

The jobless rate (11.1%) remains above double digits, and 59% of U.S. adults are concerned about their job security. The economic power in America has quickly shifted from employees to employers: It was easier to job-hop and not have to put up with a bad employer when the economy was strong before COVID-19. Expect employers to ask for more production and perhaps even chip away at benefits—like 401(k) matches. 

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2. Your business needs to go all-in on the Internet.

Some academics and publications have suggested the pandemic would could create a wave of migration from urban cores to the ‘burbs. Meanwhile, we’re seeing a migration wave from IRL to the web.

Among U.S. adults, 47% are on the Internet more since the start of the pandemic, compared to just 6% using it less. We see similar numbers for streaming videos (41% vs. 7%), online shopping (43% vs. 10%), and social media usage (41% vs. 8%).

Fortune Analytics has told readers for months that the pandemic is pushing the jump to digital years into the future. Make sure your work and business are following suit.

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3. People want their employers to heavily clean their offices.

Remote employees would like to see their employers take steps to prevent the spread of the virus before returning to the workplace. 40% say enhanced cleaning procedures would have a major impact on their decision to return, and 35% said the same thing about daily wellness checks. 

Many employers are already doing some of these, such as temperature checks—but we aren’t seeing employees return in masse. That suggests that these procedures alone won’t bring people back. Much of that hangs on the pandemic itself ending. 

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4. One bright spot in all of this: tech spending.

Employers are scrambling to cut costs, but there is one big exception: tech spending. As consumers move online and workforces stay remote, companies have been pushed to spend more on tech.

As the economy has improved somewhat, perhaps you’d think that might have reversed a little. Nope, it’s actually going up more. In early April, 19% of decision makers told Salesforce they expected to cut tech spending in the future, but when asked again in July, only 11% still expected to do so.


I’d love to know what you think of the newsletter. Email me with feedback at lance.lambert@fortune.com.

Lance Lambert

*The Salesforce Research Consumer and Workforce Research Series has published biweekly polls of U.S. adults since early. May. The most recent was conducted between July 15-16, and received 1,044 U.S. adult respondents. 

**The Customer & Market Insights group within Salesforce conducted four online surveys of its B2B audience of directors or higher who are decision-makers or influencers for business software or applications at their company. The final survey was conducted between June 30 to July 1 among, and received 170 respondents. 

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