A year ago, Fortune emailed its staff the following as it announced we’d go remote for one week: “We will reevaluate the need to extend this temporary policy next week and will communicate updates accordingly.”
Here we are 12 months later, and many of us are still working remotely. But what has a year of living through a pandemic and WFH taught us about where we are headed?
To get a sense of how people’s attitudes towards work have changed, Future Forum, a consortium backed by Slack, gave Fortune Analytics exclusive access to their survey of more than 8,500 knowledge workers or skilled office workers from around the world. The data was used to build the Future Forum Remote Employee Experience Index.
Taken together, these survey questions help paint a picture of how workers have evolved—and how the workplace must evolve, too.
Here’s what we found.
The numbers to know
- … of knowledge workers prefer a hybrid model. Another 20% prefer fully remote, and 17% want to always work from the office.
- … of remote knowledge workers say their stress is lower while working remotely; 20% say it’s worse.
- … of workers say their work-life balance is better while working remotely; 19% say it’s worse.
- … of remote workers say they’re working more hours every day, compared to 31% of office-based workers who agree with that statement.
- … of knowledge workers feel burned out.
The big picture
Workers are clear: They favor a hybrid workplace. Among knowledge workers, nearly 2 in 3 prefer a future where they split time between working in and outside of the office. While workers are hungry to continue to incorporate remote into their work lives, only 1 in 5 want to be fully remote. Why? Well, for starters remote workers report working more overall hours than their in-office peers. Simply put, it’s hard to turn off the job when your home is the office.
A few deeper takeaways
There are a lot of burned out workers—but it isn’t all WFH’s fault
Around 1 in 3 knowledge workers feel burned out.
It’s easy to see why: Slack’s data finds that 37% of knowledge workers say they’re working more hours during the pandemic, compared to 23% who say they’re working fewer hours. A sluggish economy means many employees are taking on more work, while a remote work situation has made it harder for some to unplug.
But that burnout isn’t necessarily all because of work. Instead, a lot of it can be blamed on a pandemic that endangers our lives, disconnected us from our friends, and has shuttered schools.
Here’s how Anie, a Fortune Analytics reader, put it: “Working from home as a mom, with no school in session has been THE MOST EXCRUCIATING experience of my life. A million reasons for this, many of them the same many of them different from other moms. But given the chance, I would probably do a hybrid, to coordinate WFH with days my kids were ‘at school’ and vice versa.”
WFH is improving work-life balance
Among workers, 45% say remote working is better for work-life balance than working in an office. Another 35% say it’s about the same, while 19% say it’s worse.
We’ve seen rates of stress and even mental illness rise during the pandemic. But don’t pin it all on WFH. In fact, 41% of workers say their stress is lower while working remotely vs. working in the office. Another 43% said about the same, while 20% said worse.
I’d like to know your interpretation of this week’s data. Email me with feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Methodology: The survey was conducted between Nov. 25 and Dec, 30, 2020 among an audience of over 8,500 “knowledge workers” or “skilled office workers” in Australia, France, Germany, Japan, United Kingdom, and United States. Slack used the data to calculate its Remote Employees Experience Index.