Over the past week, the nation’s workforce has been thrust into new working environments as we collectively work together to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. A Consumer Intelligence Snap Poll from G&S Business Communications conducted between Friday, March 20 and Saturday, March 21 found that 26% of Americans who previously worked in a physical location are now working from home. Twenty-seven percent have continued to go to work in a physical location, and 13% have either permanently or temporarily lost their jobs due to the virus.

As more states go on lockdown and businesses take individual actions to stem the tide of the virus, one thing is clear: We have reached a new stressing point. However, this looks very different for Americans who are now working from home and for those who must continue to commute to a physical location.  From new routines to new technologies, childcare challenges to safety concerns, here’s what weighs most heavily on America’s workforce today.

Stressing Points: Americans Working from Home

  • The top challenges for remote workers overall are finding a way to exercise, working through tech issues and communicating with colleagues. Among those Americans who started working from home due to coronavirus, top challenges include lack of exercise (45%), setting up technology (40%), managing time effectively (36%) and communicating with colleagues (31%). Thankfully, just 12% of remote workers say rationing toilet paper in their household has been a challenge.

  • Parents with kids in the home are having a particularly challenging time working remotely. Sixty-three percent (63%) of parents with children 18 years old or younger are juggling to keep kids occupied and working at the same time. Forty six percent (46%) are juggling homeschooling, and 44% are navigating distractions from their children.

  • Many employees are rapidly adapting to working from home. Americans who have started working remotely due to the coronavirus are quickly adapting to their new working environment. In fact, 79% say it was at least somewhat easy for them personally to adapt to remote working, while 68% say it was at least somewhat easy for their company as a whole to adapt to remote working.

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  • They are finding new ways to cope with being remote. Over half (53%) of new remote workers say they take breaks from work every few hours, and 42% have established a dedicated workspace in their home. Though lack of exercise and overeating posed challenges for some Americans who are now working from home, over a third (35%) are spending time outdoors before, during or after work, and a fifth (20%) are finding time for mental health checks or meditation. Still, 28% find themselves working longer hours than they were before, and 12% are drinking more alcohol.

  • Thirty percent of new remote workers say they are using video meetings to connect with colleagues more often than they were two weeks ago. However, some are still adapting and building confidence in the use of video meetings.
    • 30% worry that a family member or pet will interrupt their video meetings
    • 24% don’t like video because they don’t want people to see their appearance
    • 33% are more motivated to dress nicely than they normally would when working from home when they know they have video meetings during the day
    • 18% worry that people will judge their home décor when they are seen on video
  • Remote employees are counting on their employers to provide support. Employees say their employers can support them as they work from home by covering data costs (41%) and communicating about company technology updates and trainings (36%). A quarter (26%) could use more social connection, saying their companies could provide opportunities for colleagues to virtually connect with each other through informal events.

Stressing Point: Workers Going into Physical Locations

Despite a clear directive to practice social distancing and avoid nonessential work and travel, workers in essential occupations must continue to commute to work. While many newly remote workers may regard them with envy, these workers face their own set of challenges as they navigate the crisis while on the job.

  • Many Americans have no choice but to continue to work in physical locations. As of Saturday, March 21, of those employees who are still commuting to a physical location for work, 58% say their job cannot be done remotely. Eleven percent are still going to work because they are not worried about contracting the coronavirus.
  • Many employees going into work find it difficult to practice social distancing at work. Among those still going in to work, 52% are finding it challenging to maintain a safe distance from other people at work. Over a quarter (26%) are finding it challenging to maintain focus on job duties. Many are juggling the added responsibility of remaining stocked up on food and supplies at home (38%), including toilet paper (22%).

  • Still, they believe their companies care about them and are taking measures to protect them. The majority of employees who continue going into work believe their company/organization cares about the health of employees (77%) and that their company/organization has done a good job explaining to employees the safety precautions that are being taken at physical locations (77%).

  • Most companies have started taking precautions to protect the safety of their workers in physical locations. Although many employees are finding it difficult to maintain a safe distance from other people at work, 62% say that their employers are encouraging social distancing. Just over half say their company is increasing cleaning or sanitation efforts (56%) or providing hand sanitizer for personal use (54%). Over a third say their company is reducing the number of staff onsite at any given time (37%), canceling in-person meetings (37%) or offering more protective gear or resources (36%). Six percent say their organization isn’t taking any protective measures.

  • While the stressing points differ among those who are working remotely and those who are not, collectively, Americans are more concerned about health than economic impact right now.

Methodology

The G&S Snap Poll was fielded March 20 - 21, 2020, with a representative online U.S. sample of 1,080 adults, ages 18+. The sample has been balanced for age and gender using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States.

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