When the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered workplaces nationwide, society was plunged into an unplanned experiment in work from home. Nearly two-and-a-half years on, organizations worldwide have created new working norms that acknowledge that flexible work is no longer a temporary pandemic response but an enduring feature of the modern working world.
Thirty-five percent of respondents say they can work from home full-time. Another 23 percent can work from home from one to four days a week. A mere 13 percent of employed respondents say they could work remotely at least some of the time but opt not to.
The results of the survey showed that not only is flexible work popular, with 80 million Americans engaging in it (when the survey results are extrapolated to the wider population), but many want to work remotely for much of the week when given the choice.
Eighty-seven percent of workers offered at least some remote work embrace the opportunity and spend an average of three days a week working from home. People offered full-time flexible work spent a bit more time working remotely, on average, at 3.3 days a week. Interestingly, 12 percent of respondents whose employers only offer part-time or occasional remote work say that even they worked from home for five days a week. This contradiction appears indicative of a tension between how much flexibility employers offer and what employees demand.
However, the opportunity is not uniform: there was a large difference in the number of employed men who say they were offered remote-working opportunities (61 percent) and women (52 percent). At every income level, younger workers were more likely than older workers to report having work-from-home opportunities.
The opportunity to work flexibly differs by industry and role within industries and has implications for companies competing for talent. For example, the vast majority of employed people in computer and mathematical occupations report having remote-work options, and 77 percent report being willing to work fully remotely. Because of rapid digital transformations across industries, even those with lower overall work-from-home patterns may find that the technologists they employ demand it.
A surprisingly broad array of professions offer remote-work arrangements. Half of respondents working in educational instruction and library occupations and 45 percent of healthcare practitioners and workers in technical occupations say they do some remote work, perhaps reflecting the rise of online education and telemedicine. Even food preparation and transportation professionals said they do some work from home.
Prior McKinsey research has shown that for those that left the workforce during the early phases of the COVID-19 pandemic, workplace flexibility was a top reason that they accepted new jobs. Employers should be aware that when a candidate is deciding between job offers with similar compensation, the opportunity to work flexibly can become the deciding factor.
Some obstacles were reported at much higher rates by specific groups: for example, about 55 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds offered the option to work fully remotely say mental-health issues impacted their ability to perform effectively, though only 17 percent of people aged 55 to 64 said the same. Workers with children at home who were offered full-time remote-work options were far more likely than their peers without children to report that problems with physical health or a hostile work environment had a moderate or major impact on their job.
The results of the American Opportunity Survey reflect sweeping changes in the US workforce, including the equivalent of 92 million workers offered flexible work, 80 million workers engaged in flexible work, and a large number of respondents citing a search for flexible work as a major motivator to find a new job.
At a more macro level, a world in which millions of people no longer routinely commute has meaningful implications for the commercial core in big urban centers and for commercial real estate overall. Likewise, such a world implies a different calculus for where Americans will live and what types of homes they will occupy. As technology emerges that eliminates the residual barriers to more distributed and asynchronous work, it could become possible to move more types of jobs overseas, with potentially significant consequences.
Many employers have discovered the benefits of allowing employees to work at home through telework (also known as telecommuting) programs. Telework has allowed employers to attract and retain valuable workers by boosting employee morale and productivity. Technological advancements have also helped increase telework options. President George W. Bush's New Freedom Initiative emphasizes the important role telework can have for expanding employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.
In its 1999 Enforcement Guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (revised 10/17/02), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said that allowing an individual with a disability to work at home may be a form of reasonable accommodation. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodation for qualified applicants and employees with disabilities. Reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to apply for a job, perform a job, or gain equal access to the benefits and privileges of a job. The ADA does not require an employer to provide a specific accommodation if it causes undue hardship, i.e., significant difficulty or expense.
Not all persons with disabilities need - or want - to work at home. And not all jobs can be performed at home. But, allowing an employee to work at home may be a reasonable accommodation where the person's disability prevents successfully performing the job on-site and the job, or parts of the job, can be performed at home without causing significant difficulty or expense.
No. The ADA does not require an employer to offer a telework program to all employees. However, if an employer does offer telework, it must allow employees with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in such a program.
In addition, the ADA's reasonable accommodation obligation, which includes modifying workplace policies, might require an employer to waive certain eligibility requirements or otherwise modify its telework program for someone with a disability who needs to work at home. For example, an employer may generally require that employees work at least one year before they are eligible to participate in a telework program. If a new employee needs to work at home because of a disability, and the job can be performed at home, then an employer may have to waive its one-year rule for this individual.
Yes. Changing the location where work is performed may fall under the ADA's reasonable accommodation requirement of modifying workplace policies, even if the employer does not allow other employees to telework. However, an employer is not obligated to adopt an employee's preferred or requested accommodation and may instead offer alternate accommodations as long as they would be effective. (See Question 6.)
Then, the employer and the individual need to discuss the person's request so that the employer understands why the disability might necessitate the individual working at home. The individual must explain what limitations from the disability make it difficult to do the job in the workplace, and how the job could still be performed from the employee's home. The employer may request information about the individual's medical condition (including reasonable documentation) if it is unclear whether it is a "disability" as defined by the ADA. The employer and employee may wish to discuss other types of accommodations that would allow the person to remain full-time in the workplace. However, in some situations, working at home may be the only effective option for an employee with a disability.
An employer and employee first need to identify and review all of the essential job functions. The essential functions or duties are those tasks that are fundamental to performing a specific job. An employer does not have to remove any essential job duties to permit an employee to work at home. However, it may need to reassign some minor job duties or marginal functions (i.e., those that are not essential to the successful performance of a job) if they cannot be performed outside the workplace and they are the only obstacle to permitting an employee to work at home. If a marginal function needs to be reassigned, an employer may substitute another minor task that the employee with a disability could perform at home in order to keep employee workloads evenly distributed.
After determining what functions are essential, the employer and the individual with a disability should determine whether some or all of the functions can be performed at home. For some jobs, the essential duties can only be performed in the workplace. For example, food servers, cashiers, and truck drivers cannot perform their essential duties from home. But, in many other jobs some or all of the duties can be performed at home.
Several factors should be considered in determining the feasibility of working at home, including the employer's ability to supervise the employee adequately and whether any duties require use of certain equipment or tools that cannot be replicated at home. Other critical considerations include whether there is a need for face-to-face interaction and coordination of work with other employees; whether in-person interaction with outside colleagues, clients, or customers is necessary; and whether the position in question requires the employee to have immediate access to documents or other information located only in the workplace. An employer should not, however, deny a request to work at home as a reasonable accommodation solely because a job involves some contact and coordination with other employees. Frequently, meetings can be conducted effectively by telephone and information can be exchanged quickly through e-mail. 2b1af7f3a8