Half of New Jerseyans switched to working via Zoom, Slack, email, and other remote platforms during the pandemic, and many of them doubt they’ll go back to the office full time, according to results from a Fairleigh Dickinson University poll released June 25.
Only 27% of workers who started working from home have gone back to the office full time, according to the study, and 26% of those now working from home don’t think that they’ll ever be back in their workplace.
Prior to the pandemic, 67% of respondents in the survey said that they had jobs outside of the home. Half of those folks started working from home part time (22%) or full time (29%) due to the pandemic.
Women were more likely than men to say that they worked from home part time (22%) or full time (32%). Educated workers were also more likely to work from home during the pandemic, as 70% of those without a college degree kept going to their workplace, compared to just 36% of those with a college degree.
Of those who began working from home a year ago, 35% are still working from home full time. About a quarter of respondents (27%) are going to a workplace full time, with 28% in a hybrid work environment.
“The pandemic really exacerbated a lot of the inequalities that were already in the system,” said Dan Cassino, a professor of Government and Politics at Fairleigh Dickinson University and the executive director of FDU Poll, in a prepared statement. “Some people came out fine, but less-educated workers were less able to move to remote work. Women were less able to balance remote work with the demands of household labor.”
We talk a lot about splits in views of the pandemic, but it’s not all people just mindlessly reflecting their party. The lived experience of the pandemic has been very different for Republicans and Democrats, and that has to be shaping views as well.
– Dan Cassino
There are partisan splits in current work practices, according to the poll: 67% of Democrats say that they’re still working from home at least sometimes, compared to 49% of Republicans.
“We talk a lot about splits in views of the pandemic, but it’s not all people just mindlessly reflecting their party,” said Cassino. “The lived experience of the pandemic has been very different for Republicans and Democrats, and that has to be shaping views as well.”
Nearly 4 in 10 workers currently working from home say they expect to go back to work outside their homes this year, 8% say they don’t expect to start going to work until next year, and 26% say they don’t expect to ever go back into the office.
Prior to the pandemic, many of these workers previously commuted from New Jersey to New York City or Philadelphia.
“We all thought the shift to working at home was going to be temporary, but more than a quarter of the people who started working from home are never going back,” said Cassino in a prepared statement. “The ripple effects of this are huge: This means that we have to rethink funding for mass transit, tax agreements with New York, even demands on the electrical grid.”
Only 31% of respondents would choose to go into work every day, the poll found, and 38% would rather work from home some of the time and go to work other times, and 18% would prefer to always work from home. More than half of the under 35 crowd (54%) would prefer to split their time between home and the workplace, compared to 35% of those aged 35 to 64.
“There have been some upsides to remote work, and some workers, especially younger ones, are loath to give them up,” said Cassino. “Especially for younger more educated workers, what they’ve been doing for the last year seems like a better deal than going to the office every day.”
Work habits may impact transportation policy and cost, according to FDU. One in 10 New Jerseyans use mass transit for their commute to work, a group that includes more college-educated (11%) workers than other workers (8%). The FDU announcement said that because these workers are disproportionately likely to work from home moving forward, mass transit may get less crowded, but lower ridership complicates funding for the system, which is often based on the number of riders.
“Trains and buses cost the same to run no matter how many people are on them,” said Cassino. “If a lot of commuters are staying home, someone is going to have to start paying more to keep things going.”