Working from home (WFH) isn’t new, but it’s gotten significantly more public attention since the start of the pandemic. With all of the attention placed on this new digital working world, it seems to many that remote work is incredibly common, even as the pandemic wanes. But how common is it, really?
The answer lies in a recent survey conducted by The Atlantic with the help of Leger; 73% of respondents guessed that about half of the American workforce was working remotely. In reality, only 13.4% of employed Americans worked from home in August of 2021. Even at the height of the pandemic in May 2020, only about 35% of the American workforce was remote, reported the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Why the Misconception?
If you work from home and most of your friends and professional acquaintances do the same, then you’re more likely to believe that others share the same experience. However, that’s not the case. The grand majority of employed people in the U.S. were going into work mere months after the pandemic hit.
Though potentially harmful, this misconception isn’t shocking. In The Atlantic’s survey results, it’s clear that those who worked from home showed a tendency to vastly overestimate how many other people were in the same position.
They go on to explain that this discrepancy between expectation and reality boils down to basic human nature. We tend to think only through the lens of our own experiences, and the experiences of those we are close to and interact with on a daily basis. As many remote workers are more likely to be highly educated and in higher-paying positions, they are also more likely to be around (and befriend) people in the same economic and professional situations.
Why It Matters
This is another example of how economic divides bend perceptions and affect opinions. While many people working office jobs, or “professional” jobs, were already exposed to working remotely before the pandemic and could transition to WFH relatively easily, many essential lower- and middle-income workers such as grocery and gas clerks, healthcare workers, and those essential to the supply chain continued to go into work daily in the midst of the virus’s spread.
How Media Coverage Leads to Misconceptions
The catalyst of this misconception is not necessarily the remote workers themselves, but the media. After the pandemic began, outlets of all kinds were heavy-handed with their coverage of remote work and related topics. The online and televised world has been swamped with articles and stories about WFH, which has a significant effect on the seeming prevalence of this type of work.
The bottom line is that most people still go out and do their job the same way they used to before Covid-19 entered the picture, and it might be beneficial to appreciate having the ability to work from home.
Of course, working remotely isn’t all smooth sailing — it comes with its own set of challenges and frustrations. If you’re one of the relative few who works from home or in a hybrid environment, you can use the meeting workspace tool, Docket, to relieve some of those frustrations and discover new confidence in online communication.