Work remote after COVID? Nearly 50% of US workers would take a pay cut for it, survey says.

  • The fifth annual State of Remote Work, conducted by Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics, was shared exclusively with USA TODAY.
  • The survey comes as nearly 1 in 4 Americans continue to work remotely or in a hybrid setting amid COVID-19 and during what experts cite as a "great resignation" cycle.
  • Among remote workers, 55% say they work more hours. About 30% of men and 21% of women reported working two or more extra hours per day.

Nearly 50% of workers in the U.S. say they would take up to a 5% pay cut to continue to work remotely at least part-time post-pandemic, according to a new survey.

About 25% surveyed also say they would quit their jobs if they couldn't work remotely, and about 70% say they've found attending virtual meetings far less stressful than being in an office alongside their colleagues.

Those are just some of the intriguing findings in a poll of more than 2,000 full-time workers in the fifth annual State of Remote Work  conducted by Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics and shared exclusively with USA TODAY.

The survey comes as nearly 1 in 4 Americans working in a remote or hybrid setting continue to do their jobs amidst COVID-19 and during what experts cite as a "great resignation" cycle. In August, a record 4.3 million U.S. workers quit their jobs (compared to 10.4 million job openings, often at higher pay), the Labor Department reported, many for COVID-19-related reasons, including the ability to not work at the office.

The mass job openings are currently giving workers an advantage who are now looking for significant compensation, health care benefits and great technology to work both in and out of the office, said Frank Weishaupt, Owl Labs CEO. 

"The data is very clear from this perspective that worker flexibility is here to stay and companies need to start thinking with a remote-first mentality," Weishaupt said. "Going forward, it will almost always be the case that at least one person will be in your meeting on a screen."

A graphic by Owl Labs and Global Workplace Analytics shows what remote workers want in comparison to their employers' requirements.

Of those surveyed who mainly worked from home during the pandemic, 73% have returned to the office for at least one day a week, with 25% of those workers returning since September, Weishaupt said.

The survey also showed more than half say they prefer to work from home full-time, and 91% say they are at the same productivity level – or higher – compared to working in the office.

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And, 74% say working from home would make them happier post-pandemic as a quarter of those surveyed say they will quit their jobs if they can't work remotely (with Gen Z representing the largest age group).

Of those surveyed who changed jobs during the pandemic or were seeking new opportunities, 90% say they want a better career. About 88% want a better work-life balance and 87% want lower stress. About 84% of workers say they want more flexibility in where they work, and 82% want more flexibility in when they work.

How much of a pay cut would you take to work remotely? Here's what more than 2,000 workers in an Owl Labs and Global Workforce Analytics survey have to say.

Also, 64% of workers who worked from home say their top preferred meeting preference is a hybrid video conference call.

"It's the technology that's saved us during the pandemic," said Kate Lister, the president of Global Workplace Analytics. "We now see that workers can be just as productive in a hybrid environment compared to the perception that they wouldn't be in an office."

Lister said the virtual meetings have proven beneficial for introverts and minorities who may have been more hesitant to speak during in-person gatherings.

"It's just clear that when we think about work, there's no going back to the way things were," Lister added.

Despite the new mindset, Lister said about 38% of workers surveyed said their employer had upgraded their video technology to allow for more hybrid collaboration as nearly 40% of their employers want employees back in the office. Still, only 30% of workers want to be.

Also, the survey said the 73% of employees who have returned to the office at least one day a week, millennials represent the most significant percentage at 60%, followed by Generation X at 25%, baby boomers at 8%, and Generation Z at 7%

Gen Z is the lowest because the younger workers are more eager to go back to the office to interact with their colleagues. Lister said they might not have the living space compared with their older, more experienced colleagues.

"The office is the center of their social life and well-being," Lister said. 

But younger workers who prefer remote working are fleeing from their offices, according to the survey. Workers between the ages of 26 and 40 accounted for two-thirds of moving from urban to suburban areas. The survey noted that about 63% of that age group also moved urban to rural areas and more than half from suburban to rural locations. 

Also, 56% of workers say they would be interested in implementing virtual reality and holograms into their new work lives. Weishaupt said these workers want to take advantage of the so-called metaverse, an online virtual world incorporating virtual and augmented reality, video, 3D holographic avatars and other not-yet-created forms of technology. 

And for those who prefer remote work, 55% say they work more hours. About 30% of men and 21% of women reported working two or more extra hours per day.

"That's the double-edged sword," Lister said. "Overworking has always been a problem with working remotely or from home as it can be really hard to turn it off at the end of the day. 

"We still need to learn how to set those boundaries to manage our time and energy better because it's not good for the worker or the company," Lister added.

For others, remote working has given employees a better work-life balance and more autonomy instead of a traditional 9-to-5 workday,  Weishaupt said. He appreciates not always having to make a three-hour commute to work five days a week.

"I can give that time back to work, spending time with my family, and for my own physical and mental health," Weishaupt said. "I'll happily take that trade-off."