U.S. Economy May Have Reached “Tipping Point” in Favor of Working from Home

(The following was written by Lindsey Jacobson and appeared on cnbc.com.)

With the U.S. government declaring a state of emergency due to the coronavirus, companies are enabling work-from-home structures to keep business running and help employees follow social distancing guidelines. However, working remotely has been on the rise for a while.

“The coronavirus is going to be a tipping point. We plodded along at about 10% growth a year for the last 10 years, but I foresee that this is going to really accelerate the trend,” Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, told CNBC.

Gallup’s State of the American Workplace 2017 study found that 43% of employees work remotely with some frequency. Research indicates that in a five-day workweek, working remotely for two to three days is the most productive. That gives the employee two to three days of meetings, collaboration and interaction, with the opportunity to just focus on the work for the other half of the week.

Remote work seems like a logical precaution for many companies that employ people in the digital economy. However, not all Americans have access to the internet at home, and many work in industries that require in-person work.

According to the Pew Research Center, roughly three-quarters of American adults have broadband internet service at home. However, the study found that racial minorities, older adults, rural residents and people with lower levels of education and income are less likely to have broadband service at home. In addition, 1 in 5 American adults access the internet only through their smartphone and do not have traditional broadband access.

Full-time employees are four times more likely to have remote work options than part-time employees. A typical remote worker is college-educated, at least 45 years old and earns an annual salary of $58,000 while working for a company with more than 100 employees, according to Global Workplace Analytics.

New York, California and other states have enacted strict policies for people to remain at home during the coronavirus pandemic, which could change the future of work.

“I don’t think we’ll go back to the same way we used to operate,” Jennifer Christie, chief HR officer at Twitter, told CNBC. “I really don’t.”