Even with the promise of a vaccine, it’s clear the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic won’t simply disappear, at least not anytime soon. For working Americans, the “new normal” of working from home may simply be the new reality, as many big firms plan to make working from home a permanent part of company culture. Across the country, a vast majority of working adults whose jobs can be done remotely are still “telecommuting” to the office, and more than half want to continue working from home even after the pandemic has passed.
Whether they’re choosing to continue working remotely or their jobs have simply transitioned to an ongoing digital environment, the home office has become a long-term fixture for many families. In order to accommodate the indefinite WFH transition, families are making permanent changes to their homes to create space for working that meets all the demands (including technology) of their professional routines.
For a closer look at the process of building, and in many cases, sharing a home office, we surveyed nearly 650 professionals about the shift to working from home. Read on as we explore exactly how much money remote employees are spending to create a home workspace, where they’re setting up around the house, how many share that space with someone else working remotely, and how important a quality WFH setup is to productivity and job satisfaction.
The Cost of Working Remotely
The vast majority of Americans working from home, about 3 out of 4, had spent at least some money specifically for setting up a home work environment. While the average cost to get their offices set up at home was $572, we found many were able to establish a functional setup for much less.
Compared to 32% of professionals working remotely who reported spending more than $500 on their home workspace, another 41% said they spent between $101 and $499. More than a quarter of people working from home spent $100 or less on their home workspace. For many professionals, the cost of setting up a remote space for their job was an out-of-pocket expense, as their jobs failed to adequately supply the necessary elements to work from home effectively.
At most, 39% of remote employees said their employer provided sufficient computer equipment for work, and 36% said their employers gave them the software they needed to do their jobs. Fewer indicated their jobs provided the home office equipment and furniture they needed (22%) or adequate financial support for a home office setup (18%).
Respondents working from home said the most valuable low-cost purchases for their home office included a keyboard (97%), an internet upgrade (95%), a mouse (94%), and houseplants (94%). More than providing a natural air filter, studies suggest keeping plants in your workspace can help bolster your mood and lead to increased productivity. While more expensive, the most valuable upgrades at a moderate cost were sitting desks (99%), office chairs (98%), computers (97%), and webcams (95%).
Getting Set Up at Home
Nearly half of people working remotely reported having a dedicated home office (48%), but just as many people were learning how to work from home in shared spaces or in temporary locations.
Compared to the 48% of respondents who reported having a dedicated home office, 27% indicated they created a dedicated workspace in common rooms (including their living room and kitchen), and 26% were working in a temporary home office or shared space. On average, respondents who didn’t have work meetings to attend were less likely (37%) to operate out of a dedicated home office. While the rules of a successful virtual meeting might be fuzzy, in order to create a professional environment, it’s recommended employees have a quiet space and, ideally, one they won’t mind co-workers or bosses seeing in the background of a Zoom call.
People with a dedicated home office they could furnish or decorate spent the most, on average, with 58% spending $500 or more on their workspaces. In contrast, those working out of temporary spaces in common areas of their home or in inconsistent workspaces were the least likely to spend any money at all on their setups.
Despite many indicating their workspace was temporary or set up in a shared space in their home, 49% of respondents planned to keep their home offices set up long term (49%) or even permanently (33%). Just 15% of respondents called their home office a short-term solution. Those who were unsure of how long their remote work situations would last often spent no money on their workspaces.
Sharing Work-From-Home Spaces
Creating a space that’s conducive to workplace productivity in your home can already be challenging enough, and most people embracing the WFH transition aren’t struggling alone. Nearly 2 in 3 remote employees were also cohabitating with someone else working from home.
Sixty-three percent of people working remotely reported living with someone also working from home, typically in equitable environments. Half of those working from home with someone else said they each had comparable workspaces, while 33% reported a shared workspace. Just 17% said one person had a much better workspace than the other. When there were multiple people working from home in relatively comparable workspaces, 61% of respondents said they spent $500 or more on their WFH setup. In shared workspaces, 53% of respondents spent $100 or less.
When home workspaces were unequal, the most common explanations were that one person needed a quieter space (41%) or that one person was more in need of a better office (41%). Another 34% of respondents with inequitable home offices said one person in their home cared more about where they worked, and 22% said one person’s career was a higher priority.
Establishing Joint WHF Rhythms
A vast majority of people working at home with another person were sharing that space with a romantic partner or spouse, and many feel working so closely with their significant other has had a positive impact on their work.
Eighty-two percent of people working remotely with someone else reported sharing a workspace with their significant other, followed by their roommate (26%), sibling (25%), or other family member (20%). People cohabitating and working remotely with a romantic partner were the most likely to report spending at least $500 to outfit their workspaces (82%), compared to just 14% of those sharing a workspace with siblings or other family.
Not only did 73% of people sharing their remote workspaces say it brought them closer to the people they were cohabitating with, even more indicated sharing their workspace had a positive impact on their work. Eighty-two percent of respondents said sharing their WFH workspace was good for their work performance, followed by 77% who said it was good for their productivity and 73% for their focus. While 62% of respondents reported passive distractions as a result of sharing workspaces, many established routines that included taking work calls in other rooms (66%), having lunch together (51%), and working together in silence (46%).
We also found people who spent less money on their work-from-home setups were more likely to indicate a positive impact on their work performance and productivity when sharing the workspace with another person. Ninety-one percent of people spending $100 or less on their workspaces reported increased performance, compared to 79% of people spending $500 or more.
Not Overspending on Remote Workspaces
A vast majority of people working from home were happy with their workspaces, and spending more to create a home office setup evidently doesn’t make a major difference in the effectiveness of working from home or your productivity.
Ninety-two percent of respondents said they were happy with their remote workspaces, including 90% of people who spent $100 or less to get their offices up and running. More than the money they spent, having a private office (94%) was more likely to lead to satisfaction than working out of shared space (89%).
Having a workspace that you’re happy with can be crucial to effectively working from home. Compared to 80% of people happy with their home office who said they could focus while working remotely, just 55% dissatisfied with their workspaces said the same. Similarly, 84% of people happy with their workspace said they felt productive, compared to 64% unhappy with their space.
Feeling content with their workspaces also led to a higher rate of overall job satisfaction. Spending more to establish a workspace didn’t correlate with a major shift in job satisfaction. Compared to 89% of people who spent $100 or less on their WFH space, 94% of people spending at least $500 said the same.
Smart Spending on Remote Workspaces
For millions of Americans, the shift to remote workspaces won’t be ending anytime soon. Working remotely can present unique challenges, and creating a dedicated workspace is an important part of establishing an effective working routine. When it comes to furnishing or equipping your home office, spending more money doesn’t guarantee a better workspace. Respondents surveyed clearly indicated that being happy with their home workspace made them more likely to feel happy or productive at work, but there were minor differences in these results among people who spent up to $100 and people who spent $500 or more.
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Methodology and Limitations
We surveyed 648 full-time remote employees using the Amazon MTurk platform. Our respondents ranged in age from 18 to 83, with an average age of 38. Among our respondents, 309 were female, 337 were male, and two did not identify as male or female. In order to help ensure accurate responses, all respondents were required to identify and correctly respond to a decoyed attention-check question.
In some cases, questions and answers have been paraphrased or rephrased for clarity or brevity. These data rely on self-reporting, and potential issues with self-reported data include telescoping, selective memory, and attribution errors.
Fair Use Statement
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