Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, April 9, 2020
This TUPdate investigates and profiles working Americans who are working from home. With the COVID-19 pandemic and economic shifts taking place now, many are not technologically ready for a work-at-home or stay-at-home experience.
MetaFacts conducted a series of surveys during the periods March 26-30, 2020, and April 8, 2020.
The demographics of working from home
Working from home is in full swing for now. Although not all workers can or are working from home, those who are mostly use (not employer-provided) personal computing devices. They also favor consumer-oriented video communications platforms. Their purchase intentions are weak, and mostly focused on backfilling the basics needed for working from home.
Two-thirds (64%) of online Americans who are employed or self-employed were working at home on April 8, 2020.
There are many Americans who aren’t. One in eight (12%) who were employed in February 2020 are not currently working.
Of those working from home, most are in upper socioeconomic groups.
More than three-fourths (78%) of adults in households with income of $85,000 or more in the prior year are working from home. This is in stark contrast to the near-half levels among those with incomes of less than $50,000 per year.
Full-time employees and those who were already self-employed in a home-based business in February 2020 also had the highest work-at-home rates.
Computing devices for work
Most workers working from home are using their own personally-purchased products as their primary computing device. 58.2% of workers working from home as of April 8th, 2020 were using a personal device versus 41.8% who were using an employer-provided device.
Among Information Workers – defined for this study as those workers who were already using an employer-provided PC in February 2020 – 39.7% are using a personal device as their primary computing device for work.
Working from home means a mobile device, even though due to stay-at-home restrictions mobile tech workers can’t bring them to coffee cafés. Working from home is a new experience for many, and most homes don’t have a dedicated workspace, much less a dedicated desk for the new work-at-home worker. So, portability even with a home is helpful. Mobile devices – notebook PCs – are the primary computing device for Americans working as of April 8, 2020.
Video calling and conferencing by those working at home
Zoom has earned a lot of attention and users during the pandemic as a popular option for anyone online working at home seeking to connect by video with friends and family, as well as with coworkers and customers. Among workers working at home, Zoom is used most widely for work video calls and video conferences. Apple’s FaceTime is most widely used for personal video calls. For personal video conferences, Skype is slightly ahead of Zoom. For personal video calls, Apple’s FaceTime leads.
More broadly, Microsoft’s, Google’s, and Facebook’s combined video communications platforms reach the greatest share of at-home workers. Microsoft’s offerings – Skype, Meet Now, or Teams – taken together are used by the most at-home workers, slightly ahead of Google’s set of offerings – Hangouts, Duo or Meet. Facebook’s set are mostly used for personal video conferences or calls.
When we asked workers about their purchase plans for the next three months, no single technology was mentioned among one-tenth of workers.
Nearly as many workers have plans for tech products or services they will purchase with their own funds as expect to have bought by their employers.
Workers expect their employers to acquire collaboration software, such as Microsoft Teams, Slack, or even cloud-based collaboration tools. Workers also anticipate their employers to set up VPNs-Virtual Private Networks to help maintain the security of their communication with their workplace networks or computers. Third on most worker’s list are an extra monitor/display and a desk, both items widely found in many workplaces.
From their own personal funds, workers plan to purchase a notebook PC, webcam, and extra monitor/display. (Presumably if their employer doesn’t come through). Other basics for replicating a work-at-home office include a headset or headphones, tablet (perhaps for working from the couch?), speakers, a chair, and a desk.
Employment and non-employment by demographics
Between February 2020 and April 8, 2020 (the date of this survey), the number of employed Americans dropped precipitously. Nationally, 88% of online adult Americans that were employed in February were still working by April 8, 2020, meaning that 12% were not. This share is generally in line with unemployment claims reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Both time periods include those working full-time, part-time, or self-employed.
The demographics about who was and was not still working shows a wide variation. Generally, fewer lower-income, part-time, and lesser-skilled workers are still working than were working in February.
The pandemic has currently affected some regions more than others. There are also regional differences in stay-at-home orders, those deemed essential, and those affected by business closures or layoffs. Among the major states, New York has the highest national percentage of non-workers, followed by New Jersey and California.
Occupation and working from home
Change in Employment from February to March 2020, by Occupation
Educational attainment and working from home
Primary Work Computing Device – February and March 2020
We asked two questions:
In February 2020, which computing device did you use as your primary work device?
While working at home, what is your primary computing device?
Benefits of working from home
Age of workers working from home
Household size for Americans working from home
Home delivery services for workers working at home
Definitions of terms used in this analysis
April 8 Workers – working full-time, part-time, or self-employed on April 8, 2020
March Workers – working full-time, part-time, or self-employed during March 2020
February Workers – working full-time, part-time, or self-employed during February 2020
Work from home – working from home as of the fielding date of the survey wave
Information workers – having had an employer-provided desktop PC in February 2020
The analysis in this TUPdate is based on results drawn from MetaFacts Pulse surveys conducted March 26-30, 2020 with 772 online adults, and conducted April 8, 2020 with 530 online adults, drawn to be representative of American online adults who were working full-time, part-time, or self-employed in February 2020.
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