50% of Remote Employees Miss Their Commute (and Other Surprising Things People Miss Most About Working in the Office)

By Jane Kellogg Murray

Updated September 7, 2022 | Published November 12, 2020

Updated September 7, 2022

Published November 12, 2020

Jane Kellogg Murray is a senior editor for Indeed. Based in Vermont and living on a Christmas tree farm, she enjoys helping others find suitable work opportunities through Indeed’s Career Guide.

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To curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, a large part of the global workforce has spent the majority of 2020 working remotely. The rapid transition out of the conventional office environment has been met with mixed reactions, even more than seven months later. Indeed surveyed¹ people who made the switch to working from home due to the pandemic, and while 78% reported they have since adjusted, half of our respondents still miss their commute, 45% miss in-person meetings and 73% miss socializing with their colleagues in person.

On a deeper level, people may be missing the structure and stability they had in both their work and home lives before the pandemic dramatically threw off work-life balance for everyone. According to our survey, 63% of people believe they are working longer hours at home, and 72% of parents said they have had to cut back on their hours—with 42% of our survey respondents anticipating they may need to quit working altogether to accommodate their children at home.

In this article, we take an in-depth look at Indeed’s survey results that explain how people have transitioned to working from home—including what they miss the most about working in an office—as well as a closer look at the positive and negative outcomes of this year’s sudden shift to remote working. We also share advice from a career coach about how to alleviate negative feelings about working from home for the unforeseeable future.

Five things people miss the most about the office

Indeed surveyed people who transitioned to working remotely full-time due to COVID-19 about some of the downsides they’ve noticed. Here’s what they said:

1. 50% miss their commute

Surprisingly, half of our survey respondents say they miss their commute. While the average commute time in the U.S. pre-pandemic was 26.6 minutes each way, people may have become accustomed to the routine, and without it, they may miss some of the things they grew to like about their travel time (such as their favorite quick breakfast stop or their favorite morning radio show). Sure, you might still be able to get that breakfast or turn on the radio from home, but it’s harder to continue the routine without your regular environmental triggers. In fact, 31% of our survey respondents said they are calling mom less often without their commute. A commute can also provide a good transition between home and work life. However, on the plus side, nearly half (48%) of newly remote employees say they are using the time saved on commuting to catch up on sleep, while 35% reported they are now able to make more time for exercise and spend more time with their children.

2. 45% miss in-person meetings with their coworkers

Video conferencing platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams mean colleagues are still able to collaborate and communicate with each other, but for some, it can lead to miscommunication. Social cues like nuances in body language and tone of voice are an important part of team meetings, and they can be easier to read when you’re in the same physical space. For example, while video conferencing has made it possible for remote teams to work coherently, it’s nearly impossible to make eye contact. And if you work for a company that uses video conferencing substantially, you might also feel video conferencing fatigue.

Read more: 16 Zoom Tips for a Productive Meeting

3. 73% miss socializing in person

Before the global pandemic, the majority of employed people spent half of their waking hours at work, so it’s only natural to miss the social interactions that come with a traditional workplace. When working remotely, a quick catch up with a colleague in the break room or after a long meeting isn’t possible (46% of respondents specifically said they miss the work-related side conversations that happen in the office). Spontaneous conversations are difficult to recreate virtually.

Many workers also feel more connected to their company’s culture when they are in an office that was designed to reflect the organization’s mission and ideas. When employees look around, they can see how their role fits into the organization as a whole, and they may be constantly reminded that their work is meaningful and valuable.

If you miss working in a lively, buzzing environment, or you feel that it’s having a negative impact on your productivity or happiness, seek out those conversations with colleagues virtually or reach out to your social network outside of work. And if you aren’t able to compensate for the loss of socialization with friends outside of work, Holly Thompson, the lead career coach for Happy Onion Coaching Collaborative, suggests considering professional help. “Because of Covid and not going out as much, we're having to sit with ourselves without a million distractions, and that can be troubling for some,” Holly explains. “A lot of people are really struggling, and I encourage therapy. It can be life-changing or even life-saving.”

4. 37% miss having a daily routine tied to going to the office

Working remotely causes a significant shift in routine. Although it can have its perks for some—such as the ability to work from the comfort of home and added flexibility to manage others’ schedules in your household—it can be hard to recreate the daily routine of going to work if you aren’t physically going anywhere. Having two distinct places and times for work and home (and, well, everything else) makes it easier to separate the two each day.

Read more: How Do I Create and Stick To a Daily Schedule?

5. 64% miss fewer distractions at the office compared to working from home

A lively office with lots of people can be distracting for some, but for others, home can be even more intrusive to one’s work—be it from children or pets needing attention, outside noise in their neighborhoods (48%) like construction or lawn care, or housework and chores (46%) like laundry or dirty dishes. Distractions are especially an issue for apartment dwellers, of which 30% reported being distracted by their neighbors—51% more than employees who live in single-family homes.

Positive changes as a result of working from home

Here are some positive effects our survey respondents noted:

6 in 10 employees say their work performance is just as good at home

Despite all sorts of disruptions at home, many employees have seen that their work can be done effectively and efficiently outside of the office. In fact, 13% say their performance actually improved at home. This may be due in part to offices trending toward open floorplans, which some find problematic if they are unable to tune out colleagues’ conversations and other distractions that come with a buzzing workplace.

78% of employees say they have adjusted to working from home

Some employees crave the buzz of an office to feel motivated and to maximize their productivity. However, while some people are simply more productive in a traditional workplace, the majority of our respondents say they have adjusted to their new remote work station. While we all thrive in different environments to work our best, being adaptable is an important and highly sought-after skill that can benefit you whenever you need to transition to a new workplace in a future job.

Read more: How To Make Time for Self-Care While Working From Home

63% of employees believe working remotely was easier than anticipated

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, remote and flexible working arrangements were accelerating. While the global shift to remote working this past spring was sudden, many companies have stepped up to support their employees from afar. Nearly three in four (72%) of remote employees say their company is actively providing solutions to help improve employee collaboration, with 58% of employees reporting that their company is actively providing solutions or encouraging remote employee socialization. If you find your company isn’t supporting you and your colleagues as much as you’d like, speak up.

73% of employees agree they can maintain a daily routine at home

While 35% of our survey respondents said they miss having a daily routine and 63% say that they find themselves working more due to not taking breaks during the day, 73% of employees are in agreement that they can maintain a daily routine despite working from home. Three in four continue to take meal breaks for breakfast and lunch while working remotely, which can be crucial to breaking up the workday.

Read more: 20 Productivity Tips For Working From Home

Tips from a career coach on how to mitigate the negative consequences of working remotely

Holly Thompson, the lead career coach for Happy Onion Coaching Collaborative, offered the following advice to our survey respondents who were feeling the negative effects of working outside the office:

48% of employees say they are working more hours remotely than they did in an office

Nearly half of employees report they are working longer hours from home, and only 12% say they are now working fewer hours than they did in an office.

“It's simple to get lost in tasks and projects, and before you know it, it's been 6 hours and you haven't even been to the bathroom. Your mind, emotions, eyes, shoulders, back, wrists, hands and bladder can all suffer if you don't give yourself the care you deserve and need,” Holly says. “It's time to set some boundaries for your physical and mental health, and then honor and respect the boundaries you've created. Set a time to end the day.

Close your laptop or shut it down and walk away for the remainder of the day. Let your coworkers, supervisor or manager know about your plan so they can help support you and hold you accountable for your new boundaries. I realize not all managers are supportive of these types of boundaries and might want you to keep working more and more hours. If you're ok with this, at least make sure you're being compensated for your time and efforts. Otherwise, stick to the boundaries you've created and remember why you set them.”

63% of employees report they are working more due to not taking breaks during the day

If you find yourself working longer hours at home than you used to in the office, Holly suggests finding ways to break up the day to boost your productivity: “Try setting different alarms. Set one every hour that allows you to simply stand up, stretch and look at something besides your screens. This can take anywhere from 15 seconds to a minute. You can spare a few seconds each hour. Set a time dedicated for a lunch break, and don't work through it. Use the time to do something for yourself. Eat something substantial, take a walk, scroll through social media, play a game. You'll come back to work refreshed and feeling much better if you take this break.”

“One positive I'm personally enjoying about working from home is that I get to take breaks to snuggle my dog and take him outside. I also have time to do an at-home workout following Youtube videos, with plenty of time to shower and eat breakfast without having to run out the door and spilling coffee on myself while backing out of the driveway.” What about those bad weather days (or months)? “When I'm unable to go outside, I do a few air squats or jumping jacks just to get the blood moving. It helps to feel less sleepy and again, gets you to look somewhere besides the screens and give your eyes a break. I also recommend journaling with actual pen and paper to write out thoughts and ideas—for both work or personal stuff.”

Read more: How To Work from Home Online

47% of remote workers say they felt less prepared for the presidential election without news radio during their commute

One in three employees reported using their commute before the pandemic to listen to the news. But 42% say that without a commute, they are not as up to date on the news—with even more (47%) saying that if they were still commuting, they would have been listening to the news more and have been more prepared to vote in the presidential election.

But as our career coach Holly points out, there can be a positive side to avoiding the election news at the beginning of your workday. “There is so much conflicting info being yelled at us on the radio from biased sources, which makes me feel frustrated and anxious, personally,” she says. “Presidential election information is easily accessible through podcasts, articles, social media or a simple Google search when you have the time to research the information and digest it. Decide when you want to hear it—and when you've had enough—instead of being committed to the duration of your commute.”

Employees spent, on average, $596 to upgrade their home office during COVID

47% of our survey respondents said they changed the purpose of an existing room in their home when they shifted to working remotely, and those changes were not cheap, with 45%
purchasing new office equipment like a desk, chair, monitor or keyboard to round out their new space. However, “this should be a one-time expense, and it's also tax-deductible,” Holly points out. “And now you have an awesome at-home workspace!”

72% of parents say they need to cut back on work to accommodate their children at home

The pandemic has put added pressure on working parents. Most parents say their children are doing remote learning, either at home (31%) or an outside location. Only a third of our survey respondents are sending their children to school in-person, while 10% say they are taking a hybrid approach of in-person and remote schooling. 69% of parents say they already have or anticipate having to spend money on extra childcare and/or school help to accommodate remote learning.

Nearly three in four parents anticipate having to cut back on work hours to accommodate having their children home from school, but shockingly, 42% anticipate they will need to quit working altogether to accommodate their children being home. Mothers, in particular, are taking the brunt of the burden and are unproportionally affected by the pandemic.

“Whatever you have to do, remember that this is not forever,” Holly says. “We're finding solutions that work for right now, and then we make adjustments when those solutions no longer work. And most importantly, be kind to yourself. You're doing the best you can with what you've got.”

¹ Indeed survey, n=808 working full-time remote in the U.S. due to COVID-19

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