Published: February 9, 2021
As the COVID-19 pandemic nears its one-year anniversary, people are taking stock of how the changes implemented to slow or stop the spread of the virus are affecting them, and what modifications they want to see remain after the pandemic is over.
One such change that has generated a lot of discussion is the long-term practice of working from home. According to a Gallup poll from September 2020, one-third of American employees were still working from home full-time, down from a peak of 51% in April, with an additional 25% of people saying they were working from home sometimes.
A recent OnlineTherapy.com survey of 1,000 Americans who have been working from home full-time throughout the pandemic found that the practice has had both positive and negative effects on individuals’ mental health. While more people said that their mental health has improved since they started working from home, roughly one-third of those surveyed said their mental health has worsened while working remotely.
However, the majority of survey respondents, 67%, said they think employers should continue giving people the option to work from home even after the pandemic has ended, pointing to a potential long-term change in where and how people work.
- 45% of people working from home say it has improved their mental health
- 50% of people who prefer working from home would take a pay cut to permanently work from home
- 65% of people found therapy helped them deal with worsening mental health related to working from home
- 70% of survey respondents say employers need to invest more in mental health resources for employees
45% of people working from home say it has improved their mental health
Of the 1,000 people surveyed, 45% said that their mental health has improved since they started working from. Thirty-two percent said their mental health has worsened, and 23% said they weren’t sure, or did not respond.
Individuals ages 45-54 were most likely to say that their mental health improved during the work-from-home period, with 54% of people in this age group saying the shift had a positive effect. Men were also slightly more likely than women to notice improved mental health since working from home, with 49% of male respondents seeing improvements, compared to 42% of women.
Regardless of whether working from home improved their mental health, the majority of survey respondents, 67%, said that even after the pandemic ends and it is safe for employees to go back to work, employers should still give their employees the option to work from home. Only 18% of respondents said they don’t think employers need to give their employees a work-from-home option going forward, while 15% weren’t sure, or did not answer.
Working remotely also does not appear to have impacted employee productivity, at least according to employees themselves. Seventy-two percent of respondents said their productivity levels have stayed the same or improved while working from home, while only 20% of people said their productivity has decreased.
Working from home improved mental health by creating a better work-life balance for 50% of employees
When asked why they think working from home has improved their mental health, 50% of people said it is because it has helped them achieve a better work-life balance, citing the ability to be more flexible with their work schedule, and make more time for hobbies and exercise.
Working from home is also enabling employees to get more sleep, which can improve mental health. Nearly one-fourth of respondents, 23%, said that working from home allows them to sleep in longer, while 12% said there are less distractions when working from home.
Although the hardships facing parents who are juggling remote work, homeschooling, childcare, and other responsibilities are well-documented, especially for working mothers, our survey found that individuals with children and individuals without children found that working from home improved their mental health at similar rates.
Parents were slightly more likely to say that working from home has allowed them to achieve a better work-life balance. Fifty-three percent of parents cited this as the reason that their mental health has improved, compared to 46% of people with no children. Additionally, 11% percent of parents and 13% of people without children said there are less distractions while working from home, which has had a positive effect on their mental health.
People like working from home so much that more than one-fourth of respondents in this group, 28%, said that they would quit their job if their employer mandated that they return to in-person work. However, the majority, 52%, said they would not leave their current job if they had to return to their job in person.
In another indicator that working from home might be here to stay, 50% of people who saw positive mental health benefits from working from home said that, in the future, they would take a full-time job that paid less, but had a permanent work-from-home option over a job that paid more, but did not give them the option to work remotely.
Almost ⅓ of people whose mental health has worsened while working from home have sought therapy
Among the 32% of people who said their mental health has worsened while working remotely, 30% have utilized the services of an in-person or online therapist to address the issues. However, the majority of people in this group, 54%, have not sought therapy services, and 16% did not respond.
People ages 35-44, and 18-24 were the most likely to seek some sort of therapy, with 39% of 35-44 year-olds, and 34% of 18-24 year-olds saying they utilized online or in-person therapy because of their worsening mental health. Only 19% of people ages 54 and older sought therapy, while 51% of people in this age group did not, and 30% chose not to answer.
The blurring of the work-life balance was the main reason people cited for why working from home has negatively impacted their mental health. Forty-one percent of people said their mental health deteriorated because they couldn’t “shut off” from work when they weren’t physically separated from their job.
Meanwhile, although 23% of people who said working from home improved their mental health because they were able to get more sleep, 18% of people who said working from home worsened their mental health said it is because their sleep patterns have been disrupted.
The presence of children did not seem to significantly impact why people feel their mental health has deteriorated while working from home, with 41% of parents, and 40% of childless individuals saying it is because of losing their work-life balance. People without kids were slightly more likely than parents to say that their sleep patterns have been disrupted while working from home, at a rate of 22% to 15%.
65% of people who sought therapy for declining mental health saw improvements
Of the individuals who sought therapy to help them address their mental health while working from home, only a slight majority, 53%, said their employers or employee benefits package covered the cost of their therapy. Thirty-nine percent of people in this group said their employer did not cover the costs, and 8% weren’t sure, or chose not to answer.
For people who did utilize in-person or online therapy, the overwhelming majority, 65%, said it was useful in helping them improve their mental health. Only 15% said it did not improve their mental health, and 20% weren’t sure, or did not answer.
Despite the negative impact that working from home had on their mental health, 54% of people said that in the future, they would take a full-time job that had a permanent work-from-home policy if it offered them more money, while only 23% of people said they would choose less money for the opportunity to work permanently in an office.
Additionally, while working from home has had a negative impact on their mental health, 65% of respondents said they will not quit their jobs, even if they don’t soon have the opportunity to return to in-person work. Fifteen percent of people said they will quit if they can’t stop working from home soon, and 20% weren’t sure, or did not respond.
Regardless of how working from home impacted their mental health, and whether they utilized mental health services, the overwhelming majority of survey respondents, 70%, said they think employers need to be investing more in mental health resources and capabilities for their employees. Perhaps this is a sign of another change to the post-pandemic working world.
The data from this report comes from an online survey administered by online survey platform Pollfish. The survey was created and paid for by OnlineTherapy.com. In total, 1,000 Americans ages 18 to 54 and older who are currently working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic were surveyed. Respondents were grouped into two categories: those who say working from home has improved their mental health, and those who say working from home have worsened their mental health. Respondents were then asked specific subsets of questions based on their mental health status. This survey was conducted from February 1-2, 2021.
Full Survey Results
Overall, do you believe that working-from-home during the coronavirus pandemic has improved or worsened your mental health?
- Working from home has improved my mental health (45%)
- Working from home has worsened my mental health (32%)
- Not sure/I’d rather not say (23%)
Why has working from home improved your mental health?
- I’ve been able to sleep-in longer (23%)
- I’ve found a better work-life balance as I can be more flexible with my work schedule and have time for hobbies (i.e. getting a dog, going for walks) (50%)
- I’ve been able to avoid co-workers I don’t like (8%)
- I’ve just had to deal with less distractions (12%)
- Other/None of the above (7%)
If your job stopped its work-from-home policy today and mandated everyone return to the office, would you quit?
- Yes (28%)
- No (52%)
- Not sure/I’d rather not say (20%)
Going forward, would you take a full-time job where you would be making less money but had a permanent work-from-home option as opposed to a job where you would be making more money but had no work-from-home option?
- I would take the job with less money but with a work-from-home option (50%)
- I would take the job with more money but with no work-from-home option (32%)
- Not sure/I’d rather not say (18%)
Why has working from home worsened your mental health?
- It’s blurred my work-life balance (i.e. I can’t “shut off” from work because there’s no separation from my life) (41%)
- I’ve found it hard to justify taking days off or taking a vacation (15%)
- I’m paranoid/anxious about what other employees are doing or might be saying about me since I’m not around them (16%)
- It’s ruined my sleep patterns or my routine (18%)
- Other/None of the above (10%)
Since working from home has worsened your mental health, have you utilized the services of an in-person or online therapist while working from home?
- Yes (30%)
- No (54%)
- I’d rather not say (16%)
Has your employer or your employee benefits package covered the costs to see this in-person or online therapist?
- Yes (53%)
- No (39%)
- I’d rather not say (8%)
Has the in-person or online therapist improved your mental health?
- Yes (65%)
- No (15%)
- Not sure/I’d rather not say (20%)
Has your job provided you with the option to return to work?
- Yes (39%)
- No (47%)
- I’d rather not say (14%)
If your job does not provide you with the option to return to work soon, will you quit?
- Yes (15%)
- No (65%)
- Not sure/I’d rather not say (20%)
Moving forward, would you take a full-time job where you would be making less money but were allowed to work in-office or a job where you would be making more money but has a permanent work from home policy?
- I would take the job with less money but allowed me to work in-office (23%)
- I would take the job with more money but had a permanent work from home policy (54%)
- Not sure/I’d rather not say (23%)
When the coronavirus pandemic eventually ends and life/work goes back to normal, do you think employers should still give employees the option to work-from-home?
- Yes (67%)
- No (18%)
- Not sure/I’d rather not say (15%)
While working from home during the pandemic, do you think your work productivity has increased or decreased compared to pre-pandemic levels?
- My productivity has increased (39%)
- My productivity has decreased (20%)
- My productivity is about the same (33%)
- Not sure/I’d rather not say (8%)
Due to the coronavirus pandemic and everything else that has happened in the last year, do you think employers need to be investing more in mental health resources/capabilities for employees?
- Yes (70%)
- No (13%)
- Not sure/I’d rather not say (16%)