How Working from Home Changed Us

Extra hours. New health issues. Teenage vs. younger kids at home. What the data tells us.

 A worker with other individuals in the background and a thought bubble showing a brain and a bunch of clocks, indicating other people’s schedules.

Last spring saw a mass migration from office work to working from home as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic. To assess the impact of that shift, USC researchers surveyed a random sample of working-aged individuals in the U.S.

The researchers included Burcin Becerik-Gerber, Dean’s Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering; Gale Lucas, research assistant professor at the USC Institute for Creative Technologies; and Shawn Roll, associate professor in the USC Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. Together, they analyzed responses from nearly 1,000 people detailing everything from physical and mental health impacts to how different workspace setups affected productivity. Below are some of their findings.

Working from home means an individual will sit at their work station an average of 1.5 hours more than when in a typical office setting.

1) Working from home means an average of 1.5 hours more time spent at home workstations than when in a typical office setting. This was particularly true of people working in the health care and social services sectors.

A worker pictured with her young school-aged child spends significantly more time working than a worker without children. The clock shows a later end time for the worker who has to supervise her child than the worker who doesn’t.

2) School-aged children, especially younger ones, need more guidance and supervision with the addition of remote learning. Workers with school-aged children at home reflected this additional burden, reporting spending significantly longer at their workstations than those without children.

Survey results showed that 64.8% of respondents reported new physical health issues and 73.6% of individuals reported new mental health issues as a result of working from home during the pandemic.
3) Physical and mental well-being corresponded positively with productivity. At the same time, 64.8% and 73.6% of respondents reported new physical and mental health issues, respectively.
A worker surrounded by her school-aged kids shows a completed to-do list. 4) Teenagers seem to be a game-changer. Those with teenagers at home, on average, did not report new physical or mental health issues, and reported greater productivity than those without teenagers at home.

A woman with a brain on her left side and glasses on her right side. 5) Female respondents and those in the lowest income groups (with annual salaries less than $100,000) reported having new health issues in two or more categories more frequently than males and those in higher-salary categories.