Updated: Nov 9
Time to look at the latest facts and stats on U.S. remote work and the effect it has on small business owners in 2023.
● The recent Labor Department survey on remote work statistics is deeply flawed
● Remote work is falling but still 5 times greater than pre-pandemic levels (Forbes)
● 35% of workers with jobs that can be done remotely say they’re working from home 100% of the time (Pew Research)
The Initial Rise of Remote Work
The pandemic increased the need for working at home or remotely due to health concerns. Many experts said this would forever change the landscape of work. But when COVID subsided, many companies decided they wanted workers to return to the office.
This was a challenge because employees enjoyed working from home and had leverage due to a major shortage of workers. As the economy slowed and layoffs began, companies gained some of that leverage back.
The thing is, remote work affects more than tech workers and large corporations. Small business owners have felt the ripple effects.
● The more people work from home, the fewer shoppers hit downtown for lunch.
● Fewer Uber fares for freelance business owners (drivers) on weekdays.
● Less need for office space affected property owners which affected…
● Service businesses such as window cleaners.
That’s the short list of examples.
Plus, small business owners also have had to deal with the fallout of how work and remote work is perceived. Most small businesses don’t involve the Metaverse, Twitterland, or the cloud. Most mom-and-pop businesses are boots on the ground, aka working in physical locations.
These small business owners are affected by the overall vibe of employment in America.
*Microsoft reported remote workers were working 28 percent more after traditional hours.
Heavier workloads had to contribute to stress already sky-high from the pandemic. And which workers had to deal with this anxiety the most? Those filling the boots on the ground in grocery stores, local cafes, and service businesses.
Great for drama-fueled online video platform views, awful for small business workers. Also terrible for small business owners who kept losing good workers due to job stress.
Where is work headed now though?
“From 2019 to early 2023, job postings that say employees can work remotely at least some days of the week grew more than three-fold in the U.S.” (Bloomberg)
The above statistic can be taken with a grain of salt as this differs from city to city. But it does show that even if fully remote work opportunities decrease, hybrid work (home + in-office) will be a reality for the foreseeable future.
Since it’s a reality for large companies, this too affects small business owners.
Example: If a top-notch data analyst has the choice between hybrid work at Amazon and working fully on-site at a small company, then the smaller business will likely lose out on that talent. Same thing with an experienced bookkeeper or designer.
Small business owners are being forced to adapt to the new normal. Which is constantly shifting in these, the fastest moving times in history.
There is promising news though…
Check out these stats from the broader Pew study on how Americans view their jobs:
● 51% said they were very satisfied with their job overall
● Only 33% felt the same way about chances for a promotion
● 62% were very satisfied with their manager (67% with co-workers)
● 49% of workers who don’t take their full allotment of time off say the reason is fear of falling behind on workload
“The majority of U.S. workers overall (61%) don’t have jobs that can be done from home. Workers with lower incomes and those without a four-year degree are more likely to fall into this category.” (Pew Research)
You can imagine most small business owners never considered remote work as a possibility when they first started their businesses. Who could predict this? After all, only 7% of American employees worked remotely before the pandemic.
What about the Downsides of Remote Work?
Even tech leaders may have overestimated and over-hyped the seamless step toward working at home in pajama pants.
Disney’s CEO has stated that in-person work is needed to boost creativity.
Salesforce’s leader backpedaled even more.
“Marc Benioff, chief executive of Salesforce, which told all its employees they could go permanently remote, began voicing concern this year that productivity among some employees has been lower.” NYT
Many small business owners are probably not shocked by that news. Work cannot change overnight, despite technology companies wishing it could because Americans stuck at home during the pandemic led to booms in tech companies’ profits.
We will wrap up with three more key facts from a 2023 WFH Research report.
I believe it’s crucial small business owners stay updated on employment realities regardless of the industry they’re in. Because changes in the American workforce and attitudes affect companies both large and small, whether directly or indirectly.
1) Hybrid is the most common arrangement for employees with work-from-home opportunities
2) Top two most prevalent work-from-home industries are Tech & Finance
3) Contract / gig workers worked 48.9% of their days remotely compared to 23.5% of days by salaried workers with one main job
Investment advice offered through Private Advisor Group, a registered investment advisor.