FDU poll: 1 in 8 pre-pandemic workers feel they will never return to office

Follow the numbers here: Approximately half of New Jersey’s workforce began working from home when the pandemic started. Of that number, 26% said they don’t think they ever will return to the workplace full-time. In other words, one in eight workers expects to remain working from home full-time.

The findings, from a recent FDU Poll, confirm that the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workforce will be permanent — and will have enormous ramifications on local economies.

So said Dan Cassino, a professor of government and politics at Fairleigh Dickinson University and the executive director of the FDU Poll.

“We all thought the shift to working at home was going to be temporary, but more than a quarter of the people who started working from home are never going back,” he said. “The ripple effects of this are huge: This means that we have to rethink funding for mass transit, tax agreements with New York, even demands on the electrical grid.”

Here’s the thing: It remains to be seen how great the impact is that is, how high the work-from-group actually will be.

Of those who switched to working from home, only 27% said they are now going back to work full-time. That means as of the time of the poll 47% of these workers may now be involved in some type of hybrid work schedule.

The poll surveyed 803 residents between June 9-16. Here is more of a breakdown of the numbers:

  • Who’s moved to work from home: At the start of the pandemic, 67% of men and 52% of women in the survey worked outside of the home. Of them, half (51%) started working from home part-time (22%) or full-time (29%);
  • Gender comparison: Women were more likely than men to say that they worked from home part-time (22%) or full time (32%);
  • Education comparison: 70% of workers without a college degree kept going to their work during the pandemic, compared with just 36% of those with a college degree. Today, workers with a college degree are also more likely to say that they’re still working from home (40%) than those without a college degree (22%).
  • Today: Today, 35% of workers who started working from home said they’re still working from home full-time.

Cassino said the pandemic exacerbated a lot of workplace inequalities.

“Some people came out fine, but less-educated workers were less able to move to remote work,” he said. “Women were less able to balance remote work with the demands of household labor.”

There are also partisan splits in current work practices: two-thirds of Democrats (67%) said they’re still working from home at least some of the time, compared with half of Republicans (49%).

“We talk a lot about splits in views of the pandemic, but it’s not all people just mindlessly reflecting their party,” said Cassino. “The lived experience of the pandemic has been very different for Republicans and Democrats, and that has to be shaping views as well.”

Overall, 55% of men think that they’ll be back at their workplace by the end of the year, compared with just 48% of women, the survey found.

Methodology: The survey was conducted between June 9-16, using a certified list of registered voters in New Jersey. Voters were randomly chosen from the list and contacted in one of two ways. Three-quarters of the respondents (608) received an invitation through SMS (text) to fill out the survey online, via a provided link. The other quarter of respondents (193) were contacted via telephone, using the same registered voter list. The survey covers 803 registered voters in New Jersey, ages 18 and older, and was conducted entirely in English.