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COVID-19 Shook Up Work Life for American Employees— But Most Don’t Expect the Changes to Last

Written by
Jessica Walrack
Jessica has spent the last eight years writing engaging personal finance content. Her work has been published on industry-leading sites such as The Simple Dollar Bankrate,, and more.
Edited By
This article was created with the help of AI technology, thoroughly edited by a member of our editorial staff, and vetted for accuracy by one of our fact-checkers.
Fact Checked by
Tamara Altman
Dr. Altman has over 25 years of experience in social science, public health, and market research, statistics, evaluation, and reporting. She has held positions with, and consulted for, many government, academic, nonprofit, and corporate organizations, including The Pew Charitable Trusts, the National Park Foundation, Stanford University, UCSF, UC Berkeley, and UCLA.
Read time: 4 min
Updated on August 17, 2023
man with glasses with his hand on his chin trying to find where to go for financial education during the COVID-19 crisis on his laptop
Learn how COVID-19 affected work life for employees and if they think the changes will be long-lasting.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted work life for American employees? In April of this year (2022), we commissioned The Harris Poll to run an online survey and find out. Almost 1,000 Americans who were employed at the time of the survey and during COVID were asked about the shifts they experienced. So, what did we learn? Here are the key takeaways you should know.

How has COVID-19 changed work for employees?

COVID-19 changed work life for employees in several ways. As business owners tried to adapt and keep their companies above water, they had to make adjustments. These included shifting employees to remote work, changing hours, adjusting pay, and more. Here's a closer look at some of the most common changes that employees in our survey reported.

Remote work

According to the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), only 6% of employed Americans worked remotely before the pandemic. However, about a quarter (26%) of workers who were employed at the time of the survey and during COVID reported that they started working from home or did so more often after the coronavirus outbreak. When looking at which employees started working from home, 74% had a household income of $75K or more per year and 91% had attended at least some college.

Fluctuating hours, pay, and responsibilities

COVID-19 also caused work hours, responsibilities, and pay rates to fluctuate. Our survey revealed that 19% of employees who were employed at the time of the survey and during COVID were given unexpected time off, 22% worked more hours, and 20% had fewer hours. Additionally, 19% received increased pay, 15% had their pay cut, and 21% said their job responsibilities increased.

Job security and stability

With so much change it’s not surprising that 15% of employees who were employed at the time of the survey and during COVID said they experienced a decrease in their sense of job stability and security after the pandemic hit. It was a time filled with uncertainty for some.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect employee satisfaction?

The COVID-19 pandemic caused changes to daily work life, but how did it impact employees on a personal level? Were the changes positive or negative? About 40% of the employees who were employed at the time of the survey and during COVID in our survey said that the changes had a positive effect on their overall satisfaction with life, while 36% reported a negative overall impact. Further, 43% reported that the pandemic had a positive impact on their work/life balance, while 32% reported a negative impact.

How did working from home impact American workers?

What were the experiences like for those employees who worked from home more during the pandemic? There were some notable benefits reported always/often, including:

  • 63% felt they had more flexibility
  • 56% said they got more work done
  • 54% said they spent less on daily expenses
  • 52% found it easier to balance work with family/personal responsibilities
  • 48% felt they had a more balanced life
  • 34% felt less distracted

However, some employees who worked from home more during the pandemic reported negative outcomes including:

  • 35% felt less connected to coworkers
  • 28% said work felt never-ending
  • 27% were more distracted
  • 25% thought it was harder to balance work with family/personal responsibilities
  • 24% felt that they had a less balanced life

Was working from home budget-friendly?

When you switch from commuting to working from home, you'll likely start saving on gas right away. Plus, incidental expenses like eating out for lunch and coffee on the way to work disappear. But did employees who shifted to more remote work save money? 54% of employees who worked from home more during the pandemic said they spent less on daily expenses. Of those who saved:

  • 72% spent less on food (62% - dining out, 19% - groceries)
  • 69% spent less on gas for their vehicle
  • 55% spent less on clothing
  • 43% spent less on transportation
  • 42% spent less on entertainment
  • 28% spent less on makeup

Will shifts from COVID-19 be long-lasting?

While the severity of coronavirus cases and restrictions have eased, will the shifts to work life for employees continue? Time will tell. However, the majority of employees who were employed at the time of the survey and during COVID who experienced changes in their work like during the pandemic (other than losing/getting a job) aren’t expecting them to hold. Nearly one-quarter (22%) thought working from home would continue, followed by 17% who expected increased hours to continue, and 17% who thought increased job responsibilities would continue. It tapers off from there, showing that the majority don’t think the changes will be long-lasting.


Survey Method:

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of OppFi from April 12 - 14, 2022 among 989 U.S. adults ages 18 and older who are currently employed and were employed during COVID. The sampling precision of Harris online polls is measured by using a Bayesian credible interval. For this study, the sample data is accurate to within + 2.8 percentage points using a 95% confidence level. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables and subgroup sample sizes, please contact


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