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Welcome to the remote work balance point

Data: BLS; Graphic: Baidi Wang/Axios

The share of Americans working remotely because of COVID-19 is leveling off, according to new government data.

Why is this important: The pandemic has been a unique chance for many people to reinvent their relationship with their work, freeing them from having to be at a particular desk under a particular set of fluorescent lights at a particular time each day.

  • Life at the WFH opened up new possibilities for people who could not commute to work or who struggled in office environments due to physical or mental disabilities.

By the numbers: According to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 7.1% of American workers telecommuted because of the pandemic in June, compared to 15.4% in January.

  • This figure has been hovering around 7-8% since April, suggesting that we have reached a point of equilibrium.

Telework rates vary widely by industry.

  • A whopping 20% โ€‹โ€‹of “information” workers, 19.7% of those in finance/insurance and 17.6% of those in “professional and technical services” worked from home last month, according to the BLS.
  • Compare that to just 2.2% in construction, 2.7% in transportation and warehousing, and 3.6% in retail (obviously all areas that don’t have a ton of roles suited to distance).

Yes, but: BLS checks if people are working from home specifically because of the pandemic.

  • People who worked remotely before the pandemic are not included in the figures.
  • People who started working remotely during the pandemic and have come to love it don’t either, but may no longer see COVID as the main factor keeping them home every day ( Hello !).
  • Another report, from WFH Research, shows that people are working from home about 30% of the time โ€” and, like the BLS data, that figure hasn’t changed much in months.

The plot: Diehard bosses back in the office have struggled to call workers back from this boiling job market, as people willing to stay away have little trouble finding new WFH-friendly gigs.

  • But the tables can turn at breakneck speed in a recession and workers suddenly find themselves looking for a job, any job.

To note : The latest variants of COVID may scare people into staying home, slowing or reversing the trend of returning to the office.

Alex’s thought bubble: I’m a big fan of working from home, but even I miss office life sometimes for both personal and professional reasons. Have you ever tried to gather around the water fountain with your cats? They are not great talkers.

The big picture: For many workers, remote work appears to be here to stay โ€“ but early pandemic-era predictions of the impending death of office life were greatly exaggerated.

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