(The Center Square) – A survey from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago shows workers in the goods and service industries are starting to return to the office.
Thomas Walstrum and May Tysinger conducted the survey from July 12 through July 16. The survey recorded the changes in the percentage of workers from the goods and service sectors working from home at the outset of the pandemic and after the vaccine rollout.
Walstrum, of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, said the survey was done to show the change in workplace attendance during the pandemic.
“The degree to which people are working remotely now and since the pandemic started has changed drastically,” he said.
Some 135 survey responses from leaders of business and non-business organizations represented a wide range of industries such as construction, real estate, and utilities, manufacturing, transport, warehousing, and wholesale trade for the goods sector. The service industry jobs in the survey included arts and entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services, administrative, public administration, and other services such as education and health care finance, professional, scientific, and technical services.
The survey found that in the second quarter of 2020, the median share of remote workers for goods producers increased to 10%, but this share spiked to 90% for service providers. Since the second quarter, those numbers have started to decrease as businesses start to see employees returning to the office more than three times a week.
Walstrum said that because of the lack of flexibility in working from home for the goods sector, more people have started to return to work.
“According to the survey, the goods sector, by and large, is back to where they were prior to the pandemic,” he said.
Since vaccines became available, the median goods sector respondent reported a nearly full return to in-person work, but the median service sector respondent reported about 50% of their workforce was still telecommuting.
While some businesses have decided to close up offices for good, Walstrum said that due to the number of people still working three or more days in the office, most companies will continue to rent out office spaces.
“There still is this expectation that most people are going to be working in person most of the time,” Walstrum said. “My viewing of the logic is that if you have someone working from the office three or more days a week, they do have to have a dedicated workspace.”
The survey found that goods producers intend to be close to their pre-pandemic shares by the fourth quarter of 2021. Service sector respondents do not intend to be back to their pre-pandemic shares of remote workers by the fourth quarter of 2021, but they do intend to see an increase in workers returning to in-person working.