As Employees Return to the Workplace, Many Experience Increased Stress

Many employees returning to the workplace are feeling more productive, but some are also experiencing more stress.

May 8, 2022

While COVID-19 infections increase around the United States, 72% of American employees currently work in-person and 13% have a hybrid arrangement.

Twenty-eight percent of employees currently working in-person or in a hybrid model worked entirely remotely at some point during the pandemic. Among the 16% of employees who still work entirely remotely, 80% intend to continue doing so for the near future.  Eight percent intend to go back at least one day a week and 12% are not sure.

Among workers who worked entirely remotely at any point during the pandemic but have now returned to the workplace at least some of the time, 45% report that the amount of work they are getting done has improved since returning to work in-person. However, nearly as many (41%) say the amount of stress they experience has gotten worse. About three-quarters think that the way things are going for them in general has stayed the same or improved and about two-thirds say the same about their work-life balance. Among these workers, women are more likely than men to report that their stress levels have increased after returning to work in-person (50% vs. 30%).

When it comes to the sources of stress from working in-person, employees most commonly cite balancing work with other responsibilities and being exposed to COVID-19 as actual or anticipated causes of stress. Fewer consider their commute or in-person interactions with coworkers as significant sources of stress.

Women are more likely than men to cite being exposed to the coronavirus at work as a major source of stress (30% vs. 19%), while non-white workers are more likely to do so than white workers (34% vs. 18%). Non-white workers are also more likely to report commuting to work (57% vs. 45%) and interacting with coworkers (59% vs. 48%) as sources of stress.

Fifty-five percent of employees currently working entirely remotely think their overall level of stress would increase if they return to work in-person.  Specifically, the possibility of contracting COVID-19 and having to commute to the workplace are seen as possible stressors they were to return to working in-person. 

Among employed adults who never worked fully remotely during the pandemic, 45% report that the way things are going for them in general has stayed the same. However, 50% say they are experiencing more stress n general. And while most think that the amount of work they get done and their work-life balance has remained consistent, more say that it has deteriorated rather than improved. 

The nationwide poll was conducted April 14-18, 2022 using the AmeriSpeak® Panel, the probability-based panel of NORC at the University of Chicago. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cell phones were conducted with 1,085 adults. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3.9 percentage points.

  • Suggested Citation: AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.  (April 2022).“As Employees Return to the Workplace, Many Experience Increased Stress” [https://apnorc.org/projects/as-employees-return-to-the-workplace-many-experience-increased-stress/]

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