Working from Home: A Survey of Patterns and Attitudes

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One of the very few pieces of good news resulting from the corona crisis is the increase in people working from home (WFH). Unfortunately, workers from lower socioeconomic groups are not benefiting from this change.

In recent years, ‘Working from Home’ (WFH) has become more common. The outbreak of the corona pandemic has led to a dramatic increase in the prevalence of this work pattern.

This survey, the second in a series, aimed at gaining a deeper understanding of the scope and characteristics of WFH in Israel as of July 2020, in the midst of the second wave of the Corona virus. 

The survey is based on a representative sample of the working population, and includes 757 respondents, of whom 599 are salaried employees and 158 are self-employed. The sample included 606 Jews and 151 Arabs.

361 men and 396 women were included in the survey, constituting 48% and 52% of the sample, respectively. The sample was adjusted to reflect the current distribution by gender in the labor force in Israel: 53% of men (1,981,832 workers) and 47% women (1,746,179). 

281 workers reported WFH – 144 women, and 137 men; 241 Jews and 40 Arabs; 49 high-tech employees and 232 from other economic branches. 

Daphna Aviram Nitzan, Director, Center for Governance and the Economy, Israel Democracy Institute: "This survey reveals that for weaker populations, working from home (WFH) during the coronavirus crisis has been a missed opportunity. Despite the sharp increase in the number of people reporting that they are working either part or full time from home since the outbreak of the pandemic, we see relatively low rates of WFH among populations from geographically peripheral areas, Arab Israelis, and low-income workers. This finding is consistent with the physical difficulties in WFH reported by the respondents, including the lack of appropriate work space, office equipment, internet connectivity, and more. Another explanation for the low rate of WFH in the periphery is the fact that many workers in these areas are employed in jobs that require physical presence at the workplace, as opposed to those working in more central areas of the country.”

"This data serves as a warning sign and highlights the need for ensuring that all workers are given equal opportunity to opt for WFH. The responsibility for this situation rests, in part, with employers, who must provide their workers with the necessary conditions to make this a feasible option. At the same time, given that the government is the largest employer in Israel, the public sector must lead by example, by providing equal opportunities for WFH. Additionally, the State must fulfill its responsibility as a regulator, and provide the necessary conditions to ensure that WFH is available to all workers, rather than –as in the current situation–benefitting only the stronger groups in the labor force."

Main Findings

As of July, 43% of the working population (salaried employees and self-employed) were working from homeIncludes those working only from home and those combining working from home with working in the office/place of employment.. Most of them began working from home due to the coronavirus, with only 9% working from home before the pandemic broke out. The percentage of self-employed Israelis working from home (71%) was higher than that of salaried workers (38%). The percentage in the public sector (33%) was relatively low compared to that in various economic branches (46%), and to the particularly high rate in the hi-tech industry (70%). 

Surveys conducted during the initial phase of the epidemic by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) found significantly lower rates of working from home. The main reason for this is that unlike the CBS surveys, in which employers were asked how many of their employees were working from home “today,” the current survey asked workers if they were working from home “These days.” Thus, this survey includes a broader population of people working from homeWorkers from home include anyone working from home, at least part-time, due to the coronavirus crisis, as well as those who worked from home full- or part-time before the crisis.

Working from Home Deepens Social Gaps

Socioeconomically disadvantaged populations have less opportunity to work from home: 30% of workers in lower-income households (up to NIS 10,000 per month) are working from home, compared with 48% of those in higher-income households. Similarly, the proportion of those working from home among population groups with lower levels of education (16%) is much lower than among those with an academic or technological education (53%).

Overall, fewer Arab Israelis are working from home than Jews (30% versus 46%). This can be attributed to the low percentage of Arab men working from home (18%), while among women---the percentage working from home (42%) is similar to that among Jewish women. This finding brings to light the potential for increasing employment rates among Arab women by providing options for working from home, in routine times as well.

The rate of those working from home is particularly high in the 35–54 age group (53%); among parents of young children (48%); and among residents of Tel Aviv and the Central Region (50%).

The survey reveals that a lower percentage of residents of Israel’s geographic periphery are offered the option to work from home: 38% of residents in the periphery (in its broadest sense – that is, in all areas outside Tel Aviv and the Central Region) are working from home, as compared with 50% of those residing in the center. This gap may be linked to the fact that a higher percentage of residents in the periphery are employed in occupations, with limited opportunity for working from homeAccording to the survey, 31% of residents of Tel Aviv and the Central Region work in occupations that require their physical presence, compared with 44% in other areas.. In any case, this is a finding that requires further investigation in order to understand the barriers to working from home for those living in peripheral areas. .

The majority of respondents (74%) believe that the option of working from home would, to a great or very great extent, open up employment opportunities for a broader range of population groups (single parents, residents of the periphery, people with disabilities, older workers, and more). This belief is more common among respondents with higher incomes (84%) than those with lower incomes (67%).

More than half of those working from home (52%) reported that they were able to carry out their work with a high or very high degree of efficiency, as compared to the level of their efficiency in the workplace. The proportion of those in the private sector who reported being able to work efficiently (57%) was higher than in the public sector (45%).

A relatively high proportion of those aged 35+ reported being able to carry out their work at home with a high or very high degree of efficiency, compared with those aged 18–34: 55% versus 45%, respectively.

As expected, the efficiency of working from home declines when there are children present: 44% of parents whose children were not in educational frameworks due to the epidemic said that their children’s presence at home had a significant negative impact on their work efficiency.

Most of those working from home (74%) encountered difficulties in doing so, most common among them – a lack of office furniture or equipment (chair/desk/suitable lighting/printer), a lack of face-to-face personal interaction, and a lack of a quiet place to work. The percentage of those reporting difficulties was even higher (80%) among those who began working from home only recently, due to the coronavirus epidemic.

Residents of the periphery reported the highest frequency of difficulty working from home due to the lack of a quiet work area (37%), while residents of Tel Aviv and the center most frequently reported the difficulty as lack of physical contact and lack of office equipment (37%).

The majority of respondents (80%) were interested in working from home in routine times as well, with the preference being to work from home for about half the work week—on the average, for 2.4 days.

Approximately one-half (49%) of salaried workers who expressed interest in working from home at least once a week in routine times, are willing to take a pay cut or to waive payment for travel expenses, parking, or per diem reimbursements in order to do so. The proportion of those willing to make these concessions was relatively high among the younger age group (18–24), Arabs, and those with lower incomes.

It appears that working from home has a positive impact on workers on satisfaction with the work-life balance: 71% reported being satisfied with their work-life balance in this current IDI survey (July 2020), compared with 59% in the 2016 CBS Social Survey.

Link to the full Hebrew report

Rachel Zaken, Researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute: "The low rate of workers who can take advantage of the option of ‘Working from Home’ (WFH) among weaker populations reflects the untapped potential of this pattern of work. In part, this stems from the skepticism of the workers themselves as to the feasibility of this work arrangement, despite their desire to work in this way. At the same time, the barriers preventing these workers from WFH reinforce their perception that they cannot take advantage of such opportunities. The survey found that among these population groups, a relatively low percentage believe that WFH will open up additional employment opportunities for them.

It should also be noted that Arab workers report a lower rate of satisfaction with the work-life balance, compared to the rest of the population. This could be partly due to the fact that a high percentage among them are employed in occupations that require their physical presence at the workplace."

Working only on site at the workplace or combining work at home and at the workplace, July 2020 (%, working in July)

By geographical location

By income

By sector (Jews, Arabs)

By Level of Education

By age