Before the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work was the primary mode of working for just 6% of Americans, whereas going into 2023, that share is at 26%. If you include those that work remotely at least some of the time, it rises to 58% or 92 million Americans, according to a recent McKinsey report.
It’s clear that remote work has become a mainstay in the American job market. And while it’s always had its skeptics, recently, there’s been another wave of articles in the media questioning whether it’s good for cities, productivity, or career development.
To answer this question, we analyzed 170,000 tweets about remote work posted in the United States in the last four years. Gauging the sentiment of these tweets, on a scale of +5 to -5, we determined how many tweets about remote work are positive (+2 or higher), negative (-2 or lower), or neutral (between -2 and +2).
Based on this data, we uncovered how Americans feel about remote work in 2023 and how that sentiment has changed through the pandemic and in the past year. Projecting these findings on the map of the United States, we reveal the states and cities where Americans are most optimistic and pessimistic about working remotely.
According to our analysis, just 46% of tweets about remote work have been positive since the start of 2023 - the lowest percentage on record and a far cry from mid-2020 or early 2021, when the share of positive tweets about remote work was over 65%.
Positive mentions of remote work still outnumber the negative ones, but they have been declining since early 2022 when most pandemic-related restrictions were lifted.
“In the midst of the pandemic, when there was no other option but to work remotely, that privilege was met with gratitude and appreciation during a period of great uncertainty. Nearly three years later and with the height of the pandemic behind us, it's not surprising to see attitudes around remote work shift,” explains Chad Kearns, VP at Fired Up! Culture. “Now in a restriction-free environment, many Americans begin to see that remote work isn't ideal for them. When there are options on the table, and someone is stuck in a work environment that doesn't align with their needs, negative attitudes are going to crop up.”
As pandemic restrictions eased and life returned to normal, shortcomings of remote work likely became more troublesome to those who were never fully sold on remote work and its advantages or the opportunities it offered.
This line of thinking aligns with the recent rise of negative feelings in tweets about working remotely.
Save for a few blips in late 2020, and the middle of 2021, the share of tweets that were critical of remote work has lingered between 15% and 20%. It’s only in 2022 that it has begun to climb toward 25% and above.
Understanding the direction of the sentiment is important, but let us consider what Americans are saying about remote work when expressing their appreciation or dislike of it. For this analysis, and the ones following, we will be focusing on tweets posted in the last 12 months.
Among tweets that are positive, some of the most commonly mentioned words and phrases are “home” (12%), “time” (8%), and “learn” (5%). Curiously, “benefits” also made the top 10 list with 4%.
On the opposite side of the scale, the word that most frequently occurs in tweets that are critical of remote work is “office” (14%). Other words indicating difficulties some Americans are having with remote work are “difficult” and “hard,” which are mentioned in about 3% of tweets expressing dissatisfaction with remote work.
It is worth pointing out that phrases like “hybrid” and “pandemic” appear in both tables, which is most likely due to those working remotely expressing different attitudes to these issues.
“Workers who do not view remote work favorably but work in an organization that shifted to remote first will likely seek employment with an organization whose "office policy" better reflects their needs. As companies start switching to or mandating in-person work there are going to be workers seeking to work for organizations that are entirely remote, hybrid, or entirely in-person. The quicker a company can define its future way of working, commit to it, and get its workforce aligned, the better the organization is going to be,” said Kearns.
Needless to say, how Americans feel about working remotely varies significantly depending on where they are.
From our analysis, those happiest about remote work are in Hawaii, where 76% of tweets about remote work favor it. In fairness, who wouldn’t like remote work if you could live in a beautiful place like Hawaii?
Another picturesque state - New Hampshire - comes in at a close second, with 67% of tweets mentioning remote work favorably.
In Utah and Maryland, the share of positive tweets about remote work is at 58%, while in South Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Kansas, it’s at around 56%.
In some states, however, remote work isn’t all that popular. For example, in West Virginia (47%), almost half the tweets about remote work are negative.
There’s a similar feeling shared among those in New Mexico (42%) and New Jersey (37%), where the share of negative tweets is some of the highest in the country. Interestingly enough, the state of New York made the top 10, with roughly 29% of tweets posted in the last 12 months expressing some form of unhappiness or dissatisfaction with remote work.
To see how Americans in each state feel about remote work, check our interactive map below.
At the city level, a predictable winner emerges. Honolulu, HI is where Americans are most excited about working remotely, with 81% of all tweets about remote work posted in the last year being positive.
Surprisingly enough, the city that came second is Lincoln, NE, where as many as 78% of remote work tweets portray it favorably.
Following these two runaway leaders are cities such as Reno, NV (64%), Tulsa, OK (63%), and Manchester, NH (61%), where over 60% of tweets about working remotely are positive.
The joy around remote work isn’t equally shared across the U.S., with some cities being rather unhappy in their tweets about remote work in the past year.
The cities where the share of tweets about remote being negative is the highest are Augusta, GA (48%), Kansas City, KS (44%), and St. Louis, MO (43%). Other cities with a relatively high share of negative tweets about remote work are Memphis, TN, Buffalo, NY, and Tucson, AZ, where this share is around 30%.
Our findings suggest that the appreciation American workers have for remote work may be starting to decline.
What we might be seeing is attitudes toward remote work beginning to crystallize. As many Americans had a chance to try working remotely in the last few years, some liked it instantly or grew to like it, while others may have discovered it simply wasn’t for them.
The jury may still be out on where Americans are with remote work, but it’s worth remembering that working remotely is, first and foremost, a privilege afforded to those whose jobs can be performed from home.
Over 170,000 tweets were collected from Twitter API using queries, such as "remote work" or "working remotely," to understand how people feel about remote work.
Tweets that were posted from January 1, 2019 to February 1, 2023 were included in the analysis. However, the analysis of sentiment toward remote work by state and city is based on tweets posted in the last 12 months, i.e., from February 1, 2022 to February 1, 2023.
Replies and retweets were excluded, as were duplicate tweets. Based on the geo-location of either the tweet or the user, we were able to geo-reference to a location in the United States.
Each tweet's sentiment was analyzed using the AFINN lexicon, which classifies the sentiment of each word from -5 (negative) to +5 (positive). Tweets, for which the aggregate score was less than -2 were deemed to have negative sentiment; and those where the overall score was greater than 2 were deemed positive.
Data for this analysis was gathered in February 2023.