LEWISBURG — The COVID-19 pandemic sent workers across the world to the safety of their own homes, where many continued to perform their jobs via telework.

Nearly a quarter of all Americans teleworked in August, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and results of a new Bucknell University Freeman College of Management survey of U.S. teleworkers found, perhaps surprisingly, that older workers over 40 preferred telework the most, while younger millennials are more likely to return to work in-person after the pandemic.

Eddy Ng, Bucknell’s James and Elizabeth Freeman Professor of Management, and Andrew Lam, a graduate student at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Canada, conducted the online survey of more than 400 U.S. teleworkers between May and August.

Among respondents over 40, 45% would prefer to continue teleworking after the pandemic, compared to 30% of those under 40.

The survey found that 64% of all respondents were satisfied with virtual work and about a third (36%) would like to continue teleworking after the pandemic. The majority of them also reported that information and communication technology (ICTs) helped them perform their job better while working virtually — with 67% reporting it helped to improve the quality of work, and 61% reporting that it improved their productivity.

Managers were also more likely to report an increase in productivity through telework, with 30% reporting a productivity increase compared to 26% among non-managers.

Nearly half of the respondents (49%) felt that they were able to balance personal and work life, but only one in five reported that their productivity was better than it was while working in-person. Home disruptions — especially interruptions from school-age children who were home during the pandemic — could be a possible explanation, according to Ng.

A majority of surveyed employees (57%) were not engaged in telework prior to the pandemic, but 63% reported that their employer demanded that they telework. Most respondents (55%) tended to work for larger employers (500+ employees), while 9% worked for companies with 10 or fewer employees.

Ng and Lam conclude that employers have an opportunity to improve on their organizational performance by adopting telework as a long-term business strategy.

The researchers plan to continue studying the evolution of employee adaptation to telework over time through the different phases of the pandemic.

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