While the entire world has felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s safe to say that the virus’s effects have not been felt equally. This is particularly true of different working classes. While many white-collar office workers have been able to safely work from home throughout much of the pandemic, blue-collar workers – whose jobs largely can’t be done remotely – have had to face the risk of infection to continue earning a living.
These stark differences have made for extremely different pandemic experiences. To learn more, we surveyed 1,015 people about their work experiences amid the pandemic based on what class of worker they identified as: blue or white collar. Respondents were asked about their experiences with layoffs, whether they’ve been able to work remotely, and how their workload and productivity have been affected by COVID-19.
Experiences With Layoffs
Layoffs and furloughs have been an unfortunate fixture of 2020, with joblessness skyrocketing in the early days of the pandemic. Many of the people surveyed had firsthand experience with them. Nearly half of people reported experiencing a layoff at some point since the pandemic’s onset. However, a majority of those that were laid off reported that they are currently employed again.
Overall, blue-collar workers were much more likely than white-collar workers to say they experienced a layoff (65.6% vs. 40.1%, respectively). However, a high percentage of both groups reported witnessing layoffs at their place of employment during the pandemic.
Working Through Unprecedented Times
2020 has definitely been the year for remote work, with some major companies saying they’ll let their employees work from home forever if they choose. However, not all jobs can be done from the safety of home. Doctors, nurses, restaurant workers, delivery drivers, and many others need to show up to a location outside their home in order to perform their jobs. Meanwhile, many office workers only need a computer and a good Wi-Fi connection to successfully work from home.
Based on our survey results, white-collar workers (87.2%) were significantly more likely than their blue-collar counterparts (70.7%) to say they’d been able to work remotely at some point during the pandemic. While the percentage of blue-collar workers reporting the opportunity to work from home may seem high, our results indicate that their stints at home were short lived. Only 16.2% of blue-collar workers said they are still working remotely, compared to 49.4% of white-collar workers.
Regardless of whether they were able to work from home or had to brave the outside world each day, workers faced a more stressful work landscape in 2020. 54% of both white- and blue-collar workers said they were feeling more stress due to the pandemic.
That stress could be connected to changes at work other than their environment. Just over 55% of blue-collar workers and 41.6% of white-collar workers said their workload had increased since the onset of the pandemic.
Preventing the Spread at Work
For workers that have managed to stay employed throughout the pandemic, the coronavirus-related stress hasn’t gone away. As employers have tried to get people back to work, many employees have had to adjust to new safety protocols and practices and the logistics that go along with them.
More than 3 in 4 people who’ve had to go back to working in person during the pandemic had to take a COVID-19 test. Testing was much more common for blue-collar workers than white-collar workers. This difference could be partially due to differences in work environments. It’s generally easier to practice social distancing in an office compared to a hospital or distribution center.
A majority of people surveyed said they got paid time off to get tested for COVID-19, with blue-collar workers being more likely than white-collar workers to say this. Additionally, when it came to mask-wearing while outside the home,blue-collar workers were more likely than white-collar workers to report doing so all the time.
Feelings on Work During a Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the U.S. into an economic recession. Given the rampant unemployment and the pervasive uncertainty of the current situation, it’s not surprising that people might take the opportunity to reevaluate their careers.
Overall, 60% of people said they’d thought about voluntarily changing jobs during the pandemic. Blue-collar workers were much more likely to say this than white-collar workers (71.5% vs. 53%, respectively). Given that many blue-collar workers have been impacted by the pandemic’s resulting economic crisis and that they’re more often at risk of infection by having to work in person, it makes sense that they would start looking at other options.
While the U.S. has endured economic recessions before, the pandemic has been unique in the extent of its impact. Jobs that are typically considered safe in a recession, such as teachers, pilots, and fast-food workers, have not entirely escaped the impacts of COVID-19.
Pandemic Behavior While Off the Clock
Finally, we wanted to look at people’s experiences with the virus itself and how their work situations might be influencing people’s behavior while they’re off the clock.
Blue-collar workers (47.5%) were twice as likely a white-collar workers (23%) to say they’d caught the coronavirus. Due to the nature of the work, blue-collar workers are among those at higher risk of exposure, and our survey confirmed that.
Meanwhile, both groups of workers reported similar forms of behavior within the month leading up to the survey. Less than 50% of white-collar workers said they’d socialized (either indoors or outdoors) or eaten at a restaurant. The same was true of blue-collar workers, with one exception – 53.3% of blue-collar workers said they’d socialized indoors with friends or family in the past month.
Concerns About Deepening Class Divisions
Concerns have been raised throughout 2020 about how the pandemic will impact the class divide, and our survey found that there are significant differences in how blue-collar and white-collar workers have experienced the pandemic. White-collar workers were much more likely to be given the option of working remotely and usually enjoyed that option for longer periods than blue-collar workers. Additionally, blue-collar workers were more likely to say they’d been infected with coronavirus.
Additionally, 60% of the people we surveyed, regardless of class, said they’d considered voluntarily changing jobs during the pandemic. If you’re like them and are on the hunt for a new opportunity, Joblist is here to help. On Joblist, millions of jobs are listed in one place and are updated every single day. Plus, you can filter by your exact needs, location, and goals to find the right opportunities for you. Visit Joblist today to start your search.
We surveyed 1,015 people about their experiences throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and how their job class may have influenced that. Respondents were 52.4% men and 47.4% women. One respondent was nonbinary, and one respondent chose not to disclose their gender. The average age of respondents 38.8 with a standard deviation of 11.5.
When identifying what job class they would describe themselves as being a part of, respondents were given the following information to help them answer:
Sometimes people refer to different types of jobs as either “blue-collar” or “ white-collar.” “Blue-collar” may describe jobs in retail, manufacturing, nursing, food service, or construction as well as any jobs that require manual labor. On the other hand, “white-collar” jobs are often performed in an office environment, e.g., jobs in technology, accounting, marketing, or consulting.
Data on the paid time-off benefits employees have received for COVID-related care and the activities people have done within the past month were gathered using check-all-that-apply questions. Therefore, percentages will not add to 100.
The data we are presenting rely on self-report. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include, but are not limited to, the following: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration.
Fair Use Statement
The impacts of COVID-19 have been felt by many this year, but they haven’t been felt equally, particularly between job classes. If someone you know would benefit from the information here, you are free to share for noncommercial reuse. Please link back here so the entire project and its methodology can be reviewed. This also gives credit to our contributors, whose efforts make this work possible.