Work-related Pandemic Changes Will Persist as “New Normal” 

BOSTON, MA (June 29, 2021) – Americans expect to work from home in much greater proportions even after the COVID-19 pandemic is well behind us. And business travelers, who took an average 4.2 business trips a year before the pandemic, expect to replace 25% of those trips with virtual meetings once pandemic restrictions are lifted.

Those findings from The Great Reopening and Priority Reset: Consumer Insights, conducted by global management consulting firm L.E.K. Consulting, paint a picture of how the new workplace realities imposed by the pandemic are likely to persist. The survey of 1,000 Americans was conducted April 21-23, 2021.

“We’ve heard about a post-pandemic workplace ‘new normal’ that’s unlike what was observed historically, and our survey results bear that out,” said Manny Picciola, Managing Director at L.E.K. Consulting. “Work habits and expectations have changed in ways that are likely to outlast the end of the pandemic.”

Among the survey’s key findings about work and business travel:

  • How much more time will Americans work at home post-COVID-19? Americans claim that “work-from-home” skyrocketed to 40% of total work hours during last year’s lockdowns. While many are now returning to the workplace, they believe that work-from-home remains an important component of their weekly routines. On average, Americans forecast that they will pursue work-from-home more than one day a week on average – an increase of more than 50% from 2019 norms.
  • Americans had strong reasons for wanting to return to the workplace – and for wanting to stay at home. When looking at their reasons for wanting to shift their work location post-COVID-19, 53% said a top reason they’ll spend more time at the workplace is that they feel more productive there. Meanwhile, the top reason cited by those who expect to spend more time at home was the “flexibility” offered (in both time and attire).
  • There will be less business travel. Business travelers took an average 4.2 trips per year before COVID-19, according to the survey. But after a year of new habit formation, they reported that they expect to evaluate their reasons for traveling and anticipate that they will replace up to 25% of those trips with virtual meetings such as Zoom calls. 
  • The degree of business travel impact will depend on occupation. Upper management expressed a significant appetite to review the rationale behind travel. Some workers in technical fields, like engineering, foresee cutting their business travel needs by up to 37%. And while stated or planned behaviors can decay over time, even salespeople claim that they’ll shave about 12% from their business travel.
  • Video will transcend the crisis. Nearly one third of respondents (32%) expected some common types of meetings (e.g., client presentations, collaborative workshops) to be at least partially replaced by video-conferencing post-crisis. About one quarter (26%) expected to forgo at least some fly-in conferences (also in favor of video) going forward.

“During the height of the pandemic, we saw travel bans and quarantine regulations affect travel of all kinds. Going forward, we see a robust pick-up in leisure travel, but some of the impacts to business travel will stick. While sales and business development will require a return to flights, some professionals, and companies, are trying to preserve some of the efficiencies they have achieved with virtual alternatives across a variety of other meeting types,” said Dan McKone, Head of the Travel & Transportation practice in the Americas for L.E.K. Consulting.

“Americans clearly anticipate that future work will not be like pre-pandemic work,” said Lauren DeVestern, Managing Director at L.E.K. Consulting. “Business leaders should anticipate those expectations – and may need to offer more levels of workplace and business-travel flexibility in the post-pandemic world.”

About L.E.K. Consulting
L.E.K. Consulting is a global management consulting firm that uses deep industry expertise and rigorous analysis to help business leaders achieve practical results with real impact. We are uncompromising in our approach to helping clients consistently make better decisions, deliver improved business performance and create greater shareholder returns. The firm advises and supports global companies that are leaders in their industries — including the largest private- and public-sector organizations, private equity firms, and emerging entrepreneurial businesses. Founded in 1983, L.E.K. employs more than 1,600 professionals across the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe. For more information, go to