Key Takeways

  • 15% of remote employees worked from home under the influence of marijuana during the pandemic.
  • 28.7% of remote employees wanted to smoke marijuana with co-workers, 17.8% wanted to smoke with their boss, and 13.4% wanted to smoke with both.
  • The main benefit remote employees who have worked from home under the influence reported was decreased stress (52.9%). Additional reported benefits included increased creativity (51.1%) and increased productivity (42.6%).

The Highs of the Workweek

In the professional world, it’s often said that work and play are necessarily separate. With substances like marijuana, previously illegal in all states, the topic of legalization is recurring, with many states legalizing marijuana use for adults, both recreationally and for medical purposes – and federal legalization may be on the horizon. The relatively recent onset of legally enforced social isolation policies as a result of COVID-19 begs the question of whether there is some sort of association between the pandemic and recreational substance use now within the larger workforce, especially while employees are working from home. It’s also increasingly difficult for management and co-workers to virtually monitor a respective employee’s activity throughout the workday.

Thus, we surveyed over 1,000 full-time remote employees to get their take on drug use in the virtual workplace. First, we’ll assess if and to what extent the pandemic has seen a change in marijuana use among respondents, while also taking a look at how these numbers can be further broken down by demographics like gender and age. Next, we’ll take a look at company policy and culture to assess its influence as a variable. Later, we’ll examine how the pandemic has impacted drug use habits for numerous substances, a breakdown of what age groups are using which substances and the perceptions and opinions from users and nonusers of the specific impacts substance use have on their work.

Who’s Getting High At Work From Home?

The onset of social isolation policies and practices caused dramatic lifestyle changes for so many working families. It’s certainly probable, then, that recreational drug use is something that sees a noticeable change as well.

Who’s Getting High At Work From Home

Surprisingly, or unsurprisingly, of the 40.6% of respondents who have worked from home while under the influence of marijuana, most did not continue this practice during the pandemic. More than 63% of respondents answered “no,” and 36.8% answered “yes” to the question of whether they got high at work from home during the pandemic. The fact that social isolation may cause remote employees to be held more directly accountable by their family in addition to their co-workers and managers may at least partially explain this change.

When broken down by gender, 36.6% of men and 37.9% of women reported having worked while under the influence of marijuana during the pandemic. From an age group perspective, we see a drastic decrease in marijuana consumption from younger to older remote employees. Over 41% of remote employees ages 20 to 29 who regularly consumed marijuana pre-pandemic reported using it while working from home during the pandemic, while only 29.8% of remote employees ages 50 and older who used marijuana pre-pandemic indulged while working from home during the health crisis.

When accounting for job type, 44.9% of white-collar respondents claimed they worked under the influence, and 21.6% of blue-collar respondents did the same. In categorizing by employment role, we found that 37.6% of employees reported using marijuana during the pandemic, while 34.7% of managers admitted the same. Considering that most companies don’t allow marijuana use during the workday and that management must often represent company ideals, it’s interesting to see how employee and management numbers weren’t very different.

Perspectives of Marijuana in the Workplace

With the workplace transitioning to a work-from-home setup during the pandemic, we had to explore whether companies adapted their workplace marijuana policies and cultures as a result.

Perspectives of Marijuana in the Workplace

It was observed that a relatively equal proportion of remote employees’ companies allowed marijuana use outside work hours (36.1%), compared to those completely prohibiting marijuana use (35.3%). The data additionally indicates that 20.5% of respondents were unsure about company policy as it pertains to marijuana use. Whether this can be explained by a lack of concern from those who don’t use marijuana or respondents who use marijuana being unconcerned enough with the consequences to look into the policy, it’s hard to say. It’s additionally interesting to note the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on these policies. Though it’s unclear as to whether companies generally made their policies laxer or more strict after the pandemic and its associated spike in remote working, it’s evident that over 38% of respondents’ workplaces changed their policy over the course of the pandemic.

It appeared that respondents generally had no qualms about their company’s marijuana usage policy. Thus, it could be argued that company policy largely reflects employee opinions – 72.1% of respondents reported company policy should remain unchanged. The lax nature of many companies might be the source of their reasoning, however, since 53.6% of remote employees’ companies did not drug test regularly.

remote employees exposure at work

Regarding respondents’ exposure to marijuana culture at work, they were surveyed on three different topics: whether they’ve suspected their co-workers or boss of being high during the workday; whether they’ve talked about smoking weed with co-workers over a virtual work call; and whether they’ve suspected their co-workers or boss of being high at work from home. All categories were fairly similar in proportion, with 42.1% falling in the first category, 37.8% in the second, and 34.7% in the third.

When asked whether or not they’ve suspected any colleagues of smoking marijuana and if they would smoke with any colleagues, respondents’ answers were quite similar. Specifically, to the first question, most respondents answered, “no” and “yes, co-workers” (37.9% and 37.2%, respectively), while most respondents answered the same of the second question, with 40.2% answering “no” and 28.7% answering “yes, co-workers.”

Overall Substance Usage Habits

Remote employees’ actions may not always reflect what rules are in place. We further explored what substance consumption habits remote employees followed and observed.

Our survey data reveals that recreational and workplace drug use during the pandemic reportedly increased, decreased, and stayed the same for a relatively similar number of respondents. However, 44.2% noted their workplace drug use saw an increase, where only 30.4% of respondents said the same about their recreational drug use.

Another important takeaway is that the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in a significant number of first-time substance users. Specifically, 47.3% of respondents reported that their first time getting high at work from home was during the pandemic. It also appears that a majority of respondents had already worked from home under the influence at least once before the pandemic, with 52.7% reporting having done so. For most of those who worked from home under the influence amid COVID-19, however, this was not habitual. More than 78% of these employees claimed that their workday drug use was not a habit, whereas the remaining 23.7% used at least once per day throughout the workweek.

Regarding when employees who worked under the influence during the pandemic used substances, it appears that breaks (41.7%) were the most common times, while before stressful meetings (10.9%) were reported the least. The remainder of the data indicated that the later times in the workday were the most popular times that respondents used their drug of choice.

A Closer Look: Who’s Using What?

Beyond marijuana usage, what other substances did remote employees report using while working from home during the pandemic?

A Closer Look: Who’s Using What?

Overall, the data revealed that respondents most commonly used over-the-counter (OTC) medications, while psychedelics were the least popular option for getting high at work from home. Now, it’s rather obvious how the accessibility, legality, and purpose of OTC medications may cause this outcome. It similarly seems apparent why psychedelics are uncommon in the workplace. It’s unlikely mid-shift hallucinations would produce a high-yield workday.

In our data set, nicotine usage was particularly concentrated in the younger and older age ranges. Specifically, 20.6% of nicotine-using respondents were in the 20 to 29 age range, while 24.7% were in the 50 and over cohort. With the relatively recent popularity of Juul products and vapes among American young adults, it seems to make sense that younger employees comprise a significant amount of nicotine users in the workplace. Indeed, according to a statistic found on, “20% of Americans ages 18 to 29 use vape products, compared with 16% of those ages 30 to 64 and fewer than 0.5% among those 65 and older.” Thus, it stands to reason that more traditional methods of consuming nicotine, such as smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco, may be particularly common among those 50 and over in the workplace.

There’s a notable trend in our survey data: THC product usage had a negative relationship with age. THC product users are highly concentrated in the 20- to 29-year-old range, and this proportion gradually decreases as age ranges increase. Specifically, 33.8% of THC product users were ages 20 to 29, while 17.5% were 50 or older.

Perceived vs. Experienced Substance Side Effects

Assessing perspectives from both users and nonusers offers diverse insights into how substance use is both perceived and experienced in the workplace. This might explain why so many employees use substances on the job despite risking their job security and why we observed earlier that more work-from-home employees believe companies should have stricter substance policies than relaxed ones.

Perceived vs. Experienced Substance Side Effects

Overall, it appears most respondents experienced decreased stress (52.9%), while the smallest proportion of respondents experienced increased confidence (22.4%). Reported experiences of decreased stress were least common among alcohol users (52.6%), while nicotine users were on the opposing end of the spectrum (60.5%). Reported experiences of increased creativity were least common among alcohol users (50.5%) and most common among Adderall/Vyvanse users (78.9%). Increased productivity was most commonly reported by CBD-using respondents, while the same was least commonly reported by nicotine-using respondents; decreased anxiety was least commonly reported by alcohol users and most commonly reported among THC users; decreased boredom was least commonly reported by alcohol users and most commonly reported by nicotine users, and increased confidence was least commonly reported by alcohol users, but most common among Adderall/Vyvanse users.

With regards to nonusers’ concerns about substance use at work, the data shows an explainable trend. Specifically, a significant number of respondents either had no concerns or were concerned about a decrease in work quality, productivity, or effective communication as a result of substance use.

Another takeaway from respondents implied consequences imposed by employers are generally not enough to deter people from continuing substance use while on the job, as 68.1% continued to use despite being caught and reprimanded. Specifically, most respondents were either warned or suspended (59.6% and 48.2%, respectively) when being caught. Lastly, employees generally didn’t believe they should be reprimanded harshly – 33.7% of respondents felt the least strict response was the most appropriate, which was a warning.

Did Substance Use Change During the Pandemic?

Generally speaking, substance use in the virtual workplace has not been drastically impacted by the pandemic. However, the pandemic aside, remote employees’ sentiment toward substance use while working from home did yield some interesting takeaways:

  • Most (63.2%) of the 40.6% of respondents who had previously worked under the influence of marijuana while on the job did not continue to do so during the pandemic.
  • There is a significant number of respondents who experienced notable benefits from using substances on the job.
  • Company policy concerning drug use generally did not deter most respondents from using again.
  • A significant amount (43.7%) of respondents reported they worked from home under the influence for the first time during the pandemic
  • Respondents generally agree with their company’s policy concerning drug use.

Whether recreational or on the job, substance use is something to be taken seriously. directs you to the information and resources you need to make an informed decision about what goes into your body. Whether you need to be guided to the right company, product, or deal for you, provides you with the support you need to feel healthy and at ease.

Methodology and Limitations

In this study, we used Amazon MTurk to collect responses from 1,001 remote employees. Of these, 45.1% were women, 54.5% were men, and 0.4% were nonbinary. Additionally, the average age of respondents was 37.8 with a standard deviation of 10.6 years.

The main limitation of this study is the reliance on self-report, which is faced with several issues such as, but not limited to, attribution, exaggeration, recency bias, and telescoping. Data are solely representative of self-reported claims. The margin of error for this study based on the U.S. population of remote workers (94.3 million Americans) is 3% with a 95% confidence level.

Fair Use Statement

Seeing as trends in substance use only continue to shift in accordance with the shifting opinions and experiences of remote employees and others alike, there’s certainly more to add to this discussion. If you find our data useful, feel free to spread the knowledge. Just make sure you do so for non-commercial use and provide a link back to our site.