Employees Are Eager to Work from Home — Is Your Business Ready?
More than half of employees prefer to work from home — businesses must be responsive.
The pandemic has given tens of millions of employees a taste of what it’s like to work from home (WfH). We surveyed employees who are working from home during the crisis and over half (52%) told us they would prefer post-pandemic to continue WfH instead of returning to their workplace. For many the pre-pandemic daily routine represents a significant burden and they’ve learned that working from home offers significant advantages over their usual work experience. Anecdotal evidence suggests that few employers are ready to fully support employees’ shift to the home, however.
Of course, working from home isn’t for everyone. As the New York Times Magazine recently noted, the experience can be challenging and even miserable, especially if the employee doesn’t have a quiet place at home to work that’s free of distractions. That’s a red flag for parents with kids at home, especially young ones, as well as those who share a residence with roommates and the rest of us for whom the TV in the next room or the view out the kitchen window is a constant distraction. And even with a proper workspace at home, employees do miss some things if they aren’t going into the workplace — seeing co-workers, hearing the latest news, catching up on office politics on breaks, popping into a colleague’s office to ask a question, and all the other rituals that make being with others “at work” worthwhile.
However, for many these rituals come at a cost they’d rather not accept. Employees who commute can spend 30 minutes to an hour or more each way to and from work in a car, train or bus. And it’s not just the time — weather, traffic and other nasty surprises turn commuting into an unpredictable, stressful experience. Going into the workplace also requires being “presentable,” which adds another 30 minutes to an hour or more to the morning routine. The typical employee has spent 1–2 hours getting ready and getting to the workplace before even getting started with work. And that’s just at the beginning of the day. At the end of the day or shift, employees are picking up kids, dropping off laundry, getting food for dinner, possibly exercising, just to name a few of the errands that get squeezed in around work. Compared to working from home, these routines can take up to 10–20 hours per week. In addition, by some estimates working from home can save employees as much as $4,000 per year.
For many individuals, the grand experiment of working from home has brought these costs into sharp contrast. In our survey we asked a sample of 200+ individuals working from home which they would prefer after the pandemic — continue working from home or return to working away from home, as they had done pre-pandemic. As mentioned above, a majority (52%) would choose to work from home, while nearly the same number would choose to return to their office or workplace.
We also asked respondents why they preferred one or the other. The majority paint a rosy picture of their experience working from home, describing it as flexible, relaxing, even comfortable.
- Respondents told us that working from home gives them the flexibility to take care of “daily life,” including chores like starting dinner, more easily. It also gives them more control over when to take care of “non-work” activities, including eating and, if they get tired, taking a break to recharge.
- Many also find working from home more relaxing, in part because they aren’t commuting as much as an hour to and from work. Not surprisingly, getting back an hour or two in the day relieves a huge burden that they’ve been forced to endure.
- Interestingly, employees say they like working from home because it’s more comfortable — not having to get “dressed up” is a real advantage and they can sit in their favorite chair or, if they choose, even recline on the sofa while working.
- Lastly, and good news for employers, many employees self-report that they’re more productive working from home, provided of course they have a suitable workspace.
Key Takeaways for Employers
Employers and employees are in the early stages of transitioning to what is likely to be a protracted and potentially permanent shift to working from home. Processes, policies and support developed for an on-site workforce will need to be updated and adapted to accommodate the needs of the new work from home employee. By viewing employees as “customers,” employers can deliver the support employees need to be successful and productive while WfH.
Based on our research, here are six key takeaways that employers should anticipate:
- Since a majority of employees prefer to work from home — some strongly — employers must be prepared to offer the option and be responsive to workers who opt to work from home.
- In addition to technical support, employees are likely to need training and tools to help them self-manage their schedule and to deal with “Zoom fatigue,” isolation, loneliness and a host of other issues that can arise.
- Given a suitable workspace, working from home enhances employees’ experience and, by extension, is also likely to improve satisfaction with their employer.
- The flexibility of working from home helps employees achieve work-life balance, which can translate into happier employees who are more satisfied with their job and company. Satisfied employees generally have lower turnover and deliver superior customer experiences.
- By removing commuting and other burdens associated with working away from home, working from home reduces employees’ stress and could be an important antidote to anxieties induced by the pandemic.
- Depending on the conditions at home and employees’ readiness, working from home can be conducive or detrimental to workers’ productivity — employers who proactively help employees make the transition to working from home are likely to see productivity improve, while those who don’t provide adequate support and tools are likely to see productivity decline.
These results above are just the beginning of our perspectives on working from home. Over the course of the next week, we’ll continue to share insights collected from our conversations with employees, leading brand employers, and the concepts from our 48-hour challenge.
About the Research
In late April SCADpro conducted a survey with a national sample, balanced on age and gender, of 210 respondents working from home (WfH) as a result of the pandemic. Questions examined overall attitudes toward WfH as well specific aspects of individuals’ experience, both positive and negative. In addition to stating their overall preference for WfH, respondents expressed their feelings about WfH by responding to a series of questions, including open-ended (likes and dislikes) and a series of two-part questions in which they (i) first chose from a list of 25 adjectives — both positive and negative — the three words that best describe their experience; and (ii) for each of the descriptors chosen, explained in their own words “what makes the WfH experience ___________.”