What’s not to like about working from home? No long commutes; no leaving home early in foul weather; no putting up with the body odour from the creepy dude in accounts.
Well, it turns out that a great many of us quite like that idea. Some of the time, anyway.
An Australian survey commissioned by the consulting firm Boston Consulting Group has found that a fair percentage of us would, ideally, like to split our time between working at the office and working from home.
Based on responses from 1 000-plus workers
The survey’s findings are based on responses from more than 1 000 workers, half of whom had been doing some remote working before the onset of COVID-19.
Interestingly, the desire to work at the office or at home can vary dramatically from one group of workers to the next, depending on factors such as age, gender and depending on whether they are parents.
Respondents aged over 60, for example, were the most likely to want to work from home more frequently. In fact, most of them wanted to spend 81-100% of their working time remotely. Given that the study was done during the pandemic, the acknowledged vulnerability of older people to COVID-19 may have had something to do with this desire.
How different worker groups respond
The survey provides some important insights as to how different demographics of workers respond to remote working. Among them:
- Those aged 50 and upwards believed that that they achieved less and experienced far fewer positive impacts. Their increase in productivity was relatively small.
- Parents and carers of children were notably more productive, engaged and successful working from home.
- Men were keener to return to their office environment than females (62% vs 53%).
- Younger employees were ready to return to the office environment, with 66% of 18 to 30-year-olds feeling enthusiastic. Contrast this with older employees, where only 47% of 51 to 60-year-olds were raring to return.
Why do people want to return to the office
Why do people want to return to the office? According to Chris Mattey, a partner at Boston Consulting Group, there are three key reasons:
- Informal social interaction that is more easily facilitated through catching up with colleagues and having conversations in the kitchen and informal gathering places.
- Formal collaboration, which enabled them to work more effectively in tight groups on specific tasks.
- Many offices have better technology and are more distraction-free than home offices, particularly the ones cobbled together in the initial panic of the pandemic.
Offices will be set up differently in future
Mattey says this may lead to new ways in which organisations set up their offices.
“We may end up having more small offices set up around the [large capital] cities … say, ‘collaboration hubs’, with less commuting time, that still meet those social and collaboration needs, while providing a distraction-free environment.”