To those who completed the ChangeWorq WFH survey many thanks. The survey was published on LinkedIn and we received n=336 responses between May 16th and May 27th 2020. As promised, here are the results plus insights from the data & comments.
Previous WFH Experience
We were interested to see how many people had never worked from home prior to the CV19 pandemic. 49% of people had never worked from home before with another 25% for only 1 to 3 days per month.
Examining at the global split, we see a significant regional difference. The numbers in Europe, U.S. & Australasia were similar, but in Asia, things are different.
While there was no significant difference in the satisfaction with WFH arrangements, or technology provision, it was clear from the comments that space at home is a greater problem in Asia. Apartments are smaller & occupants may include extended families.
WFH Experience by Age Range
Interestingly, 67% of Millennials and Gen Z who had never worked from home. Is this disparity a problem with trust? We can’t tell from the results, but it’s an important area that needs exploration. I understand that younger staff may require more on the job coaching or mentoring, but if this difference is for other reasons, then I’d suggest a policy rethink.
This was a better result than we expected with only 11% of staff either responding they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied.
It would appear from the 52% who are either satisfied or very satisfied, that positive efforts have been made to anticipate and deal with a difficult situation, that can be challenging for staff & managers alike.
We do see a minor difference between those who have not worked from home before. The difference is not large which may represent a period of adjustment has taken place given the timing of the survey. Overall, the numbers are better than we expected.
Top challenges with WFH
This was an interesting set of findings, but with few surprises. The responses correlate well with a number of offline conversations with clients and other contacts during this time.
Working longer hours is interesting, and I have heard this described before. Is this a question of guilt or a response to how managers behave? That would appear to be at odds with the previous section. Either way, we all need to think this through and when we do work at home, manage your schedule well, take breaks, stretch your legs just as you would do in the office.
Items in the ‘others’ category were:
- Lack of physical interaction with colleagues and business partners,
- Some meeting types are better conducted in person,
- Bad internet connection,
- Poor access to company servers / software etc.
- Loss of adhoc creative interactions
- Some increased micro-management from some managers & employers
- Lack of trust from managers, illustrated by constant disruptive check-ins
- Need to provide care for elderly relatives or cope with multiple family members
What do you miss the most, about being in the Office?
Unsurprisingly they are many reasons why being together in an office is a necessary thing. The challenges are listed here:
Note: Items in the ‘others’ category were:
- Face to face interactions are important for my job
- It’s easier to meet customers and partners in the office
- I enjoy commuting to work and take walks during breaktimes
- My manager says they can manage their teams more effectively
- Less micro-management when managers see us at work
In an earlier article written as a response to media reports that “the office was dead”; I used a Mark Twain quote to suggest that ‘Rumours of my demise are greatly exaggerated!’. The Office is far from dead; it's a question of understanding what it should be used for?
We can see from the results that collaboration is the no.1 challenge. Yes, we can share information, and communicate using virtual tools, co-creation remains difficult. There is something very natural about being in the same space with our team members, brainstorming, whiteboarding etc. We can read body language more effectively, ensure more introverted colleagues contribute. It’s important for the process of interaction.
Next on the list is social cohesion. Our simple need to be amongst our team members and being connected to what is happening in our organisation - those things that aren’t visible on emails of meeting minutes. Social cohesion is important to us all.
Distractions are challenging. From children running behind Zoom calls, not having a space away from the family etc. It’s interesting to note that ‘Deep Work*’ i.e. the ability to focus, and really be productive; is just as difficult at home as it is in the office.
How are you feeling at this point of the Pandemic?
Survey responses came from around the world, so people’s experiences will vary according to the local rate of progression of the virus. From the results, it seems we are in reasonable (but not perfect). Around 20% are pessimistic, but we can’t assume that this is entirely due their response to WFH. Relatively speaking, some within this group may be pre-disposed towards pessimism.
How likely are you to WFH from time to time, after the pandemic?
While many respondents may need and want to go back to the office to work, there are many who want to retain this as an option as we can see in the chart.
In fact, 46% are stating they are likely or very likely to want to have WFH as an option more frequently post CV19.
It’s a similar picture across all worker groups, including those who have never worked at home before and there is very little difference by age range.
Creating a better WFH experience
While many respondents had worked form home pre CV19, and most seemed to already have a company laptop, many purchased additional equipment to improve comfort and productivity. The most common items listed were large monitors, webcams, headsets, mics etc.
Many people reported making upgrades to their home I.T. infrastructure such as upgrading of internet plans and improving WiFi coverage at home.
Some people went so far as to buy a high specification office task chair and a height adjustable desk for home. Ergonomics is as important both in and away from the office and it’s been good to see people taking care of their own well-being. I think we can predict with some certainty, that demand for these solutions in the office will increase after we return to the office.
We did have some comments relating to time management, mental health and mindfulness. These are important topics, but I will defer them for another article.
Our experience of working from home, has demonstrated to many who didn’t realise they could work at home, that they can. Here are some practical steps:
1. Have WFH available as an option for staff to choose when necessary
2. Train managers to focus on work outcomes and deliverables
3. Ensure there is a positive dialogue in teams explaining how things work
4. Create reasons for staff to be together, when the CV19 situation subsides
5. These reasons should be all about effective collaboration and social cohesion
6. Avoid a policy that limits WFH for a certain number of days per week
7. Ensure the policy is non-hierarchical and available for every level of seniority
8. Allow flexibility – WFH suits some personality types more than others
9. Be flexible – WFH suits some home/family situations better than others
10. Teach managers and staff how to interact effectively when apart
11. Don't rely on messaging apps – pick up the phone and talk
12. Examine full or partial funding of WFH equipment (monitors etc.)
We can’t tell from the response data how many people wanted to work from home before, and it is possible that in the past, some may have elected not to for various reasons described earlier. It does seem clear that the ‘worlds largest work-from-home’ experiment has opened up new possibilities (however unwillingly we entered the process!).
The positive news from this difficult time has been that we have shone a bright light into the dark corner of old school presence driven management styles & outdated HR policies. We are at a point of inflexion that Business Leaders, H.R. & I.T. teams must focus capitalise on and a time to improve motivation, flexibility and productivity of teams.
I hope you found this article useful, and feel free to contact us with any comments.
Neil Salton & Natalie Chua