The data is clear — most people want to work remotely.
The pandemic may have been responsible for closing office doors, but employee demands for freedom and flexibility are keeping them closed across many industries. Last June, more employees said they’d choose a permanent work-from-home arrangement over a $30,000 pay raise. By January, we’re hearing even more demands to work remotely. 60% of employees with jobs that can be done from home want to keep working remotely after the pandemic is over.
While most of the conversation has been focused on companies’ efforts to accommodate the demand for remote and hybrid work arrangements, there’s one group that has been largely left out of the discussion — those who prefer to work in-person.
If 60% of workers want to work remotely, that means that 2 out of 5 people don’t want to work remotely.
Why do some people prefer being in the office? What are their concerns about working from home? And can organizations find an arrangement that makes everybody happy?
To answer these questions, we collected data from 1421 full-time working adults in the UK. BetterUp’s Khoa Le Nguyen, an applied behavioral scientist, analyzed the data and uncovered the top concerns employees in the UK have about working from home.
A whopping 93% of respondents said their top concerns about working from home are isolation and mental health issues. While remote workers report greater productivity and creativity, studies have proven that isolation and distance can negatively impact their mental and emotional health.
In exchange for the freedom and flexibility that working from home provides, remote workers pay a “belonging tax.” The belonging tax comes in the form of loneliness, isolation, a lack of shared social experiences, and fewer opportunities to have their work recognized and rewarded.
According to a recent survey, 46% of employees feel less connected to their company now than before the pandemic. And this presents a slew of challenges for companies. Disengaged employees are less productive and are at higher risk of attrition than those that feel a strong sense of belonging.
Aside from isolation and mental health worries, survey respondents also reported concerns about communication with their employers and productivity.
While countless studies have allayed fears that remote workers are less productive, communication and collaboration can suffer in remote and hybrid work arrangements. In addition to new tools and processes, hybrid work requires a whole new kind of leadership to be successful. Managers must learn how to build a new culture that embraces flexibility, independence, and autonomy while providing structure for collaboration and connection. It’s a herculean task and not one easily trained.
Why else do workers not want to work from home? Examining the data through the lens of gender, we found that women are 2X as likely as men to be concerned about burnout, and 2.7X as likely as men to be concerned about job security.
Women were disproportionately affected by the shift to remote work. In many of the industries and roles dominated by women, working remotely just isn’t a feasible option. For those that can work remotely, the balance between work life and home life is severely disrupted. Working women shoulder more of the burdens of domestic responsibilities than working men do. And working mothers in particular feel that parenthood is negatively impacting their career prospects.
4 ways organizations can support employees that wrestle with the prospect of remote work
Like it or not, remote and hybrid work is here to stay. The majority of the workforce is demanding the ability to work from home at least a few days each week. But even if your organization adopts a fully remote or hybrid model, there is much that can be done to address the concerns of those who don’t love working from home.
- If possible, allow for flexible work arrangements
While there is a growing number of companies ditching the office permanently, there are numerous benefits to taking a hybrid approach. Could your organization give employees options for where they will work? For example, at BetterUp, employees in major hubs are reimbursed for membership in a co-working facility and encouraged to coordinate with colleagues to be there on common days.
By leaving the decision in the hands of your workers and remaining flexible, everyone can construct a work arrangement that works best for them. Just keep in mind that hybrid arrangements don’t eliminate every issue. With no fixed schedule or workplace, communication and collaboration issues are likely to remain.
- Cultivate a shared culture of belonging and inclusivity
When companies build environments where people feel safe, respected, and accepted as their whole selves, they are able to thrive on multiple levels. The trick here is cultivating this environment for both people that are in-office and those working remotely. During in-person meetings and events, be sure to allow remote workers to tie in and encourage their participation. Host team lunch hours that can be broadcasted over Zoom so that everyone can see and hear each other even if they aren’t in the same room. And be sure that the work of everyone, not just those in-office, is recognized and celebrated.
- Plan social events and offsite
Connection is critical to combat feelings of isolation and loneliness. Give people opportunities to get to know each other outside of their roles. Virtual events can be fun when they’re kept small and use games and polls to facilitate more casual interaction. And there's nothing like in-person events and team offsites to build relationships and grow trust between employees and their managers.
- Invest in coaching for your frontline managers
Managers need organizational support to develop the skills necessary to successfully lead in this new era of hybrid work. They need to hone hybrid management skills and guide their teams into effective remote work practices. And it’s an investment that yields rich dividends. Teams led by highly inclusive managers see 50% greater productivity and 90% greater innovation.
As a society, we’re all navigating uncharted waters. While the worst of the pandemic seems to be over, the effect that it has had on the way we work is likely to be permanent. Remote and hybrid work arrangements are the future, but they do come with some serious caveats. Not everyone is fully on board with this new way of working, and their concerns are completely legitimate.
Despite the stress and anxiety that hung over our heads these past two years, people were actually more productive during the pandemic. It’s a testament to the strength and resilience of the human spirit. Organizations that make a point to practice empathy, foster inclusivity, and provide as much support and flexibility for their employees as possible will see even greater results in the post-pandemic era.
Sr. Insights Manager