Throughout 2020 the workplace research shaman at Leesman have been steadily surveying an extraordinary number of people on their experience of working from home. The respondents currently sit at over 140,000, providing a staggering amount of data on what matters most to people both at home and in the office.
In the summer of 2020 the global furniture company Flokk invited Leesman CEO Tim Oldman to discuss the findings of the survey. Joined by WOD member and workplace consultant & ergonomist Kirsty Angerer, the two guests spoke at length about the trends uncovered in the survey and the challenges they perceive many faced as they adapted to a working from home experience.
The initial data featured 51,000 responses, of which 92% were employees working from home, based in 61 countries. Employees were asked how their home is affecting their ability to perform their roles as well as their overall experience. Health, happiness, productivity and workplace identity were key issues explored.
‘Home is working’
As Tim explained, the initial results general showed that “home is working”.
Over 80% asserted that their home environment enables them to work productively. 71% of respondents said that working from enabled them to maintain a healthy work-life balance, with nearly 70% agreeing that when working from home they felt connected to colleagues.
These statistics are startling when compared to the same questions Leesman has put to individuals working in offices over the last decade (750,000 respondents and counting.) with only 63% in agreement that their offices help them to work productively.
Tim: “The tabloid headlines that we are reading paint a picture that home is working. The world has been taught a lesson or two about the trust it can invest in employees working in remote locations, and generally speaking, if we look at the global headlines, home working is actually working better than office working.”
The challenges of working from home
If we look a little deeper than the headlines, it is not so clear-cut. When asked about specific activities, and specific elements of the working environment, there are some startling indifferences.
On the positive side, for those working from home, some of the most important aspects of their work are much better supported at home than in the office. Individual focused work, desk-based was the most popular work activity, with 91% saying they felt adequately supported, compared to only 78% of office workers (a 13% gap) with planned meetings and telephone conversations coming second and third, both again supported better at the home, with telephone conversations showing a massive 28% gap in satisfaction.
However, activities such as learning from others, informal social interaction, hosting clients and spreading out materials scored higher in office scenarios, although their importance was not as high. Only four of the 21 activities scored higher in the office compared to the workplace.
On the other side, the office really came into its own when looking at the workspaces themselves. Workers found that important features like desks, chairs and computing equipment were far more satisfactory in the office than at home. An office chair, for instance, was deemed important by 90% of respondents, but only 54% found the one in their home satisfactory, with nearly half not pleased with their current seating situation. This can be seen across the board, with five of the nine items featured scoring better in the office than at home, including desks, printing & copying equipment, and wired networks.
Tim: “The challenge, of course, is that averages mask significant highs and lows… There are some activities that home is supporting way better than the average workplace, there are also some activities for employees that the home is very much struggling to support. It’s a really mixed picture, it depends on what the employee is doing in their role and the environment that they have available to them at home.”
Kirsty Angerer backed up the data with her own findings from the front line working with organisations adapting to working from home. During the discussion, she highlighted that employees, whilst enjoying the newfound autonomy of working from home, struggled to come to terms with a workplace without basic functional equipment such as desks at the correct height and comfortable ergonomic seating.
Whilst a lucky few were given funds to purchase their own home office equipment in 2020, a lack of basic knowledge meant that the money was not necessarily spent well.
Kirsty: “We’re going to see a further set of issues because people aren’t educated on ergonomics, they didn’t know what equipment to choose, that’s the likes of our jobs to help with that… I hope that (in future) with that financial benefit comes some training and extra resources.”
Collaboration is not just a buzzword. It’s how we learn, express ourselves and it helps us grow. It leads to great ideas being formed, successful projects delivered, and of course it leads to a lot of fun being had. Since the summer Leesman have continued their research and found this to be a clear and growing sentiment.
Overcoming the initial shock of being banished from the office, many people flourished working from home. But as was revealed in the Leesman findings, very many missed their workplace for the most important reason – people. Now, with a vaccine offering light at the end of the tunnel, the future of the workplace looks bright once again.
The future of work practice will be a blended one for many. A split between heading to the office to collaborate and heading home to knuckle down. This should cause a concerted effort from organisations to enhance the workplaces, making them an even more attractive place to be, for all types of work.
Flokk have always supported WOD by partnering on many of our initiatives and now are offering this amazing Christmas give away to our members – a great discount on their popular task chairs for your home working – click here.