Dealbreakers: what’s keeping the workforce at home?

We can read about the desire to work from home one, two, or five days per week, but what lies behind these preferences? What has the biggest impact on employees’ intentions to return to the office?

Workplaces are making a lot of noise right now. Well, not actual workplaces – they’re awfully quiet. But talk of workplaces and the future of work recently has led to a cacophony of argument, debate, and some drastic measures, either forcing employees to return to the office full-time or enforcing a remote work policy. Some of these policies will be due to other factors: certain industries have struggled throughout the pandemic and see real estate as an incredibly expensive – and for the last 12 months – unnecessary burden. Some feel that working from home has worked just fine for them, while others, including some high-profile leaders, have decided that their company culture has been lost, and the only way to reclaim it is to get their employees back under one roof.

The media is broadly reporting on a desire for employees to divide their working week between the office and home – and in some cases, a third space. Our home working experience data supports this theory: 85% want to work remotely for two or more days per week.

But this doesn’t tell the whole story. Rather than relying on broad sentiment, let’s instead delve into the possible reasons why employees wish to return to the office the most, and the deal breakers that are keeping them at home.

We’ve asked over 48,000 home working respondents how many days they intend to work in their workplace post COVID-19. Their answers were strongly related to how good their home working experience was (measured using the H-Lmi). Those with the strongest intention to return to the office (4-5 days per week) had the poorest experience of working from home (H-Lmi 62.3). In contrast, those who wish to work in the office for one day or less, had the best home working experience (82.9).

Yet, this only shows one side of the story. Looking at the 11,000 respondents who worked in the office and home last year, we found that their intentions to return to the office are very much related to how good their workplace experience is and how that compares to home. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of those who want to work in the office 4-5 days per week post COVID-19 have a poorer experience at home than they have in their office – that is, their Lmi score, indicating their overall office experience, is higher than their H-Lmi score, which measures their home working experience. Conversely, almost the exact opposite is true of those who expressed a preference to work 0-1 days in their office; 76% had a better home working experience than an office experience. Fairly self-explanatory so far, but it’s reassuring to know that the data backs this theory.

But what are the drivers behind the desire to work from the office less, or in other cases, more? Why are some employees struggling more with home working, and as such, wishing to get back to the office full-time?

Diving into our data further, we can see what sort of activities are best supported in the home for those daydreaming about a full-time return to the office, compared with those wishing to stay away for good. The greatest differences between those who intend to spend the most and least time working from home are related to how well collaboration activities are supported. Just 48% think that their home environment supports them when learning from others, and only 52% say that the home supports collaboration on creative work; considerably less supported than for employees who want to spend most of their working week at home (81% and 85% respectively).

We can also observe a key differential in how connected an employee feels to their colleagues or organisation from home. Those with a preference to come back to the office 4-5 days per week struggle with this; just 45% feel connected to colleagues and only 42% to their organisation, compared with 85% and 83% respectively for those who prefer to stay at home.

Breaking the data down in this way not only allows organisations to understand why their workforce have stated their preferred home-office split, but also what types of work activities their office needs to support better than the home. After all, if employees are clamouring to return to the office because they can’t work on creative projects together at home, they will be unimpressed if their workplace can’t adequately support this either.

For those organisations yet to decide on a future working policy – what are their options? Follow in the footsteps of their favourite trendy tech startup and ask their employees to ‘work from anywhere’? Or find out how their employees have coped in a home working environment, and how they want to work in the future?

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