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2023 New studies on remote work: the pressure is on

2023 New studies on remote work

In this article we will summarize the results of two recent remote work studies. WFH Research from ITAM, Sanford University and University of Chicago updated their data in July 2023, on the working arrangements and attitudes of more than 143,000 tele-workers. The age range of the US workers working from home spanned 20 to 64 years.

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Data on work site locations

Study participants surveyed indicated these work site locations:

  • 12% of full time employees were 100% remote,
  • 59% were reporting to a traditional in-person office environment,
  • 29% were hybrid

Employer and employee attitudes on days to report to office converging

Interestingly, the data strongly suggests that both the employers and employees are in agreement concerning the number of working at home days. There is only about ½ day difference between these two groups, with the employer preference for .50 day more in an in office setting. Even though there is general agreement, there are career professionals across many industries who strive for proper work-life balance. They hope to maintain a better balance by working many days from home. While it has always existed to some degree, the momentum it has gained (because of the remote work movement) what is new.

Many tele-commuters are beginning to acquiesce to the idea of working in the office more days and working from home fewer days. They can understand from the perspective of their employers. As such, there has been a convergence or meeting of the minds between employer’s desire for employees to return to the traditional office setting and employees who wish to remain on working from home status. For instance, a study from Stanford University Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) of 5,000 employees indicate just  20% of employees given temporary approvals to work from home refused to return to work in an office setting upon employer request.

Employees report benefits of tele-commuting

The stress levels for workers of all ages, employed in different professions spanning all industries have been rising over the years. Particularly due to the chaos and change fatigue introduced by the coordinate global response of lockdowns and the fallout of the Covid-19. But with the onset of the pandemic, where more people were starting to work from home, we began to see the work, career and family boundaries blurred to an increasing extent.

Another musing of interest:

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This is why tele-commuting has been so popular. WFH Research bears this out. Employees reported the following benefits of tele-commuting.

According to tele-workers, the top benefits when tele-commuting

  • 49.2% no commute
  • 42.9% more flexible work schedule
  • 40.4% takes less time to get dressed and ready for work
  • 34.2% quieter than in a traditional office
  • 34.0% have more time to spend with friends and family
  • 17.3% fewer meetings

What happens when people wake up to the idea that they could have it all (top flight career and great home and personal life)  with seemingly little sacrifice, they jumped to the. Little was it know that an ecosystem always reverts back to homeostaisis. Where one must inch back toward a more balanced schedule, where their personal and professional lives are getting equal attention. At the same time, however, certain aspects of tele-work make it tempting to lower productivity. This salient risk predominates the minds of employers.

Working from home can mean work from anywhere

An interesting aspect of the data is that while many tele-commuters 56.5% work from their own home office when working remote. Almost 20% work in a café or other public space, 15.7% work in a co-working space, while 9.2 work at a friend’s or other family member’s residence.

Downsides to spending too much time at home

When refusing an employer’s request due to the state goal of achieving work-life balance, for instance, people risk going overboard. They may devote more effort to their personal lives, at the expense of their business or professional one; with little upside. Instead of achieving an actual balance between the worlds of work and family, some can take it to the extreme in nurturing their personal life and family ideals. It may sound wonderful, but they risk neglecting their career and may ultimately suffer the consequences.

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Strained relationships

It is so easy to calculate the forgotten birthdays, the missed block parties, overlooked happy hours and skipped reunions, that you may recognize that you have been giving too much to your professional life, maybe even for years.  Instead of achieving an actual balance between these two worlds, they go overboard in nurturing their personal life, which sounds wonderful, but they neglect their career and then suffer the consequences. However,  it’s no excuse for you to now ignore your work duties in favor of relaxation and downtime. Some may consider slacking off as a form of payback for the time they gave up previously.

But spending extra time at home with one’s family may not be the diamond in the rough for which we hope. CNBC argued that families spending lots of time together, under one roof to work, home-school and entertain during the COVID-19, experienced strained relationships.

Increases in divorce filings

There are studies supporting this anecdotal information. A paper presented at the 2020 International Conference of Humanities Education and Social Science  hypothesized that spending more time with family, hidden habits are brought to light which can cause a deterioration of the relationship. The authors concluded by saying that most relationships stayed relatively the same, with some positive increases in intimacy and bonds while others worsened (conjugal husband/wife relationships) due to increased conflict and strife. For instance, there were mild increases in arguments due to conflicts and dissatisfaction leading to an increase in the number of divorce filings.

Increased risk of lowered work productivity

If you neglect your work while working from home, you may eventually cause yourself more frustration. Why? Because you will  be forced voluntarily or involuntarily, to course correct  (with or without penalty). Next, you will  need to abruptly stop a routine of ease and have to try to catch up with all of the work projects that you have missed, delayed, or hastily completed with little concern for quality. And, don’t forget you’ve got to touch base with your remote team colleauges if they helped you turn in work or complete part of your section of the remote team projects.

From a different vantage point, of the companies demanding that remote employees return to work EVERY working day of the week, only 48% of their employees took up the offer to return to an office setting. Employers are not sitting idly by.  In response to employee demands, they are making choices between several alternatives. These choices have become increasingly harsher with each passing year.

Increased penalties for refusals to report/return to in office work 2023 from 2022

What happens to employees who resist a corporate directive to return to the office? We reviewed two data sets. The red bars represent data from the July 2023, WFH Research is posted on the left. The orange bars are from the May 2022, SIEPR is on the right.  Here’s how both sets of respondents said their employer’s reacted.

Return to Office Data 2023-2022
Return to Office Data 2023-2022

Not all demographics within the study work virtually evenly. For instance  43.2% of younger workers and most recent college graduates report to an in-office environment, 42.2% are hybrid, and just 14.7% are fully remote. Roughly 67.8% of older workers aged 50 to 64 years are fully remote, 17.9% are hybrid, 14.3% work from home full time.

Working from home can mean work from anywhere

An interesting aspect of the data is that while many tele-commuters 56.5% work from their own home office when working remote. Almost 20% work in a café or other public space, 15.7% work in a co-working space, while 9.2 work at a friend’s or other family member’s residence.

Another written post of interest:

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Face-to-face collaboration top reason to work in office

The data show that face-to-face collaboration and social interactions remain the top to enticements employers may consider using to motivate employees working at home to return to work or readily adopt a mixed location model. The results mirror those discussed in an article in the Nature Human Behavior.

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Remote work: Where Gen Z and Boomers agree

In a deeper analysis of work habits of  remote workers it was revealed that they:

  • spend a greater share of the time used for collaborating by working together with peers with whom they held stronger bonds,
  • collaborate less with colleagues with whom they shared weaker ties,

When employees, regardless of their work setting feel more at ease when collaborating, sharing and interacting with peers of whom they hold close relationships (have greatest level of trust and mutual understanding); they will most likely:

  • divulge the most general information among each other, and
  • share the most new information that’s relevant, when known
  • use in-person interactions to communicate complex information

Conclusion

It is abundantly clear that employers have at the disposal the tools needed to motivate employees to report to work, return to the office. However, more work needs to be understaken to identify top performers from the ge

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