Almost every day we hear of yet another survey that ‘proves’ people are more productive
when they are working from home, only to see other surveys that favour the office. It’s
worth looking a bit closer at who is sponsoring or running the ‘research’ and how objective
it really is.
Recently, a survey of 5,500 ‘respondents’ concluded that 66% of professionals think they would be more productive working remotely rather than in a traditional office. Just 7% chose ‘The office during regular hours’ as the place to go when they really wanted to get something done for work. But another recent survey showed that 59% of UK workers work most productively in the office. Which one is right?
It seems that you can get the answer you want by asking people who might agree with you. The first survey was carried out by Flexjobs, who service the flexible working marketplace. This is the sixth annual survey they have carried out, and it provides a thorough analysis of the reasons why people want to work flexibly. Since 2013, work-life balance (78%), family (49%), time savings (46%), and commute stress (45%) have been the top four reported reasons. But when it comes to productivity is this audience biased?
As well as 66% saying they are more productive in a home office, 52% cited home or home office as the place they go when they “really need to get something done for work.” They list the reasons for this, with fewer interruptions from colleagues (76%), fewer distractions (76%) and reduced stress from commuting (70%) as the top three.
Contrast this with another piece of research carried out by Peldon Rose, workplace designers. Their survey showed 59% of employees working most productively in the office followed by 30% at home and 5% in a café. They point out that working outside of the office makes employees feel disconnected (50%) isolated or lonely (33%) and less productive (27%). So who is right?
The answer is of course both are right. If you ask people who predominantly work in the office where they are most productive you will find the majority will say it’s there. This could be because the kind of work they do cannot easily be done remotely, or it may be that their lifestyle doesn’t suit home working. Similarly, ask the question to remote workers and they will point out the benefits of home working over being office based, including higher productivity.
Where both surveys agree, is that people want the choice. A third of the people surveyed by Peldon Rose wish they were more trusted to manage how and when they work and 79% of the Flexjobs respondents say they are more loyal to their employers if they have flexible working options. This is born out by a recent survey by Manpower, polling 14,000 people in 19 countries, that showed 63% of workers believe they can work outside the office and 40% mentioned flexible working as one of the top three career considerations. Their report concludes that employers should neutralise flexibility stigma by changing company culture to make working outside the office acceptable. It starts from the top – leaders need to be transparent and lead by example.