Dr. Peggie Roth
Dr. Peggie Roth Chief Insights & Research Office @ Leesman
3 July 2020
WORKPLACE

Beware of the homeworking hype

Early findings from the recently launched Leesman homeworking survey show that over 77% of people say their home environment enables them to work productively. Does this data suggest that organisations should abandon the office and work from home, or is there more to it?

This stat outperforms the office by some distance (sitting at 63%). Does this data suggest that organisations should abandon the office and work from home, or is there more to it?

Dr Peggie Rothe is the Chief Insights & Research Officer at Leesman, the world’s leading authority on employee workplace experience. Peggie shares her insights with us, exploring what’s next for homeworking, employee experience and collaboration.

Homeworking

On the surface, the overall stats might lead you to believe that everyone is having a great time working from home. The average H-Lmi score (general home experience score) of 71.3 shows the average home environment experience is quite significantly better than the average office experience, where the equivalent score currently sits at 63.0.

However, it’s important to acknowledge that almost a quarter of the 10,000+ respondents report having a poor experience working from home. Feeling connected to the organisation and colleagues, learning from others and social interaction is far more challenging when everyone works from home.

We’re not all in the same boat

We didn’t all walk into this crisis from the same starting point, we’re therefore not all in the same boat. Results not only vary from organisation to organisation, but also from department to department within a single organisation. While one team may report a positive experience, another team within the same company may be struggling. If we’re looking to adopt a wider homeworking strategy, leaders need to identify who is having a poor experience and why.

This also means that rather than basing your strategy on general stats and sweeping generalisations, it’s important to understand your own organisation. For instance, if you provide an outstanding office experience, employees may see their homeworking experience as poor in comparison. As well as weighing up how this period has impacted the business as a whole, business leaders will need to analyse how it has affected different demographics within the organisation.

Employee experience

The purpose of an organisation, and the roles of the people within it, haven’t changed just because we’re working in different locations.

Based on past research, we know that having a variety of environments to support various employee needs has a significant impact on the overall experience. While more people are now working from home, it doesn’t change the fact that the office still needs a variety of settings to support employee roles when they return.

Though most aspects of what makes an outstanding workplace still apply, remote working has taught us new ways of doing things. For instance, communication has always been crucial and working from home has taught us new ways to communicate. Before COVID-19, our office-based experience database (that has aggregated more than 740,000 responses) showed that only 37% considered video conferencing to be important. It’s safe to say that we aren’t at those numbers now, with the majority of employees using video conferencing to communicate and collaborate. It’s essential to look at this new data and understand what it means for the future of work. To what extent will video conferencing remain a part of our everyday office life?

Beware of the homeworking hype

While the homeworking environment effectively supports individual work, and the office is a great place for collaborative tasks, it would be unwise to design a workplace that fits just one purpose. Our working practices need more flexibility than that.

Though individual focused work can be considered the hygiene factor of work – it’s important to 92% of employees – employees can’t be expected to have a full day of focused work without interaction, just as they can’t be expected to collaborate all day.

A typical working day in the life of a knowledge worker includes variety and alternating between collaborative creation and individual reflection and execution, so it’s crucial to bear this in mind when designing workplaces.

What’s next for the workplace?

When making decisions on the future of work, and the workplace, it’s important to consider everything that we’ve uncovered over the past decade, and use these learnings. We knew the importance of adaptability and flexibility in our workplaces before COVID-19, but recent events have forced us to look at these aspects with a microscope.

We don’t have to choose between homeworking and office working, just as we don’t have to choose between individual work and collaborative work. Instead, we can create flexible workspaces that support different types of activities. We already know from our previous research that catalyst workplaces – the ones that provide an outstanding workplace experience – are the ones that support both individual and collaborative work.

This pandemic has prompted us to have the workplace discussions we should’ve already been having across the board. We’re now in a position to accelerate our futures and create sustainable working environments that support performance and profitability. Now is the time to ask, what’s next for the workplace, what purpose you want the workplace to have for your organisation and how best can you continue to support your employee experiences.

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