It’s now been over a year since the majority of businesses sent their office-based staff home to work remotely.
And now, as businesses consider their next move – specifically if, when and how they will return to the office, many survey results are being published that highlight how workers feel about work from home potentially becoming a permanent model. The results are seemingly contradictory.
A recent opinion piece in the Guardian, for example, declares working from home to be a “failed experiment”, with two thirds of respondents craving more in-person time with their teams. The study mentioned in the article also suggests that 37% of the global workforce felt their companies were “asking too much of them” when working from home.
And yet, many other reports published reveal that workers are happy to be based at home and hope to continue once restrictions are relaxed. Indeed, our own internal surveys support this, showing a high level of support to remain working from home.
So, why so much mixed messaging on this topic?
Roles are different
One of the key reasons that work from home survey results vary is that feedback is obtained from different workers in different kinds of roles.
General administration workers, for example, are used to a free-form style of working and collaborating, with the opportunity to speak with colleagues, walk to the coffee machine, and physically move around the office environment. For employees in these roles, working from home meant losing the freedom of interaction, collaboration and movement they were used to.
Those in customer service roles, on the other hand, are used to a regular stream of calls and chats being delivered to their desk. That hasn’t changed over the last year, except that now their desks are at home.
It’s natural that employees used to the free-flow interaction of an admin role might feel differently about their new set up to those who are familiar with the desk policies of a customer service role.
It’s important to keep this in mind when considering the findings of surveys and reports. Two questions are vital – what role does the respondent occupy and, crucially, were they appropriately equipped to work from home?
Of course, ways to overcome the barriers that adversely affect working from home exist. If businesses want to pursue the home-based model long term, they must ensure they’ve implemented the right home-based solution.
Work from home vs. work-at-home
It’s also important to distinguish work from home and work-at-home, as these can be two very different experiences.
Work from home involves office-based employees working from their homes occasionally, or for a specific project or period. Work-at-home, on the other hand, involves employees working at home on a permanent basis, with the tools and support they need to perform their job properly. These employees are specifically recruited to work at home and be competent to do so.
Again, the experiences of working from home and work-at-home are very different and will naturally invoke different responses from employees asked about their feelings.
A flexible hybrid solution
One of the solutions proposed is flexible or hybrid working. Under this model, which involves spending some time working on-site and the remainder at home, employees would get the best of both worlds – the interaction and human connection available in the office, and the benefits of remote working, such as flexibility, time gained by not commuting, and a better work/life balance.
SYKESHome specialises in work-at-home, meaning our customer service (CS) colleagues are recruited specifically for home-based roles and have the tools and support they need to be effective and efficient. We recruit only people who want to work from home, rather than those who are required to be home-based because of circumstances. And that’s why our survey results are positive, when compared to many of those appearing in the media. For us, there is no contradiction – SYKES CS colleagues and clients are overwhelmingly happy.