By Dr Eugene Brink
Despite the fading of serious concerns about the pandemic and talk of long-term remote working, the debate on the location of work is far from settled.
While bosses like Elon Musk are ordering their employees back to the office or face the consequences, many organisations are less prescriptive and more accommodating due to shifting norms and attitudes on this matter.
But how do workers actually feel about remote working? The best way to establish this is to turn to data and research on this topic.
A Sustainable Work Model: Towards Remote and in-the-Office Work, produced by the global IESE Business School and the consultancy Savills Aguirre Newman, showed that a mere 12% of workers prefer to work remotely every day.
“Of this group, most are women (64%) with an average age of 39. Most are married or have a steady partner (70%), most have children (58%) and most have been working at their company for four years or more (56%). Among their reasons for wanting to work remotely every day, the top three cited are: to take better care of their families (61%), to save money by not commuting (48%) and to have time for a sport or hobby (48%),” IESE noted in an article on its website.
At the other end of the spectrum, only 4% of the respondents indicated that they prefer to never telework. Most (61%) lack the means to perform their work at home and 54% contend that they want to be closer to their teams.
This leaves the “happy mean” majority who prefer something in the middle: Those who prefer remote working for three days a week (36%), followed by two days a week (32%) and four days a week (9%). “Contrary to expectations, age does not seem to play a role in employees’ preference for working at home or in the office, the survey found.”
In similar vein, PwC’s US Remote Work Survey found that consensus among employers and employees is still lacking on the optimal balance between work and office days. “Over half of employees (55%) would prefer to be remote at least three days a week once pandemic concerns recede — little changed from the 59% who said the same in June 2021. For their part, while most executives expect options for remote work, they are also worried about the effects: 68% say a typical employee should be in the office at least three days a week to maintain a distinct company culture.”
In South Africa, a Michael Page study found that 83% of its respondents expect that companies will implement flexible work option in the wake of Covid-19. “37% would choose to work remotely for two days and 33% for one day a week, while 53% are looking at three or four days a week as an ideal work from home arrangement.”
IESE. 2022. “Working remotely two to three days a week, the best option”. https://ieseinsight.com/doc.aspx?id=2426&ar=20
Michael Page. 2022. “Dramatic increase in remote working in South Africa”. https://www.michaelpageafrica.com/advice/insights/latest-insights/dramatic-increase-remote-working-south-africa.
PWC. 2022. “It’s time to reimagine where and how work will get done”. https://www.pwc.com/us/en/library/covid-19/us-remote-work-survey.html