Letting your employees work from home at least part of the time has many advantages. Remote work has been a much-desired perk for years (in one recent survey, 39% of Americans said they’d take a pay cut to work remotely). Working from home can also improve employee productivity and focus.
But despite these benefits, there are some not-so-great aspects of working from home. A recent survey of 1,000 employees—including those who work at home full time, work at the office full time, or split their work time between home and office—delved into the downside. Here are four things few people will admit about working from home, and how to keep these problems from getting out of control.
Employees who work full time in the office feel a bit jealous of those with the option to work remotely. Full-time office workers are less likely than remote or split-time workers to be satisfied with their jobs overall, their compensation, their career growth opportunities and their work-life balance. They’re also less likely to feel that their employers value them. Overall, 78% of all survey respondents believe people who work from home are happier.
If you’ve been spending lots of time making your work-at-home employees feel included, maybe you need to focus on your in-office workers for a bit. If people with certain job descriptions get to work remotely and others don’t, those stuck at the office can feel slighted. Think of other perks you can provide to enhance their morale. Take advantage of their presence in the office to provide lots of feedback, and make the effort to connect with them on a daily basis.
Remote employees in the survey find plenty to love about working at home, from sleeping late to working on the couch or wearing PJs most of the day. One thing they don’t like, however, is the lack of human contact.
In fact, three of the top four things work-at-home employees miss about the office involve colleagues:
- Being around other people: 38%
- Office camaraderie: 35.2%
- Free coffee: 29.6%
- Parties/social events: 23.1%
More than half (51.2%) of work-at-home employees admit feeling lonely during the day, and 48.1% say they plan to return to an office environment eventually.
Plan regular interactions to keep work-at-home employees in the loop. Video conferences, conference calls or monthly in-person meetings can help them feel part of the team. If you use chat tools like Slack, be sure to include remote workers in the discussions, too.
The stereotype that home-based workers spend their days watching TV has a grain of truth to it. More than three-fourths (76.1%) of work-from-home employees admit they’ve watched TV on the job at some point. Here’s what else home-based employees have done while they’re supposed to be working:
- Personal tasks 64.6%
- Shower 44.7%
- Run errands 35.2%
- Exercise 33.5%
- Go out for coffee 27.6%
- Leave the house without telling anyone 20.4%
Speaking as someone who works from home and can’t focus without the TV on in the background, I’m not sure any of these things are really “problems” as long as they’re not regular occurrences. Home-based employees may spend their break taking a shower instead of hanging out at the water cooler, but if they’re getting their work done, who cares?
If you’re concerned that household distractions are cutting into work-at-home employees’ productivity, however, institute some rules. Require employees to check in at certain points during the day or schedule daily team calls. Most important, make your expectations clear.
Speaking of showers, fewer than half of work-at-home employees regularly shower before starting their workday, and just 60% brush their teeth.
However, nearly one-fourth of office workers don’t brush their teeth in the morning, and 45% admit they don’t regularly take showers before work. I guess there are some secrets people don’t tell you about the office, either.
You can’t control what employees do at home. For those in the office, consider putting mouthwash in your employee restrooms, and stocking up on air freshener for the office.
Do work-at-home employees or office-based employees have it better? Surprisingly, the survey found that employees who split their time between home and office are the ones who have the best of both worlds. Split-time workers report the highest satisfaction with their family life, their work-life balance, and their co-worker relationships. They’re also most likely to feel that their employers value them.
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