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  • Writer's pictureEdwin and George

Is Working From Home Actually Working?

Are we more productive working from home or working from the office ?

Results of the recent EGM survey

EGM On A Mission: Let’s Build Better Companies.

No is the short (sensationalist) answer.

Or only c. 18% of us think we are...which means more than 80% don't.

...and given Australia's cold winter and spiralling energy costs it may also be more cost effective to head to the office.

Although there's a bit more to it (and clearly there's a big push on beliefs on hybrid being more productive with 66%).

A big thank you to everyone who completed our recent EGM survey.

We’ve now had 450 responses to our question on whether we are more productive working from home (WFH) or working from the office.

That’s a terrific response.

Here’s what we wrote on the EGM LinkedIn page as background to the survey:

According to a piece on Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) today - 3/4 of employees in Melbourne have said that they won't and don't want to go back to the office full-time. 1/7 people haven't even returned to the office. Incentives such as free meals, coffees, subsidized transport or parking costs by some organisations. Businesses that HAVE had people back have seen an increase in productivity though most businesses say that they are still ok with productivity levels when people WFH. At EGM Partners we think there's no one size fits all. We're keeping the model we had in place before the pandemic: The office is great for collaboration, culture and the social aspect of work but WFH is great to get through admin - so you can chose what works best from you a long as outcomes are there. Personally, I love the office but feel a combination (1 day a week WFH) works best for me to be most productive at work and home. Keen to hear what others are doing in Adelaide and also what people think is the most productive.

Here are the survey results (drum roll):

So, only 10 % think working fully from the office is the most productive option – and 18 % vote for WFH.

Clearly it’s an issue we all have strong opinions on – but we are surprised by the low vote for WFH.

Before the pandemic, 20 % of us spent time WFH – this rose to almost 50 % during the crisis – and the figure wont return to pre-pandemic levels.

One columnist in ‘The Guardian (Australia)’ wrote:

Working from home is great because it removes the commute and ends the distracting chats with colleagues who reduce your productivity.
The only problem is that doing it full time absolutely sucks.’

One study found that WFH increases the time actually at worked by almost 10 % - and as work/ home balance becomes blurred, companies are putting staff mental health and burnout high on their agendas. Other studies have cast doubt on how productive we are WFH:

  • Recent research by Cambridge University finds that, while workers are logged on at home longer, they’re now less productive than those in the office - there are more unproductive meetings, for example – ‘we over-schedule our calendars to compensate for the lack of social interaction.’

  • (Unsurprisingly, employees with young children record the largest productivity gap between working from home and the office.)

  • A recent study of the Japanese economy reveals that workers at home are a massive one third less productive – and Japan isn’t a nation that’s used to such findings.

  • Goldman Sachs and J P Morgan have already declared a return to the office - as they believe employees are more productive there.

And on the point about mental health:

In a remarkable development, younger people (between 18-30) who predominately WFH, are recording higher levels of loneliness than the elderly – its not just the number of connections but the quality.

  • Research conducted in the UK in September 2021 found that, since working from home, Gen Z and Millennials feel disproportionately isolated - saying it is negatively impacting their relationships at work – and potentially harming their career prospects.

But, even though there are drawbacks, surveys repeatedly show we want to continue working from home – at least part of the time.

And here lies the answer.

WFH is great – but, as 66% saying our survey, a mix between WFH and the office is the most productive – and the best for our welfare.

In our blog, ‘Is Hybrid Working Working? We wrote:

‘At EGM, we’re fully behind remote and hybrid working.

However, we need to keep improving arrangements – so there continues to be a win-win-win: for our team, our clients, and our company. Here are some thing managers and leaders can think about when staff are WFH:

  • Check-in: if colleagues are working from home a lot, check in with them on a regular basis. A simple video call to make sure they’re OK – don’t just talk about work.

  • If staff are coming into the office, all come in on the same day (s) - arrange a team meeting or a lunch or a social activity on those days

  • Think through very carefully how you’re going to onboard new staff – it’s harder starting a new job and having a great onboarding experience when we’re all working from home – and a successful onboarding is important

  • Cut out any hint of a presenteeism culture - looking to see who had a ‘green tick’ next to their name on Teams - showing they’re available at 6pm.

  • Buddy team members up – allocate everyone a buddy in the team – make sure everyone speaks to their buddy weekly.

  • Give team members tasks that use their strengths – keeping them motivated and engaged.’

As I say, I love the mix between WFH and working from the office.

WFH is great – I like the fact that I only have to travel 8 seconds to get from the bedroom to the office (although sometimes I catch traffic) and the time spent with the family.

The dog is happier as well.

However, working in the office brings catching up with colleagues and clients.

I think if I worked full-time from home, I’d miss:

  • The conversation that took place when making coffee in the kitchen..

  • The brief exchange as colleagues passes in the corridor.

  • The joking before the meeting started.’

In a roundabout way, all these make me overall more productive – so I am with the 67 % in our survey.

(written from home productively wearing Ugg boots and a tracksuit)

Sometimes cold mornings at work call for warmer footwear.(ABC Tropical North: Melissa Maddison)
Sometimes cold mornings at work call for warmer footwear.(ABC Tropical North: Melissa Maddison)

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