THE TRUTH ABOUT WORKING FROM HOME (IN 24 SHOCKING CHARTS)

Is working from home better, or worse, than being in an office? Depending on whom you ask, remote working is either the ‘wave of the future’ or an unsustainable one-time crisis response. The problem with the work from home (WFH) debate is that it typically lacks hard data from real-life WFH employees. And that’s what this present study provides.

Leadership IQ surveyed 3,706 employees currently working from home to discover the truth about their WFH experiences. Respondents answered more than two-dozen questions about working from home, as well as questions about their psychological makeup.

Here are some study highlights on the benefits of working remotely:

  • Only 9% of remote workers say they want to work in an office all the time
  • 59% say their work-life balance is better working from home
  • 53% say their productivity is better working from home (and Proactive Personalities find the biggest boosts to their productivity)
  • 49% say their mental health is better working from home (and Ambitious Personalities find the biggest boosts to their mental health)
  • 39% say the creativity of their work is better working from home (and Optimistic Personalities find the biggest boosts to their creativity)

By contrast, here are some findings on the downsides of working from home:

  • 54% say their relationships with work colleagues are better working from an office
  • 27% say their relationship with their boss is better working from an office
  • Employees are evenly divided on whether the productivity of meetings is better or worse working from home

What follows is a detailed breakdown of the study (with lots of charts) …

STUDY METHODOLOGY

During the week of August 24th, 2020, Leadership IQ surveyed 3,706 employees in the United States currently working from home to discover the truth about their WFH experiences. Respondents answered more than two-dozen questions about working from home, as well as questions about their psychological makeup. The majority of respondents have been working from home as a result of the pandemic, with 46% working from home for 4-5 months, 29% working from home for 6-8 months, 16% working from home for 8 or more months, and 9% working from home for 2 months or less. 65% of respondents indicated that they have at least one child under 18 living with them.  51% of respondents were professionals, 29% were managers, 15% executives, and 5% support personnel.

FINDING #1: WORKING FROM HOME IS HIGHLY DESIRED (EVEN IF IT’S NOT ALL THE TIME) 

When asked about their ideal working situation, only 9% of respondents said they want to work in an office all the time. The other 91% would like at least some time working from home, with 39% saying they’d like to work from home 3-4 days per week.

WORKING FROM HOME 

FINDING #2: EVEN EMPLOYEES WITH CHILDREN AT HOME STILL WANT TO WORK FROM HOME

It’s fair to wonder whether these findings would hold for employees with children at home (e.g., school-age kids who are doing remote schooling). Around 65% of respondents indicated that they have at least one child under 18 living with them, and we also asked about their children's current schooling situation (remote, in-person, or a mix).

As you can see below, parents whose children are doing any remote learning are less likely to want WFH all the time.  BUT, they’re also less likely to want to work in an office all the time.  Even with children in the house, a tiny fraction of people wants to be in an office full-time.

WORKING FROM HOME 

FINDING #3: A MAJORITY HAVE SEEN IMPROVED WORK-LIFE BALANCE WHILE WFH

While stories abound of remote workers who feel unable to disengage from their workdays, or maintain a healthy balance between work and personal life, those people are in the minority. 39% say that their work-life balance is much better working from home, and an additional 20% say it’s a little better.

WORKING FROM HOME 

FINDING #4: RESILIENT PEOPLE EXPERIENCE BETTER WORK-LIFE BALANCE WHILE WORKING FROM HOME

Why is it that some people find WFH to be such a boon to their work-life balance? One key discovery from this study is that highly resilient employees experience much better work-life balance working from home.

People high in resilience are better able to bounce back quickly from failure, adversity, tragedy, stress, and more. And in this study, we measured resilience with the question, “When I make a mistake, I immediately start looking for another chance to try again.” 

As you can see below, 52% of people with high resilience found that their work-life balance was much better working from home, and only 23% found that it was much better or a little better working in an office.

By contrast, only 33% of people with low resilience found that their work-life balance was much better working from home, and 33% found that it was much better or a little better working in an office. 

WORKING FROM HOME

Can resilience be taught? Yes, and in fact, resilience is one of the 18 Outlooks that drives employee engagement. [Learn more about the Self-Thriving Program to see how employees are actually increasing their resilience]. 

FINDING #5: A MAJORITY FIND THAT PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS HAVE IMPROVED WHILE WORKING FROM HOME

Perhaps the most anticipated benefit of working from home is improved personal relationships with friends, family, spouses, children, etc.  While increased face-to-face time doesn’t always lead to improved personal relationships (and there can certainly be too much of a good thing), 30% say that their personal relationships are much better working from home, and an additional 27% say they’re a little better.

By contrast, a relatively small 6% find that their personal relationships are much better when they’re working in an office.

working from home chart 

FINDING #6: PRODUCTIVITY IS SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER WORKING FROM HOME

Anyone who has worked in an office knows that there are plenty of useless meetings, office politics, and myriad procedures and interruptions that erode productivity. So it shouldn’t be surprising that 29% say their productivity is much better working from home, and an additional 24% say it’s a little better.

WORKING FROM HOME

Of course, there are those that have found their productivity to be much better working in an office. And the next finding helps explain why.

FINDING #7: PROACTIVE PEOPLE ARE FAR MORE LIKELY TO HAVE BETTER PRODUCTIVITY WORKING FROM HOME

Why is it that some people find WFH to be such a boon to their productivity? One key discovery from this study is that highly proactive employees experience much better productivity working from home.

People high in proactivity are generally self-starting and act before it’s demanded of them (as opposed to waiting for a directive).  And in this study, we measured resilience with the question, “If I see something that I don’t like, or that isn’t working well, I immediately take steps to fix it.” 

working from home chart

Can proactivity be taught? Yes, and in fact, proactivity is one of the 18 Outlooks that drives employee engagement. [Learn more about the Self-Thriving Program to see how employees are actually increasing their proactivity].

FINDING #8: PHYSICAL HEALTH IS SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER WORKING FROM HOME

If you’ve tried to buy a bike lately (and experienced low inventory and lengthy backorders), you know that people are exercising outdoors more. And that shows up in this study.

Whether it’s a desire to get outdoors, or the time saved not commuting to an office, or cooking healthy meals at home, remote workers feel like their physical health has improved working from home.

working from home chart


FINDING #9: MENTAL HEALTH IS SIGNIFICANTLY BETTER WORKING FROM HOME
 

Not only do remote workers find that their physical health is better working from home, but their mental health has also improved.  28% say their mental health is much better working from home, and an additional 21% say it’s a little better.

However, mental health benefits have not been felt by all employees, as 12% say their mental health is much better working in an office, and an additional 21% say it’s a little better.  And the next finding helps explain why that might be the case.

working from home chart


FINDING #10: AMBITIOUS EMPLOYEES FIND SIGNIFICANT MENTAL HEALTH BENEFITS WORKING FROM HOME
 

Why is it that some people find WFH to be such a boon to their mental health, while others are not seeing those benefits? One key discovery from this study is that highly ambitious employees experience much better mental health working from home. 

People high in ambition tend to enjoy leaders, projects and feedback that others would consider tough, and they love being challenged to extend the range of their abilities. In this study, we measured resilience with the question, “Others would consider me highly ambitious.” 

While there are numerous benefits to working from home, there are also significant challenges, including needing to learn new ways of working. And highly ambitious employees seem to have embraced and enjoyed those challenges.

working from home chart

Can ambition be taught? Yes, and in fact, ambition is one of the 18 Outlooks that drives employee engagement. [Learn more about the Self-Thriving Program to see how employees are actually increasing their ambition].

FINDING #11: MOST EMPLOYEES FIND THEIR DESIRE TO STAY AT THE COMPANY IS UNCHANGED OR BETTER WORKING FROM HOME 

It’s ironic that so many companies have postponed their annual engagement surveys for fear of declining scores. Because as you can see below, 45% of remote workers say their desire to stay at this company is unchanged, whether they’re working from home or in the office.

And 23% say their desire to stay at this company is much better working from home, while an additional 17% say it’s a little better. Only 9% say their desire to stay at this company is much better working in an office.

working from home chart


FINDING #12: CAREER HAPPINESS IS ACTUALLY BETTER WORKING FROM HOME

It’s not uncommon for remote employees to worry that their career will suffer when they’re working from home.  But this study discovered that, for a majority of remote employees, career happiness is the same or better as it was working in an office.

Overall, 40% of employees are happier with their career working from home. 26% say their happiness with their career is much better working from home, and an additional 14% say it’s a little better. 

working from home chart

However, not every remote employee is happier with their career, as 12% say their happiness with their career is much better working in an office, and an additional 16% say it’s a little better.  And the next finding helps explain why that might be the case.

FINDING #13: ASSERTIVE EMPLOYEES EXPERIENCE THE GREATEST HAPPINESS WITH THEIR CAREERS WHILE WORKING FROM HOME

Why is it that some people find WFH to be such a boon to their career happiness? One key discovery from this study is that highly assertive employees experience much better career happiness working from home.

People high in assertiveness are able to clearly express their needs, views, and boundaries, and they generally experience less anxiety around making requests, having tough conversations, and saying ‘no.’ In this study, we measured resilience with the question, “I am willing to voice my opinions, even when they are in opposition to the opinions of most people.”

working from home chart

Can assertiveness be taught? Yes, and in fact, assertiveness is one of the 18 Outlooks that drives employee engagement. [Learn more about the Self-Thriving Program to see how employees are actually increasing their assertiveness].

FINDING #14: A SIGNIFICANT GROUP HAVE EXPERIENCED AN INCREASE IN THEIR CREATIVITY WORKING FROM HOME 

When freelancers, and other perpetually remote workers, cite the benefits of WFH, increased creativity is often on that list. Without interruptions, wasteful meetings, office politics, and more, we should expect people to feel some increase in their creativity. 

And there is a significant group in this study that have experienced increased creativity working from home.  20% say their creativity is much better working from home, and an additional 19% say it’s a little better.

working from home chart

However, not every remote employee is more creative, as 7% say their creativity is much better working in an office, and an additional 16% say it’s a little better.  And the next finding helps explain why that might be the case.

FINDING #15: OPTIMISTIC PEOPLE EXPERIENCE A SIGNIFICANT INCREASE IN THEIR CREATIVITY WORKING FROM HOME

Why is it that some people find WFH to be such a boon to their creativity? One key discovery from this study is that highly optimistic employees experience much better creativity working from home.

People high in optimism expect that they’re going to experience positive and favorable outcomes. And in this study, we measured optimism with the question, “I expect that more good things will happen to me than bad things.” 

working from home chart

Can optimism be taught? Yes, and in fact, optimism is one of the 18 Outlooks that drives employee engagement. [Learn more about the Self-Thriving Program to see how employees are actually increasing their optimism].

FINDING #16: ABOUT A THIRD OF PEOPLE FEEL THE QUALITY OF THEIR WORK IS BETTER WFH 

Notwithstanding companies’ concerns about employees’ work suffering while working from home, the vast majority of people do NOT think that the quality of their work has suffered outside of the office. 

53% say that the quality of their work is the same whether they’re working from home or in an office.  Meanwhile, 16% say their quality is much better working from home, and an additional 18% say it’s a little better.


FINDING #17: PEOPLE ARE DIVIDED ON WHETHER MEETINGS ARE MORE PRODUCTIVE WORKING FROM HOME OR IN AN OFFICE

The productivity of meetings is the topic on which peoples’ opinions are almost evenly divided. 35% say that the productivity of meetings is much, or a little, better working in an office, 33% say it’s the same in both situations, and 32% say that the productivity of meetings is much, or a little, better working from home.

working from home chart


FINDING #18: A MAJORITY FIND THAT THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS IN MEETINGS ARE THE SAME WHETHER THEY’RE WORKING IN AN OFFICE OR REMOTELY

While there are certainly differences between virtual and in-the-office meetings, it turns out that employees’ contributions in those meetings are fairly consistent.

56% say that the contributions they make in meetings are the same whether they’re working from home or in an office.  Meanwhile, 23% say the contributions they make in meetings are much, or a little, better working from home.  And 21% say the contributions they make in meetings are much, or a little, better working in an office.

working from home chart


FINDING #19: THE MAJORITY OF PEOPLE HAVE NOT EXPERIENCED A DECREASE IN THEIR MOTIVATION
 

While we’ve all heard the anecdotes about rampant burnout among employees working from home, the vast majority of people have NOT experienced diminished motivation as a result of working remotely.

48% say that their motivation to do exceptional work is the same whether they’re working from home or in an office.  Meanwhile, 19% say their motivation to do exceptional work is much better working from home, and an additional 12% say it’s a little better.

working from home chart


FINDING #20: RESILIENT PEOPLE ARE TWICE AS LIKELY TO HAVE EXPERIENCED AN INCREASE IN MOTIVATION WORKING FROM HOME 

Why is it that some people find WFH to be such a boon to their motivation to do exceptional work? One key discovery from this study is that highly resilient employees experience much better motivation to do exceptional work while working from home. 

People high in resilience are better able to bounce back quickly from failure, adversity, tragedy, stress, and more. And in this study, we measured resilience with the question, “When I make a mistake, I immediately start looking for another chance to try again.” 

As you can see below, 29% of people with high resilience found that their motivation to do exceptional work was much better working from home.  And that’s more than twice as much as those with moderate or low resilience.

working from home chart

Can resilience be taught? Yes, and in fact, resilience is one of the 18 Outlooks that drives employee engagement. [Learn more about the Self-Thriving Program to see how employees are actually increasing their resilience].

FINDING #21: RELATIONSHIPS WITH BOSSES ARE MORE LIKELY TO HAVE STAYED THE SAME WHILE WORKING FROM HOME

While a majority say that their relationship with their boss is the same working from home or in an office, this is one of the few areas where there are more who feel things are better in an office than working from home.

27% say their relationship with their boss is much, or a little, better working in an office, while 16% say it’s better working from home.

working from home chart


FINDING #22: RELATIONSHIPS WITH WORK COLLEAGUES ARE FAR BETTER WORKING IN AN OFFICE THAN WORKING FROM HOME
 

Relationships with work colleagues are where the data shows a clear advantage of working in an office.

19% say their relationships with work colleagues is much better working from an office, and an additional 35% say it’s a little better. By contrast, only 6% say their relationships with work colleagues is much better working from home, and only 9% say it’s a little better.

working from home chart


FINDING #23: IN OPEN-ENDED COMMENTS, “FEWER INTERRUPTIONS” IS THE MOST COMMON POSITIVE BENEFIT OF WORKING FROM HOME
 

Respondents were asked the following open-ended question, “What’s something that has changed about your job since you went remote that you think is a POSITIVE CHANGE?”

As you can see in the word cloud of comments below, “fewer interruptions” is the most cited positive change associated with working from home. And this can be seen in the charts referencing increases in productivity, creativity, and quality of work, among others.

WORDCLOUD WFH


FINDING #24: IN OPEN-ENDED COMMENTS, “LESS INTERACTION” IS THE MOST COMMON DOWNSIDE OF WORKING FROM HOME
 

Respondents were asked the following open-ended question, “What’s something that has changed about your job since you went remote that you think is a NEGATIVE CHANGE?” And as you can see in the word cloud of comments below, consistent with the chart showing a decline in relationships with work colleagues, “less interaction” is the most frequently cited negative change associated with working from home.

WORDCLOUD WFH

 

 

 

 

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