Most employees prefer working from home, survey shows

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Contrary to reports of employee burnout from the stress of working from home during the coronavirus pandemic, most people now say they’re not so keen on returning to the office. And it’s not because they’re afraid of catching COVID-19.

According to a recent survey by consulting firm Korn Ferry, 74% of respondents are confident that their coworkers would follow safety guidelines, such as wearing masks and social distancing. Still, more than half expressed ambivalence about returning to their workplaces once they reopen. 

The main reason cited by respondents for wanting to continue working from home: They get more work done. The majority of respondents, 58%, said they were more productive when working remotely, even with the distraction of kids and spouses.

The old ways now just seem old

Employers are getting the message, too. Although many businesses continue to see benefits in gathering employees under the same roof, views are shifting. The go-go corporate ethos that once led people to work around the clock to demonstrate their worth now seems out of touch, a relic of a time when employees were expected to put career over their personal lives. 

Today, top companies increasingly recognize that the new norm likely means a hybrid approach of working from home and the office, or even a fully virtual work environment. Only 14% of employers say they plan to make returning to the office mandatory, according to Korn Ferry.

Returning to the workplace amid the pandemic 04:13

Other data also reveal a sea-change in attitudes on working from home since the pandemic. Nearly 9 of 10 workers say they want more flexibility and autonomy over where and when they work, according to new research from technology company Cisco Systems. Cisco Vice President Gordon Thomson told Reuters that companies must reconfigure how they operate to help meet the new demands of workers, prioritizing effective communication and collaboration.

Another tech industry bellwether, Microsoft, is also on board. The software maker told employees this month that it is formalizing working from home part of the week and allowing more flexible work hours.

“Flexibility can mean different things to each of us, and we recognize there is no one-size-fits-all solution given the variety of roles, work requirements and business needs we have at Microsoft,” Kathleen Hogan, executive vice president and chief people officer, said in a memo

Gender divide

While working from home can help employees lead more balanced lives, some workers may benefit more than others. While 70% of male workers said their productivity had increased since the start of the pandemic, only 41% of women said the same, according to a study from Qualtrics, a maker of experience management software, and theBoardlist, which helps companies find corporate directors. Nearly twice as many men as women — 57% compared to 29% — said that working from home had a positive impact on their careers.

Meanwhile, Zoom calls and other online connections can’t replace the social dynamics of being in the same room with people. Offices that foster positive work relationships may have the greatest chances of luring employees back, as 57% of professionals surveyed pointed to “camaraderie with colleagues” as what they would most look forward to if their office were to reopen, according to Qualtrics and theBoardlist.

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