American Managers and Employees Are Interested in a Hybrid WFH Arrangement, Which Could Impact Mental Health and Teamwork

Advanis presents the results of a survey, conducted with 905 American workers and managers, between January 18-26th, 2021, asking about their return to office plans, feelings about working from home and future career aspirations.

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  • A survey of 600 American workers who are working from home, and a survey of 305 American managers of remote worker has provided insight on the workplace of the future:
    • Managers and employees are both highly interested in making work from home arrangements permanent – either full-time or a hybrid version, but many don’t expect that organizations will go along with this desire in the near term.
    • However, many workers are interested in remote work in their next job, and managers believe many organizations might offer this option in the future.
    • Managers and employees believe working from home permanently might have a positive impact on their mental health but are somewhat concerned about the impact on team collaboration and creativity.
    • In the long-term, the work from home arrangement could indicate the end of the downtown core and a need for larger home footprints.

American managers are aligned with their team members’ desire to work from home in the future

Most American employees are enjoying their current work from home experience (66%). Once the pandemic is over, most (65%) would be interested in a permanent hybrid arrangement (i.e., working from home at least some days of the week). Among those interested in this arrangement, some would even entertain a pay-cut to have access to what is perceived to be a benefit (29%).

Most managers feel very effective managing a remote team (76%) and nearly half (48%) would be interested in a hybrid arrangement themselves, if given the option. Managers are aligned with their employees’ desire to work from home and would prefer to have just over half their teams permanently working in a hybrid WFH arrangement (28%) or always working from home (28%).

However, organizations have the final say and remote worker supply may outweigh the demand

Most managers (64%) and employees (51%) believe they will be called back to work at their workplace full-time once the pandemic is over, and the vast majority of employees would comply (88%). More long term, many employees would consider applying for remote positions for their next career move (43%) and quite a few managers believe their organizations will be willing to hire remote staff from anywhere in the country (44%).

While WFH permanently may not be available for many in the short-run, flexible hours is a trend that will likely outlive the pandemic

If working from the workplace after the pandemic, nearly half of employees would be interested in more flexible hours (45%) and in a shorter work week (43%), to make working from the office more appealing.

Most (52%) managers say their organization is open to granting flexible working hours to their team members and would, accordingly, shift their management approach to focus more on productivity than on hours worked (46%). A shorter week is slightly less likely, as 39% of managers say that their organization would be likely to consider it.

Mental health concerns regarding permanent WFH arrangements are not significant among managers and employees, but precaution is needed to keep it that way

While most (61%) managers say their own wellbeing has improved due to working from home during the pandemic, many are concerned about managing it if the arrangement becomes permanent (45%).

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Managers do perceive working from home to have a positive effect on their team members’ wellbeing (61%). Nonetheless, boosting employees’ mental health (50%) and keeping their morale elevated (49%) are important concerns if their teams work from home permanently.

Employees are positive about their mental health if permanently working from home in the future, with many more believing it would improve (48%) than worsen (18%). While most believe their connection with their families and work/life balance would improve (59% and 52%, respectively), some are also concerned about feeling lonely and socially isolated under a permanent WFH arrangement (40%) which could impact their mental health.

The impact of WFH on teamwork is a concern of managers and employees

Half of employees (49%) believe their overall productivity would improve with a permanent WFH arrangement. However, they are split (1/3 vs. 1/3) on how concerned they feel about the quality of communication and level of knowledge sharing with peers, as well as with the limited opportunities for creative collaboration. Overall, many (41%) believe the arrangement will not alter the working relationship with their team.

Teamwork does bring worry to some managers, with many indicating they are concerned about the quality of the work produced by team members (50%), finding effective ways to communicate (50%), and creating collaboration opportunities (49%) if working from home permanently.

The WFH experience may bring significant changes to downtown offices and underscores a need for larger homes

As organizations consider the possibility of a permanent remote workforce, thought needs to be given to what will happen to the workspace. Most managers believe that organizations will need to adapt their current workspace to accommodate new on-site work needs (54%) if calling employees back. If more flexible working arrangements become the norm, many believe that more drastic changes may be possible, including using a shared workspace (51%), relocating the workspace to a more affordable area (48%) or even completely closing the current workspace (43%).

Employees are also reconsidering their home workspace. If post-pandemic WFH becomes the norm, 1 in 3 employees are likely to consider adding more space or a permanent workspace, by either renovating their current home (28%) or move to a larger home (18%).

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