Most employees are completely happy to never return to the office, survey finds

Remote workers are happy at home, but many still feel pressured to work longer hours over management fears of lost productivity. Here's how organizations can change to suit the new normal.

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Survey results from software recommendation site GetApp find that workers are ready for the new normal of remote work, but business leaders have yet to evolve past suspicions that remote workers are slacking off. COVID-19 has changed the face of work across the planet: Offices are closed, professionals of all kinds are working from home, and remote collaboration is the new normal. According to GetApp's survey results, workers are completely fine with that.

Fifty percent of respondents said they want the option to stay remote permanently, and job satisfaction levels are incredibly high: 90% said they're happy with their individual quality of work, 84% like their new work/life balance, 83% are happy with their individual productivity, and 79% are happy with their team's productivity. By contrast, only 16% want to be back in the office with social distancing, and only 17% said they're more productive in the office. 

SEE: COVID-19 workplace policy (TechRepublic Premium)

In short, no one in the rank-and-file is mourning the death of office culture. Business leaders, on the other hand, aren't so sure.

Forty-four percent of SMB leaders, the survey found, want to let their employees work remotely some of the time, but 39% continue to believe that remote workers are less productive. "The data just isn't there to support this impression of reduced productivity while working from home, and this myth is causing employee burnout. The myth is so powerful, employees pressure themselves to work longer hours even if they're not feeling direct or indirect pressure from their managers to do so," GetApp said. 

Despite employees being happy at home, the myth of productivity loss is causing 82% of workers to put in extra hours, work on the weekends, take calls before and after business hours, and answer emails on days off. The result of this pressure may be an increase in quantity of work, GetApp said, but not quality. "With 90% of employees feeling satisfied with the quality of their work, the pressure to work more hours isn't going to move the needle the four or five percent you may think it will—instead you'll end up with burned-out employees whose productivity is now actually suffering," GetApp senior content analyst Olivia Montgomery said in a blog post about the survey results.

"As an employer, you need to embrace the remote work culture and help employees through the challenges they're experiencing now, instead of ignoring them and thinking we're all going back to the office soon," Montgomery said.

SEE: Big data's role in COVID-19 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

GetApp has several recommendations for business leaders that want to learn to manage workers in the world of remote work. Trusting them and empowering them to meet their objectives is the key, and leaders can do that by: 

  • Taking a look at the software people need for work, and re-evaluating whether or not it's the best option for remote work.
  • Moving to a smaller workspace, which can not only save money, but still allows employees who want (or need) to be in the office to come in once coronavirus concerns are passed.
  • Converting existing office spaces into collaboration hubs where teams that need to meet can come together for brainstorming sessions, meetings, etc. 
  • Encouraging asynchronous communication so employees don't feel pressured to respond in real time.
  • Providing a device stipend. Using personal devices isn't only a security risk, it's also a source of worry for 32% of respondents.
  • Implementing a BYOD policy, even if the device being used isn't physically coming into the office.

"Employees want to stay remote because they actually like most aspects of it, but as an employer, you need to change your perspective and embrace this new way of working," Montgomery said. 

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