Who thrives and who just survives working in the new normal?

A new survey from Hibob reveals what determines productivity and satisfaction: It is based on an employee's position in a company, living situation, and gender.

COVID-19: Why behavior analytics can be a useful tool for employers

As US employees round out the third month of working from home, a new Hibob survey found that 37% believe that they are just as productive at home as they would be in a traditional office environment. 

Despite the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic, remote employees embrace the flexibility it affords them. Further, a person's position at work, who they're sheltering-at-home with, and their gender comprise the formula of happy work from home employees. Only 13% said they're more productive in an office setting, and 18% reported they do not feel productive at all.

"The results of this survey were definitely surprising, but also understandable when looked at holistically and in line with potential determining factors," said Rhiannon Staples, chief marketing officer, Hibob. 

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Single life when working from home

Living alone, despite the benefits of eating and watching whatever you want, when you want, can actually be less productive. People who are single and WFH are likely to feel isolated from family and friends; this likely breeds dissatisfaction and contributes to stressors, according to the study.

As proven by the soaring success of Zoom for virtual meetings and e-learning, collaboration and live interaction contributes to productivity, and, according to the study, being able to interact during the quarantine is critical. Lack of contact can lead to anxiety and depression. Hibob referred to open communication as "paramount in building a strong employee experience." 

While it might seem counterintuitive (sheltering with other people translates to more distractions), Hibob reported that 73% of these employees felt productive at home. 

"Perhaps most surprising was the finding that 68% of working mothers are feeling as productive–and even more productive–from home while also attending to their families and children," said Staples.

"Upon first glance, this finding wouldn't seem expected. However, it is clear working mothers are setting aside time to dedicate to work. Carving out this time allows working mothers to practice some autonomy in the hours they work, and also allows them to see their children more than just 15 minutes before school drop off each day."

The feeling of productivity was particularly pronounced among working mothers. Hibob's survey showed 87% of employees are comfortable balancing the needs of families with work, supporting the belief that managers are offering flexibility. 

Working mothers are trying to balance families, e-learning for children, cook, and launder, all while working full-time. The report also found "women are taking on traditional gender roles and overseeing the majority of childcare responsibilities, even in situations when two parents are working remotely."

Hibob found 51% of working mothers feel productive from home, and that 68% of the same group feel they do their jobs well. 

Company hierarchy matters for WFH

WFH employees from all levels and positions strive for set, well-defined responsibilities. Only 14% felt they were rudderless (given no direction); 35% crave clarity, and 53% indicated their priorities and tasks were clear. 

"It's improbable that nonessential businesses will ever revert back to fully traditional office settings," said Ronni Zehavi, CEO of Hibob. "Given this new normal, companies need to take time to adapt and understand how they must change to support remote workers."

Managers and executives, Hibob found, thrive at home due to experience level. But individual contributors can have difficulty adjusting to the new normal, the new autonomy, and dealing with queries or projects they might not be able to handle on their own. But Hibob noted that with the proper support system and new skills, these individual contributors can develop to become more powerful and productive. 

Employees who live with other people have a sense of camaraderie that can translate into successful teamwork. They have an inherent support system. Individuals may feel isolated and alone, exacerbating the stress of what COVID-19 has wrought. 

"Flexibility is the future of work," Zehavi said. "In reviewing this survey data, it has become apparent that companies big and small have the ability to succeed with remote teams, and success starts and ends with giving employees the flexibility and tools they need."

Staples said: "Modern workplaces need to leverage the tools, technology, and collaboration mechanisms in front of them to make employees feel appreciated, productive, and motivated. Even remotely, with the right practices and protocol in place, employees can thrive and HR teams can foster cultures that allow workers to succeed and businesses to grow."

The national survey includes responses from 1,000 full-time US employees ages 18 and up. 

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Woman sitting with laptop at home

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