Scientists in Denmark have outlined the opportunities and challenges from the use of remote working post the pandemic.
Researchers from DTU Management have identified the three biggest challenges and the three biggest benefits from working remotely in the face of the impact of the pandemic on new ways of organising working practices following the enforced social distancing. It identified the factors that affect the peoples’ experience of it, such as their job function, age and seniority, whether they have children, whether they are a manager or employee, etc.
Associate Professor at DTU Management Christine Ipsen, one of the researchers behind the study, explained: “We’ve examined the pros and cons of working from home among managers and employees in knowledge jobs in eight European countries. We carried out the study at the start of the pandemic and identified six main areas that are essential for how different people experience remote office work.”
“Most people felt that working from home provided benefits in terms of better work/life balance, increased efficiency, and more control over their own work. For most people, these three advantages outweighed the three main disadvantages: the inevitable shortcomings of the home office, the greater uncertainty when you don’t meet physically with your boss and colleagues, and finally the reduced access to necessary work tools that are normally available in the office.”
Although most of the subjects in the study felt that the pros of working from home outweighed the cons, there was also a large group that did not see the benefits.
“Before companies and organisations make new plans for the scope of remote work, it’s important to remember that people experience the pros and cons very differently. In other words, it’s not a given that everyone feels positive about working from home or have the same challenges. By analysing the employees’ experiences based on the six factors we identified, management can get an overview of what to keep in mind and when to act in relation to different employee groups,” explains Ms Ipsen.
The research found that young people aged 18 to 30 scored higher when it came to “work/life balance” than employees over the age of 31. On the other hand, young people had more problems with “uncertainty about the work” compared to older generations, who perceived “inadequate tools” as a bigger problem.
When it came to comparing managers and employees, many differences emerged:
“For example, employees rate their efficiency and work/life balance more positively than managers, while managers report less uncertainty about their work and less lack of important work tools compared to employees,” added Ms Ipsen.
In terms of advantages the study identified Better work/life balance, greater efficiency, partly due to fewer disruptions, fewer meetings, and less wasted time. It also provides more control over one’s own work, breaks whenever needed, less interference.
In terms of downsides the study found isolation, more time in front of the screen, was a challenge. Uncertainty about the work – e.g. which tasks need to be solved, unexciting tasks, less meaningful, was also a problem as was insufficient tools with limited access to documents, data, and printers.
By using the six factors as reference points in analyses of the organisations’ different employee groups, management can gain a better understanding of how to organise remote work in the future, the study said.
“There have been many analyses of people’s experiences during lockdown and working from home, but this is a concrete tool that can be used to identify and engage in dialogue about pros and cons when developing and implementing new strategies to promote both efficiency and well-being.”
“It’s about minimizing the disadvantages, because the trend we’re seeing shows that people will work more from home in the future – even when corona no longer dominates society,” added Ms Ipsen, who pointed out that our experiences of remote work may change.