In this post-pandemic world, it’s evident that working from home is no longer a temporary response but an accepted feature of the modern working environment. For many, the emphasis has shifted to a more flexible, hybrid working arrangement – splitting time between working at the office and from home.
Working from home is a popular choice for employees, with the benefits immediately clear, such as working to a flexible schedule, better work / life balance, and avoiding the daily commute. The positives for employers and companies however may not be so obvious but should be equally considered – especially for those wanting staff to return to the office full-time.
In December 2022, COS commissioned an external study of over 1,000 Australian office workers and the findings from this research shine a light on working from home and what employees are experiencing and expect. Employers should find the study enlightening, especially the fact that 74% (net) of employees responded that they would prefer more days working from home!
The findings reveal nearly half of those surveyed (44%) are working from home in 2023 (25% hybrid and 19% fully remote). The remaining 56% of respondents were working full time in the office or workplace. Amazingly a full 40% of people working from home stated that they don’t have a dedicated work set up, and 44% said that their work hasn’t provided them with anything at all for their home set up.
It appears employees are expecting more from their work from home set-up, even if this isn’t something their employer is mandating. 62% (net) of respondents agreed it should be an expectation that employers contribute to or fully pay for work from home set ups. Of those surveyed, 63% confirmed that they have a dedicated space at home that is set up for work to a similar standard as their workplace or office. 61% (net) of workers confirmed that their employer paid for their work from home set-up whereas 37% stated that their company did not.
It is estimated that the outlay for work from home set-ups could cost medium-sized companies over $250,000. There are challenges to navigate, such as technological shortfalls (old laptops, unreliable home Internet access and the like) as well as network and software security risks. That said, the overall benefits of subsidising work from home set ups should outweigh the challenges.
Some compelling reasons why employers should seriously consider footing the bill for work from home set-ups
Health & wellbeing issues
For employers, maintaining a healthy, efficient workforce is imperative. When employees work from home, they are less likely to be exposed to germs that make them sick, resulting in fewer absences, which contributes to increased productivity. Even when ill, employees working from home are more likely to complete a day of work that take the time off.
Having an ergonomic setup is also an important component of a healthy workplace. Our 2022 study revealed that 68% of surveyed workers confirmed that they would like a more ergonomic set up in the workplace and/or home. It’s hardly surprising given that 25% of workers confirmed that they have experienced health conditions related to their set up at home. Common ailments include lower back pain (52%), neck pain (42%), upper back pain (37%), wrist pain (29%) and Repetitive Strain Injury (22%).
An unhealthy work from home set up can lead to time off work, resulting in lower productivity. Our research shows that the average time off for chronic pain are up to 90 days for neck pain, 102 days for upper back pain and 106 days for lower back pain! Those numbers alone make a very strong case for an ergonomic set-up at home.
Improved work / life balance
Working from home also makes it easier for employees to experience a better work/life balance. Working from home tends to offer more flexibility than working from an office. This allows employees to better manage their personal time to attend to family matters, medical appointments, and the like. Avoiding a long, stressful commute is a major factor in this improved work/life balance. Working from home also offers greater opportunities to take breaks when needed helping with overall performance, motivation, energy levels and creativity.
A good work/life balance is beneficial for employers as it can lead to fewer cases of burnout, improved overall happiness, and a reduction in absenteeism. UK Minister for Small Business, Kevin Hollinrake backs this up, saying, “Giving staff more say over their working pattern makes for happier employees and more productive businesses. Put simply, it’s a no-brainer.”
Cost of Living Crisis
According to our research, Australians are spending on average $452 for their at-home work set-up, and 62% of employees would like their employers to cover this cost. This is unsurprisingly given the current cost of living crisis. The most sought-after items are a laptop, followed by office supplies, a monitor, and a chair.
The financial benefits of working from home are not lost on workers battling with rising costs. A global study in 2022 of 28,000 full-time workers (including 1042 Australians) by technology firm Cisco, found that four out of five workers saved money while working from home; on average, saving around $216 a week as they cut spending on essentials such as petrol, commuting costs and takeout food and drinks. When costs are reduced, employees are invariably happier and even more motivated. Interestingly, 70% of those surveyed by COS stated the reason they prefer more days at home was savings made on commuting costs!
Staff retention and loyalty
Supporting employees who wish to work from home is a good way to improve employee retention. Factors such as giving parents flexibility with childcare responsibilities, covering the costs of at-home work set-ups and improved work/life balance play a crucial part in employee retention reducing costly staff turnover.
Supporting employees to work from home is now an important element for staying competitive in the job market. Remote or hybrid working has become an expectation for many candidates when applying for jobs. For younger employees especially, workplace flexibility is one of many factors they’ll consider when looking for a new position. If employers want to attract the best talent and access a wider pool of applicants, some form of remote work option is an important consideration.
Increased productivity equals more revenue, which should really catch the interest of employers! Numerous studies show working from home is proven to increase work productivity and reduced absenteeism. Employees who work harder and take less time off? What employer doesn’t want that?