The Latest Research on How We’re Adapting to Remote Work

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Apr 20, 2020
This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.

The world is being shaken like a snow globe, and everything seems to be upside down and spinning –especially the way we work. COVID-19 has turned our homes into our offices. And for most of us, it’s been quite an adjustment.

Work certainly has a new look. As the results of a survey 2,000 office workers across the United States conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Citrix reveal, beds have become desks, bathrooms serve as conference rooms, kids and pets crash virtual meetings and cameras thought to be off capture awkward moments and sounds.

So how are we adapting?

The unprecedented blending of work and personal life has created some unwelcome anxieties. According to the OnePoll survey, 36% of workers have felt overwhelmed as a result of working from home and 28% feel lonely.

The good news is the majority of us are demonstrating grit and determination and managing to stay productive and engaged.

Ready or not, here it comes…

Working from home isn’t an arrangement we asked for. It was largely forced on us by the global pandemic on incredibly short notice. Yet 38% of workers said that their organizations were “completely” set-up for remote working, with the technology and infrastructure already in place. A further 45% claim they were “fairly ready.”

The shift to working from home is not without its tech challenges. Home broadband and Wi-Fi are proving to be the biggest issue, cited by a third of survey respondents. This is closely followed by strict security protocols, or the absence of single sign-on, called out by 33%. Additionally, the use of multiple conference call services is causing frustration for 62%, as are lack of access to apps to get work done (23%) and slow VPN connections (16%).

The home as office

Having the right technology to work remotely is critical; however, creating a physical space to work is equally important. While some may already have a home office set-up, many employees were unprepared, finding themselves having to share their home environment with a new set of co-workers. According to the OnePoll survey, 64% are co-existing with partners, 56% with young children aged three to 12, 28% with infants under the age of two, and 41% with teenagers. Only 5% are on their own.

To accommodate the needs and schedules of their new officemates and to minimize distractions, respondents to the survey admitted to taking work calls in unusual places. A third have taken calls in their bedrooms, 29% in the bathroom, and 24% in the garage, among other places.

A new routine

While the survey found that 24% of US workers are getting up at the same time as they did when commuting to an office, a quarter are sleeping in a little more, and 22% are hitting the ‘snooze’ button until the last possible moment. Personal morning routines have also changed a bit, with just 34% of those polled claiming they continue to shower every day, and only 26% styling their hair or applying makeup prior to going online. A quarter admit to wearing sweatpants or pajamas while working, and 24% are donning workout clothes.

While it might be funny and novel to see your co-workers in their pajamas on a video call, for remote work to be truly effective, it’s important for employees to try and get into a repeatable rhythm so they can be and do their best wherever they happen to be. A positive finding of the study is that 25% of respondents say they can focus and get work done more quickly as a result of their new routine because their commutes have been reduced from hours to seconds, and they spend less time getting ready for work. A further 27% are also pleased to be removed from the distraction of office politics and chit chat, which used to dominate their days and keep them from getting work done.

Breaks in the action

With their new routine and surroundings, workers are taking slightly longer breaks, allowing themselves an average of 31.18 minutes throughout the day, compared to the 27.89 minutes they took in the office. During this time, 46% are using managing the needs of their family, such as setting up home-schooling projects or entertaining their children. The benefit? Employees given the freedom and trust to work flexible hours and manage personal business on the proverbial clock can strike a healthier work-life balance and are often more engaged and productive. In fact, nearly a quarter of respondents to the OnePoll survey say they are able to focus and get work done faster.

Smile, you’re on candid camera!

Not everyone is familiar with remote working technology or etiquette, which has led to some funny and embarrassing outcomes. As OnePoll found, 44% of workers have signed on to video meetings without realizing that their cameras were on, only to be caught cooking (40%), doing household chores (44%), working out (38%) or in the bathroom (41%), among other things. Others have found themselves forgetting to hit the “mute” button and been guilty of talking about someone on the call (37%), talking to someone else in the room with them (28%), or making “awkward” noises (41%).

Additionally, 29% of workers say their pet or child has made an unexpected appearance on a work video call.

Embracing the “new normal”

Remote work isn’t going away anytime soon and may likely be the “new normal. “As the OnePoll survey finds, 37% of employees think their organizations will be more relaxed about working from home in the future, and 32% say they plan to do so more often.

These are certainly challenging times. But within every challenge lies an opportunity. The same investments companies are making in remote work today can help them be more agile to take advantage of new business and market opportunities in the future.

This article is part of a series called COVID-19 Coverage.