working at home

Working at home is hot.

By Rieva Lesonsky

Working at home is one of the biggest HR trends of the decade. The ability to work remotely — whether from home, in a shared co-working space or in a coffee shop — has become a much-desired perk among employees.

But how does working at home (or anywhere outside the office) really affect small business employees’ productivity, satisfaction and morale? The Avast Business Mobile Workforce Report 2018 surveyed small business employees and employers to find out. Here’s what the study found — and what it means for your business.

Where are employees the most productive?

  • The majority of small business employees (38%) say they are most productive when working at home. However, 35% are most productive at their desk in the office.
  • Some 21% are most productive when working in a public place, like a library or coffeehouse.
  • Just 6% are most productive in a “hot desking” situation — that is, coming into the office or a shared working space and taking whatever desk is available. (If you’re using hot desking as a way to save on office space, the study suggests, any financial savings gained are likely lost in reduced productivity.)

What affects employees’ productivity the most?

People who work in the office say stress/anxiety is the top factor affecting their productivity, with interruptions and other distractions close behind. The top distraction factor for employees who work at home are TV and domestic tasks; however, almost as many say stress and anxiety affect their productivity.

Surprisingly, problems with technology don’t have a huge effect on remote workers’ productivity. The survey suggests that most people are fairly comfortable with technology and can troubleshoot their own problems when they work outside the office.

What employees do miss when they work outside the home is access to the expertise of coworkers. Not being able to brainstorm or collaborate is one of the downsides of working outside the office. Employees who say they are most productive in the office are most likely to miss collaboration when working outside of it.

What are the benefits of working at home?

Here’s what employees see as the top benefits of mobile working:

  • 34% of employees say they are happier
  • 33% say they have a better work/life balance
  • 32% say they enjoy their jobs
  • 30% say they are more productive

In a time when it’s becoming more and more difficult to find and retain qualified employees — especially for small businesses — any perk that can make employees happier with their jobs and more satisfied with their lives can be a game-changer.

If you’re worried about reduced productivity, don’t be: almost four in 10 employees (39%) say they work longer hours than they’re supposed to when working at home. The happier employees are, in fact, the more likely they are to work longer hours.

For those employees who prefer working outside of an office, few are willing to give it up — at least, not without significant rewards in exchange. Overall, most employees in the survey said they would be willing to work in an office full time in return for a pay increase. However, it would have to be an increase of more than 5%. Among employees who are most productive outside the office, 52% say they would rather take a pay cut than have to come into an office every day.

How to make working at home work for your employees

The biggest take away from Avast’s survey: Don’t assume that all employees feel the same about working from home. While it’s widely portrayed as a popular perk (and it is), there is still a significant percentage of employees who prefer to work in an office setting full time. Others are willing to work wherever they will make the most money.

Discuss the options your company offers with each employee, both during their initial interviews and during their reviews. As employees’ needs change, their interest in working from home may change, too.

Also be on the alert for some of the same problems that affect in-office employees to plague those at home. For example, even if work-at-home employees enjoy their jobs, working longer than necessary hours (as 39% do) can put them at risk for job burnout.

And if you think that working at home is an automatic solution to reducing employee stress, the study suggests, you may need to rethink. Stress and anxiety can still pursue employees wherever they work, so it’s important to figure out solutions for individual situations rather than assuming that remote work is a panacea.

Finally, don’t forget about cybersecurity whenever your employees are working outside the office. Employees who like to work at public places, such as cafés or libraries, need to be especially careful about using the Internet safely. Remind them to use a VPN and avoid logging on to unsecured public Wi-Fi. Educate your employees about mobile cybersecurity and your business will be a lot safer, wherever they work.

Stock photo of African American man working from Kinga/Shutterstock