Imbalance of home and office working causing issues for employees, new research finds

New research from University of Leeds Business School has shown that an improper balance of home and office working is creating a number of issues for UK workers.

The research found that over a third of office staff are working away from home for more days than they would like.

Workers who were in the office more often than they wanted to be, were more likely to want to change jobs, have lower job satisfaction and have worse work-life balance, the research claims.

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Dr Matthew Davis, who led the study, said “Unfortunately, there is no clear answer to ‘How many days should I come to the office?’ Spending more time than you ideally want in the office appears detrimental, but there is no universal sweet spot.

Dr Matthew Davis, leader of the study from University of Leeds Business School.Dr Matthew Davis, leader of the study from University of Leeds Business School.
Dr Matthew Davis, leader of the study from University of Leeds Business School.

“The number of days should be determined based on job role, business requirements and employee preferences, giving choice and control to the individual where possible.”

The research found that 39 per cent of office workers are what it describes as hybrid “misfits”, who do not have the right balance of home and office working.

Whilst businesses continue to struggle to persuade workers to return to the office, in part due to increasing commute costs, the research shows that office working is beneficial for hybrid workers.

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The researchers used daily diary data, collected from over 10,000 observations, to look at whether employees in a range of workplaces felt and behaved differently when they were in the office compared with when they were at home.

When employees worked from an office, they typically reported higher job satisfaction and engagement, better performance, helping colleagues more, and less work-family conflict, than when they worked from home.

The research provides strong evidence of the benefits to employees when they work from the office and that the effort of travelling into the workplace is worthwhile.

It also suggests that for businesses, encouraging hybrid workers to spend a proportion of their time in the office is justified.

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Additionally, the research found that around 20 per cent of hybrid workers have very little control over when or where they work (known as fixed hybrid workers) – hybrid working is not flexible or necessarily positive for everyone.

It concluded that letting employees choose where in the office to work is hugely positive, and that when people have a choice they feel higher job satisfaction, better performance, have greater wellbeing, do more helping behaviours and extra work tasks, and feel less exhausted.

The research also revealed a training gap in what workers want and what they had recieved.

It showed that while 74 per cent of people claimed that they wanted hybrid training, only 9 per cent had received any.

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Dr Davis added: “Organisations need to directly engage with staff to identify where there are hybrid misfits, try to align preferences and work patterns where possible, and to be explicit about hybrid norms and expectations with new hires to improve fit going forward.”

The university’s findings are part of a major research project undertaken by Leeds University Business School on changes in the workplace as the UK adapts to new ways of working.

The project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19.

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