Is Working From Home Really Just Watching TV in Sweats or Increased Productivity?

NEW YORK , N.Y. – March 11, 2013 – The perception exists – those who work from home sit around in their pajamas, never shower and are really not as productive as those who make it into an office each and every day. Isn’t this why Yahoo recently changed their policy to ban telecommuting and force everyone back into offices? But is this a fair criticism? With the various tools available for telecommuting, should it matter where someone works, as long as the work gets done? With nine in ten American workers agreeing that working from home provides flexibility (90%), how else do they feel about this issue?

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,219 adults surveyed online between February 28 and March 4, 2013 by Harris Interactive.

Who works from home?

First, people are working from home. One-third of American workers who are not self-employed say they spend time during normal business hours working from home (34%). One in ten (9%) work primarily or exclusively from home, with another 8% who spend about half their time working from home. Just under one in five (17%) spend less than half their time working from home, while two-thirds (66%) do not work from home at all.

Younger workers, those 18-34, are more likely to work from home than those 35-44 (40% versus 27%), and over one-third of those workers aged 45-54 (35%) and 55 and older (37%) spend any time working from home. There is also a perception that these telecommuters are all moms. Yes, parents of a child under the age of 18 are more likely to work from home than those without kids (41% versus 31%) but men are more likely to work from home than women (37% versus 31%).

Attitudes on the policy of working from home

Among American workers, working from home creates some mixed feelings. On the one hand, over four in five workers (85%) say working from home enables employees to balance work and family needs, but almost the same number (84%) say working together in an office setting adds to team camaraderie. Just over four in five workers also agree that some of the best ideas and/or decisions can result from impromptu, in person meetings and discussions (83%) and that working in an office setting improves communication/collaboration (81%).

Looking at the issue of productivity, most workers believe that it is not endangered by working from home; in fact, almost two-thirds of American workers (64%) agree that working from home increases productivity and work output, while one-third (35%) agree that working from home hurts speed and work quality.

The ability to telecommute is also something workers are now factoring into the job considerations. Over four in five (83%) agree that the option of working from him is a significant job perk, and three in five (61%) agree that the option to telecommute has or would have an impact on their decision to take or stay at a job.

Looking at some specific demographic groups:

  • Women are overall more likely than men to agree with positive statements about working from home:
    • Working from home provides flexibility (94%-87%)
    • Working from home enables employees to balance work and family needs (88%-83%)
    • The option of working from home is a significant job perk (86%-81%)
    • Working from home increases productivity and work output (68%-60%)
  • Workers with children under 18 (71%) are more likely than those without (56%) to agree that the option to telecommute has or would have an impact on their decision to take or stay at a job
  • U.S. workers who spend any time working from home are significantly more likely than those who do not to agree with positive statements about working from home:
    • Working from home enables employees to balance work and family needs (89%-83%)
    • The option to work from home is a significant job perk (88%-81%)
    • Working from home increases productivity and work output (76%-57%)
    • The option to telecommute has/would have an impact on my decision to take or stay at a job (76%-52%)
  • Men are significantly more likely than women to agree that working in an office setting improves communication/collaboration (83%-78%).
  • Somewhat surprisingly, it is the youngest workers who are most likely to agree that working from home hurts speed and work quality, with 18-34 year olds more likely than any other age group to agree with this (46% 18-34, 34% 35-44, 29% 45-54, 22% 55+).

So What?

A few bad apples can always ruin something for the rest. As more information came out on the Yahoo story, media reported that there was a specific reason behind the ban – in checking logs, people who were supposed to be working from home were not even logging into the company’s network. Therefore, the ban was imposed. Regardless of the reasons, the public outing of the decision has definitely increased exposure to the pros and the cons of working from home. Almost no one can argue the flexibility it provides, but there is also the challenge of a decrease in face-to-face collaboration. These divides need to find a common ground, and better technology is surely going to be the way companies get there.


TABLE 1

WORK FROM HOME

by Age, Gender & Children in HH

Which of the following best describes how much time you spend working from home? When answering, please think about normal business hours, and not work you may do from home before/after your normal work day.

Base: U.S. Workers

Total

Age

Gender

Parent of a child <18

18-34

35-44

45-54

55+

Male

Female

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Spend any time working from home (NET)

34

40

27

35

37

37

31

41

31

I work primarily or exclusively from home.

9

10

5

12

9

9

9

11

8

I spend about half my time working from home.

8

14

3

5

9

9

7

11

7

I spend less than half my time working from home.

17

16

19

18

19

19

15

19

16

I do not currently work from home at all.

66

60

73

65

63

63

69

59

69

Note: Responses may not add up to 100% due to rounding.

 

 

 

TABLE 2a

AGREEMENT WITH STATEMENTS ABOUT WORKING FROM HOME

by Age & Gender

[Summary of Strongly agree + Somewhat agree (NET) Ratings]

Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about working from home in general.

Base: U.S. Workers

Total

Age

Gender

18-34

35-44

45-54

55+

Male

Female

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Working from home provides flexibility.

90

90

86

93

91

87

94

Working from home enables employees to balance work and family needs.

85

84

84

89

83

83

88

Working together in an office setting adds to team camaraderie.

84

82

85

85

86

86

83

Some of the best ideas and/or decisions can result from impromptu, in-person meetings and discussions.

83

80

81

91

85

83

84

The option of working from home is a significant job perk.

83

81

87

86

79

81

86

Working in an office setting improves communication/collaboration.

81

79

80

81

84

83

78

Working from home increases productivity and work output.

64

65

64

67

58

60

68

The option to telecommute has/would have an impact on my decision to take or stay at a job.

61

62

62

68

50

59

63

Working from home hurts speed and work quality.

35

46

34

29

22

39

30

Note: Multiple responses accepted.

 

 


TABLE 2b

AGREEMENT WITH STATEMENTS ABOUT WORKING FROM HOME

by Parents & Work From Home

[Summary of Strongly agree + Somewhat agree (NET) Ratings]

Please indicate how strongly you agree or disagree with the following statements about working from home in general.

Base: U.S. Workers

Total

Parent of a child <18

Spend ANY Time Working from Home

Yes

No

Yes

No

%

%

%

%

%

Working from home provides flexibility.

90

87

91

92

89

Working from home enables employees to balance work and family needs.

85

84

85

89

83

Working together in an office setting adds to team camaraderie.

84

83

85

86

83

Some of the best ideas and/or decisions can result from impromptu, in-person meetings and discussions.

83

81

84

82

84

The option of working from home is a significant job perk.

83

84

83

88

81

Working in an office setting improves communication/collaboration.

81

79

81

81

80

Working from home increases productivity and work output.

64

68

62

76

57

The option to telecommute has/would have an impact on my decision to take or stay at a job.

61

71

56

76

52

Working from home hurts speed and work quality.

35

36

34

34

35

Note: Multiple responses accepted.

 

Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between February 28 and March 4, 2013 among 2,219 adults (aged 18 and over) of whom 998 are workers who are not self-employed. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words margin of error as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

The Harris Poll ® #14, March 11, 2013

By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll and Public Relations, Harris Interactive

About Harris Interactive

Harris Interactive is one of the world’s leading market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll® and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers proprietary solutions in the areas of market and customer insight, corporate brand and reputation strategy, and marketing, advertising, public relations and communications research. Harris possesses expertise in a wide range of industries including health care, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Additionally, Harris has a portfolio of multi-client offerings that complement our custom solutions while maximizing our client’s research investment. Serving clients in more than 196 countries and territories through our North American and European offices, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients-stay ahead of what’s next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.