Over a third of office staff are working away from home for more days than they would like, according to new research from the University.
Some 39% of office workers are so-called hybrid “misfits” and don’t have the right balance of home and office working, the survey funded by the Economic and Social Research Council found.
The researchers discovered that 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.
Spending more time than you ideally want in the office appears detrimental, but there is no universal sweet spot.
Whilst businesses continue to struggle to persuade workers to return to the office and stomach the increasing commute costs, the research shows that office working is beneficial for hybrid workers.
The report’s lead author, Dr Matthew Davis, an associate professor with Leeds University Business School, 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.
“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 researchers used daily diary data (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. For businesses, encouraging hybrid workers to spend a proportion of their time in the office is justified.
Key findings of the research included:
- Around 20% 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.
- Letting employees choose where in the office to work is hugely positive – when people have choice they feel higher job satisfaction, better performance, have greater wellbeing, do more helping behaviours and extra work tasks, and feel less exhausted.
- 27% of office workers do not have a dedicated workspace at home, instead working from dining tables, living spaces or even their beds.
- Extroverts are more likely to choose to work from the office and to choose to sit closer to their managers – they are likely to be seen and noticed!
- There is a huge hybrid training gap – 74% want hybrid training, only 9% had received any.
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 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. You can read the full findings and ideas for how to find the hybrid sweet spot in their interactive report here.
This project was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19.
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