National design firm Hames Sharley has surveyed all staff across its six studios across the country to better understand the effects of working from home, and the possible ramifications for the workplace in future.
The nationwide survey was conducted by the practice to get ahead of work trends before they begin to rear their head when a return to the office full time becomes feasible. While some results were surprising, others were a reflection of the current working climate, with respondents answering questions regarding office configurations, family time and choices.
In spite of the potential negative effects working from home can have in terms of connection, 46 percent of respondents surprisingly reported a positive impact in their connection to the organisation whilst working from home. Only 22 percent found remote working to have a negative impact on cultural connection whilst 32 percent felt there was little difference. The reasons were various; there was acknowledgement of overt informal meeting opportunities and great communication technology adoption during lockdowns. Frustrations of working from home included lack of printing facilities, fluctuating VPN connection speeds and the presence of children.
43 percent of respondents reported that they missed the immediacy of physical team connection. Understandably, the combination of these statistics suggests that being left alone by others was seen positively whilst the inability to immediately communicate with others on demand was the frustration and this balance of accessibility and productivity between an individual and a team is an ongoing challenge throughout every organisation.
Positives that could be translated back to the workplace all fell under the banner of ‘choice’. This ranged from individual control of lighting, temperature, noise and humidity to the selection of vastly different work settings to support different activities. 43 percent of respondents suggested planting or outdoor space should be incorporated to a work environment whilst 35 percent requested informal lounge areas. A huge 64 percent reported focused work being easier at home and this translated to 30 percent requesting dedicated high focus spaces in the workplace. In a demographic overlay, there was no correlation between the ability to focus and having children at home where social commentary suggests otherwise, similarly there was no correlation between age and a positive or negative cultural connection to organisation.
The lack of distraction, ability to move between alternative environments, access to nature and more structured communication are the positive factors of working from home, the survey discovered. The survey statistics suggest that this choice and focus outweighed the irritation of not being able to immediately turn to adjacent colleagues, being the inverse of the positively rated limited distraction.
Open plan offices aren't for everyone or for every task, and can certainly affect levels of focus or introverted persons. Hames Sharley’s survey data suggested that a far greater range of alternative work settings was preferred to an open plan environment, playing to the growing move towards agility-based Activity Based Working models where staff choose their work setting, location, who they might be near and in larger workplaces that can develop into areas of different humidity and temperature.
The study found that there was mixed feedback regarding delineation of work and family/social time. For some, respondents juggling both at home was a challenge with working time stretching and a feeling of not being able to escape tasks for a relaxing evening. There was feedback regarding wanting to not have to work at the family dining table. A repeated positive came from those with a home office or converted spare bedroom that for them was their place of work, entirely separate from their lounge, kitchen or garden and the ability to frequently move from one to the other was hugely appreciated. This feedback suggests that a workplace could have more than just alternative work settings but completely different environments with a high degree of separation between them to empower genuinely social relaxation time between periods of work through the day.
Overall choice and individual control of one’s working environment remained overarching themes. The research proved the need for spaces to support different tasks and different personalities, perhaps far more separate and different in terms of environment than they have ever been before, balancing focus and collaboration, increasing accessible outdoor space and plants.
To find out more about the survey, head to hamessarley.com.au.