What is Most Concerning to Working From Home Employees: National Survey Results

September 21, 2020 9:00 am Published by

Keeping work and life boundaries has become more difficult as Work from Home continues.

Working from home (WFH) due to the COVID-19 pandemic has now moved past six months, and the longer term nature of this alternative approach to work is starting to show areas of “wear and tear” in many of our lives. While employees, employers and family members have settled into a number of adjustments in their daily lives, numerous stressors continue as a result of the interference of the pandemic:

  • not being able to be with a family member who is in the hospital,
  • significant adjustments to (or cancellation of) wedding ceremonies,
  • the inability to visit extended family members in other states due to quarantine restrictions,
  • the challenges associated with childcare / remote school while working from home.

We conducted a poll asking employees, supervisors and executives to share their concerns. On a list of 22 various issues, we asked people to share their level of concern for each life circumstance, rating them either as: “None,” “Mild,” “Moderate,” or “Extreme.” We also asked each participant to identify their role in their organization, choosing from one of the four options: employee, supervisor, manager, executive/ owner; 44% of the participants identified themselves as employees; 19% as supervisors, 21% as managers; and 16% as executives /owners. From a sample of 565 individuals, we obtained the following results.

Highest Level of Concern

The two areas receiving the highest ratings were: “The Emotional and Mental Health of Team Members” and “Keeping Work / Life Boundaries.”

While only 6% of the respondents indicated no concern at all about the emotional and mental health of team members, 75% reported they were either moderately (45.8%) or extremely (29.8%) concerned. This is consistent with the reports we are receiving from front-line supervisors, managers and organizational consultants — that people are getting worn out and worn down from the cumulative stress of COVID-19, working from home, lack of social support, and the current instability of life.

The second area of most concern was the challenge of “Keeping Work / Life Boundaries.” Fully 91% of respondents indicated this was at least a mild concern. Almost 70% reported higher levels of concern, with essentially one-third of the individuals being extremely concerned (32.2%) and over one-third being moderately concerned (37.5%) about this issue. Again, these results are supportive of anecdotal reports we are hearing from those working from home. One person reported, “The issue has become less about ‘working from home’ and more like ‘living from work’.”

Other Highly Rated Concerns

Another pattern to note is that of the 22 issues rated, 59% of them were identified by a majority of the respondents as being either at a moderate or extreme level concern. (The 22 items were developed from the input of a focus group.) Following the top two concerns, 11 additional issues were rated by at least 50% of the respondents as being an extreme or moderate concern to them.

Extreme     Moderate  Combined

  • Social Isolation from Friends, Family, Community                            28%                  37%                  65%
  • Building a Healthy Work Group / Team                                            43%                   21%                  64%
  • Building Supportive Relationships                                                    18%                   44%                   62%
  • The Extra Effort Needed to Stay Connected with Colleagues           15%                  46%                  61%
  • Lack of Recreational Activities / Vacation                                          21%                  39%                  60%
  • Building a Healthy Workplace Culture                                               21%                  39%                  60%
  • Childcare Challenges                                                                         24%                  36%                  60%
  • Loss of Traditions / Group Activities                                                  19%                  39%                  58%
  • Schooling Children and Working From Home                                   25%                  33%                  58%
  • Effect on Workplace Communication                                                16%                   42%                  58%
  • Keeping Organizational Culture                                                         17%                  35%                  52%

Worth Noting: Issues of Less Concern

It is worth paying attention to the issues that were not as concerning to the total group. They seemed to be issues more related to providing leadership to others in the organization:

  • onboarding of new employees
  • providing skill-based training
  • providing soft skills (interpersonal) training
  • monitoring progress on tasks & projects
  • evaluation process for remote employees
  • how to communicate core values to new employees
  • stressors to team members: financial challenges
  • difficulty connecting with customers
  • reaching new potential customers

Questions to Investigate Further

The results of this investigation raise additional questions which need to be explored further:

  1. What specifically do people mean when they are concerned about the “emotional / mental health of team members”? What does this look like in daily life?
  2. What are practical steps that can be taken to address this concern about our emotional health? What can be done — by team members? by supervisors and managers? by executives and owners? by others?
  3. Do the various types of team members differ in what issues are most concerning to them, and to what degree? That is, do employees have different concerns than their supervisors, managers and executives? (NOTE: We are in the process of exploring these questions and plan to report the results soon.)
  4. What do violations of personal / work boundaries look like? On the personal life –> work continuum? On the work –> personal life continuum? By whom are these violations enacted (or experienced)?

*Please feel free to share additional questions that come to mind (in the comment section).

While we do not yet have “answers” to the concerns raised, we hope that the information obtained will continue to help us better understand the challenges those working from home are experiencing, and will lead us to practical steps that can be taken to address the difficulties identified.

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September 21, 2020 9:00 am

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