The pandemic’s forced experiment in teleworking has many Perimeter Center employees eager to keep doing it at least part-time, according to early results of a survey by the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts.
“This is, overall, a strange time,” but also “an opportunity in some ways,” said Johann Weber, manager of the PCIDs’ Perimeter Connects alternative commuting program, during the organization’s quarterly project update meeting held virtually on April 29. Weber helps local companies come up with commuting programs for their employees.
The survey showed workers realizing many positives — as well as some downsides — of working from home, said Weber. Even with some businesses returning to operations while the pandemic continues, there are also lessons for how teleworking and planning can help with safety requirements like social distancing, he said.
The results are preliminary because the survey is still open. Weber said there were 405 responses so far, many from Cox companies, but with more than 50 employers represented. Respondents included executives, managers and workers, he said.
Weber said employers should work now on formalizing a telework policy, including ways to track performance and health effects on employees and helping them to limit their virtual workdays. The PCIDs offers free help in drafting such policies through perimeterconnects.com. In Buckhead, the nonprofit Livable Buckhead offers similar assistance through livablebuckhead.com.
During the pandemic, employers also should use part-time teleworking as a way to increase social distancing in the workplace, along with such measures as staggered departure and arrival times for employees, Weber said. He said the pandemic may have long-term effects on workplace design, reversing a trend toward higher-density spaces with workers clustered together.
Survey results so far
The survey found that 82.7% of respondents were now working from home five or more days a week, a result that Weber said would have sounded “crazy” at the start of the year. Prior to the pandemic, respondents said, only 4% worked from home that often, though 38% already did so one to two days a week. Another 19% had never worked from home.
“Obviously, there are a lot of challenges, to put it moderately… but this is pretty spectacular,” Weber said of the teleworking.
And many respondents like the experience, with 82% wanting to continue working from home one or more days a week, and 50% a majority of the week, according to Weber. Broken down further, a bit over 30% of respondents wanted to work from home one or two days a week, and a similar percentage wanted to work from home three or four days. A bit over 15% wanted to work from home five or more days a week.
More money and time and less stress were among the reasons respondents liked working from home. Only 2% reported no positives from the experience.
The top choice among positives was saving money by not commuting, chosen by 66.4% of respondents. A little over half cited decreased stress from the lack of a commute.
Other physical and psychological health benefits included getting more sleep and spending more time with family and friends (both chosen by 43.2% of respondents) and increased exercise and healthier eating (30.6% of respondents).
On the work side, 33.6% of respondents felt they were more productive when working from home, while 7.9% felt less productive.
The negatives were less pronounced but significant. Weber said they centered on the “massive meshing of work and home life, and those are things that aren’t always conducive to each other,” where distractions can range from “startled dogs” to “moody teenagers.”
About 28% of respondents said their home workspace isn’t the same quality, while 27.2% cited a lack of proper equipment and 20.7% reported having internet access issues. Frequent distractions at home were cited by 17.5% of respondents; 16.8% said it’s difficult to stay motivated, and 14.3% felt lonely. Of the respondents, 22.7% said they have trouble unplugging from work.
With the pandemic as a backdrop, 33.8% of respondents said they were anxious about it and 22.7% said they were worried about their job or the health of their company.
As pandemic shutdowns began in March, Weber commented in a Reporter opinion piece that the forced teleworking could have long-lasting effect.