To better understand and assist our employees to succeed in their respective roles in the firm, the attorneys at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. sent out an anonymous Remote Working Survey regarding the employees’ experience with remote working as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic and the Stay-at-Home Order. This article is a report on the results of that survey. The survey was sent to all employees as an optional survey at the end of September 2020. Only 16 of the approximately 32 persons responded.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the firm went from having 4 attorneys and roughly 31 staff comprised of all onsite employees to everyone except about 4 essential personnel working from home during the Harris County Stay-at-Home Order. Once the restrictions were lifted, we allowed an optional return to the office with restrictions that met the various Stay-at-Home orders’ rule changes. We are currently still limiting people in shared office spaces to ensure social distancing and requiring masks.
The Goal of the Remote Working Survey
The goal of the Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. Remote Working Survey was to learn more about how we can assist the employees in their remote work as well as better understand how remote working affects them and to what extent is it is feasible and/or desirable long-term.
The first question asked in the Remote Working Survey was: “How many days do you work from home vs in the office presently?” Of the 16 people who answered, three people (18.8%) responded that they work from home only one day a week. Two people (12.5%) answered that they worked two days a week. Eight people (50%) of the people were working three days per week from home. Two people were working four days a week and only one (6.3%) was working five days a week from home.
Learning About the Remote Work Experience
A series of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions were also asked regarding the employee work-from-home experience. From these answers, it was revealed that 68.8% (11/16) of the employees reported feeling happier working from home than they are when working in the office. Additionally, 81.3% (13) felt like they had the proper technology to do their work from home, three did not. However, when asked whether employees felt more productive working from home vs in the office, it was a 50-50% split. So apparently at least 18.8% were happier working from home but felt less productive doing so.
A series of open short-answer questions were asked to give the employees a chance to express their issues, and the advantages gained from working from home. When asked what they found were the biggest challenges working from home, the inability to promptly check faxes was noted twice, getting assignments/additional work was noted twice, the inability to print was mentioned twice, and the inability to send out mail was mentioned twice. Other single-mention concerns included privacy, kids, not enough space, no desk at home, Wi-Fi outages, and “distractions.” Only two people indicated there were “no” challenges to working at home.
The employees were also asked what they felt were the biggest advantages of working from home. The number one most given answer was no traffic/commute with eight people (50%) indicating this as one of the biggest advantages. Three indicated they had fewer distractions. Three indicated having more flexible time for meeting family needs. One person indicated that not having to wear a mask was an advantage.
The employees were also asked what the biggest advantages were when working at the office. Access to the physical files and access to the copy room and equipment therein were each mentioned by a total of five different people. Access to supplies, ability to talk face-to-face, larger workspace, and no distractions were each mentioned one time.
Questions Regarding the Sustainability of Remote Working After the Pandemic
The employees were also asked what they felt we are lacking that prevents us from continuing to work from home indefinitely. Four employees indicated that nothing was preventing us. Four indicated that we needed to move toward a fully-digital office with all files accessible online. Two persons indicated a dedicated remote printer would be required. One indicated mandatory team meetings and better accountability. One indicated a better way to understand and monitor productivity. One indicated hotspots while another indicated “laptops for everyone.”
A question was asked regarding what could be done to improve corporate culture in the current situation we are in. Five persons said nothing more could be done. Three indicated more online meetings. One indicated management giving a clearer indication of expectations and rules. Three indicated continued showing of concern and taking into consideration employees’ concerns with respect to working during the pandemic. Reporting on firm performance and lunch-ins was also suggested.
How Employees Feel About Remote Working
The final two questions in the Remote Working Survey were geared at exploring employee feelings on not fully returning to a five-day-per-week in-office job. If the pandemic were to come to an end tomorrow (i.e. a cure was found), 81.3% of the employees would want to split time between working at the office and working remotely. Only 2 (12.5%) wanted to work remotely 100% of the time while only 1 (6.3%) wanted to work in the office full time.
Lastly, employees were asked how many days per week they wanted to work in the office upon return, Interestingly, none said “5.” So even the one person from above who wants to work 100% in the office, does not want to work five days a week. 46.2% answered two days per week, 30.8% answered three days per week, and 15.4% answered four days a week.
Things Learned From the Survey
Reading through the answers, one thing that really stands out is that technology at the office vs at home is a big factor for many employees. Making sure each employee has adequate Wi-Fi and a computer to do the job is important. Furthermore, even if they have what they need at home, there are still issues of having a printer to send mail, receiving faxes and mail, and the need for scanning that make going entirely remote difficult.
Clearly, a majority of employees are happier when working from home. However, some recognize that working from home makes them less productive. Meanwhile, there are some whose home life makes working from home entirely too full of distractions. Any plan going forward clearly needs to take into account those that need a place to get away to get their work done in addition to those who do not.
Finally, the Remote Working Survey answers demonstrate that if we want to have long-term fully remote abilities, we have to move toward becoming a virtual office so that the need for an actual physical file is minimized.