Remote and flexible work has grown for the better part of 20 years, but for many workers and their companies, it’s still far from commonplace. With the novel coronavirus threatening to shut down workplaces and force widespread remote work, Wrike wanted to know how workers felt about their employers’ preparedness for such an unprecedented event. 

Between March 11 and March 12, 2020, we used SurveyMonkey Audience to survey 1,000 full-time employees who work at companies with more than 200 employees. Our goal was to uncover how employees, managers, and generations perceive remote work and their company’s readiness to face extended, mandated remote work due to a pandemic. 

We hope our findings help your organization be better prepared so you can remain productive and profitable — no matter what comes next.

What is a remote worker? 

First of all, let's look at what is a remote worker? A remote worker is one that is employed by a company but works outside of the office environment. They may work exclusively from home, or may travel and work as they go. A remote worker may also work from a shared co-working space. Remote workers sometimes visit the office for meetings or team-building days, but most of their time is spent away from the main workplace.

Nearly half of respondents say they never work from home

Our survey revealed that nearly half of workers (49%) say they never work from home. An additional 23% say they only work from home during special circumstances, like when caring for sick kids or during extreme weather events. 9% of our audience say they work remotely full-time, and 9% say they work from home several days a week. 

With a majority of employees reporting that they never work from home, companies need to recognize the new productivity challenges team members will face. Support your team members by providing them with remote work best practices, helping them set boundaries, and ensuring they understand their goals.

Workers question if they can do their jobs as effectively when working from home

According to our survey, 43% of respondents don’t believe they can do their jobs just as effectively while working from home. In fact, over half (52%) say that a work from home policy would seriously harm their organization’s productivity. 

Many employees, especially those that typically don’t work from home, will ask themselves, "What is remote working?" They can have a hard time adjusting to remote work best practices. Homes may be full of distractions, lacking dedicated workspaces, missing key resources, and more. On top of that, some companies don’t have the IT infrastructure to support remote activities, leading to project roadblocks and delays. 

When setting remote work policies, give teams the tools they need to optimize productivity and establish clear processes to support them. 

survey working from home effectively

For virtual collaboration, old school tools still rule the workplace — but do they hurt or help remote work?

In our study, 40% say their employer does not currently have the technology necessary to enable work from home. Despite the recent proliferation of real-time communication tools such as instant messaging and collaborative work management platforms (CWM), according to our respondents, email reigns as the most common tool used for virtual collaboration (82%), followed by voice conferencing (65%).

The next most common tools include:

  • Video conferencing (50%)
  • Messaging platforms (46%) 
  • Cloud-based office suites (48%)

tools for virtual collaboration

In a survey Wrike produced in December 2019 on productivity and engagement, respondents cited the ability to work at any time and work effectively from anywhere as key to boosting their productivity and engagement. Even before the current crisis, workers were asking for stronger work management and collaboration capabilities. 

Email may be an excellent resource for communication, but when it comes to project collaboration, it gets messy quickly. Key information can get lost in chains, there’s a lack of transparency, asset iterations get confused during approvals, and more. A collaborative work management or project management tool keeps collaboration in one place and also documents and files so everyone stays aligned. 

Although phone conferencing is useful, seeing people’s faces often helps resolve issues much more easily. Employees unfamiliar with remote work may feel isolated, so consider exploring a video conferencing tool to help establish that human connection.

Measuring remote work productivity

Measuring the productivity of remote work can also be a challenge. In our study, employees were 95% more likely than managers to say they aren’t sure how their productivity is assessed while working remotely

In fact, nearly a third (31%) of employees say they don’t know how their company measures remote productivity, and another quarter (23%) say there’s no formal measurement other than trust. 

Although the majority of workers (71%) say they trust their colleagues to maintain a high level of productivity while working remotely, it’s the responsibility of leadership to set clear priorities and goals so that projects stay on track. Keeping work in a single platform or project management tool can provide the visibility team members need to measure their output and see what’s coming up next. Team leaders can leverage this visibility to address bottlenecks and bridge any gaps so that everyone can stay aligned — even when apart.

Differences in remote work perception by the generations

Millennials were 44% more likely than baby boomers to somewhat or strongly agree that they could do their jobs just as effectively from home. Baby boomers, by contrast, were 51% more likely than millennials and 19% more likely than Gen X to strongly disagree that they could do their jobs from home.

Millennials are most confident in their company’s technology stack. In addition to feeling more confident in their own ability to work remotely, millennials were 20% more likely than boomers and 10% more likely than Gen X to say their company has the tech needed to handle the transition to remote work. 

It was also interesting to note that over a quarter (26%) of millennials say their employer is underreacting to the COVID-19 threat. Just 18% of Gen X and 12% of baby boomers say the same.

Survey analysis from Wrike Founder Andrew Filev

“The findings of this survey offer some hopeful insights, but there are also some serious red flags regarding the readiness of employers to mandate a work from home policy. We see a clear need for more businesses to move beyond email as the primary means of internal collaboration so that their employees will have better alignment and faster communication while working remotely. There’s also a massive need for investment in tools that can empower workers to do their best work from anywhere — at home or in the office.

This unprecedented public health crisis is going to be a trial by fire for companies that haven’t previously invested in remote work, but those who have already built a culture around virtual collaboration should be well-positioned to execute and keep employees engaged and productive.”

How Wrike can help

Using a work management platform like Wrike that empowers remote teams to collaborate seamlessly is a gamechanger for dispersed teams. Moving key project communication and assets out of email and into one, centralized location makes collaboration easier for remote teams. With projects and workflow status all in one place, managers can balance workloads, measure performance, and create a working-from-home policy template that suits every employee. Over 2 million trust Wrike's work management platform; start your free trial today to learn how we can help your team work better together.