The aim of this report was to condense the findings of our research into a fact-checking format, verifying common conceptions about remote work.

Remote work claims: Fact-checked ✅

✍️ by Dasha Antsipava on 🗓 2021-04-28
Version: 1.0 last updated on 2021-04-28
96 studies consulted!

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This free report verifies whether some common opinions about remote work are backed by facts and empirical evidence or not. To read the report, you can either scroll through this page, or leave your details to receive a high resolution PDF. If you leave your email we will also let you know when new versions of the report become available.

Introduction

People say a lot of things about remote work. It's one of the most important and polarising topics of 2021. Everyone has an opinion on how great or terrible it is.

Millions of people and companies will need to make decisions on how to approach remote work. We want to help them make these decisions in an informed way, relying on facts, rather than opinions.

To this end, for several months, we have been gathering and analysing as much scientific and professional research as we could lay our hands on in the field of remote work. The aim of this report was to condense the findings of our research into a fact-checking format, verifying common conceptions about remote work.

IMPORTANT

This is the first version of our report and our work here is by no means finished! We will continue updating it with new research studies and new statements about remote work. So if you know a study that has a place in this report - or better yet - that counter-argues our conclusions, then please let us know by emailing us at hello[at]atium.app.

Disclaimer

At Atium we are transparent remote-work advocates, but we truly want this report to be unbiased. For every statement in this report, we cite the research that led us to make a conclusion about its truth or falsity (see the linked references: e.g.1). Throughout the report, we tried to use as much empirically tested academic research as we could, as evidence for the claims we make. That being said, in some instances it was not possible to provide impartial scientific evidence that was up-to-date and contextually relevant in 2021. In the instances that privately funded research was conducted, we tried to make the distinction clear by using statements such as "remote work advocates," "remote work experts" or “professional research/studies”, and by using conditional statements ("suggest", "may lead to", etc.) in place of causal claims.

Remote work never ends!

Evidence for:

When working from home, it may indeed feel as if the work never ends1. The main reason behind this feeling is that remote workers rely on technology for communication, which allows the employee to stay connected at all hours and locations2. As a result, employees may feel like they must be constantly available to deal with work queries or they end up over-working unwittingly. One professional study of 2,000 US employees conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic found that 1 in 5 employees reported working more during this time, totalling up to an average of an extra 26 hours per month (almost an extra day per week)3.

Remote work advocates have suggested that the ability to stay connected at all hours could lead to the inability to unplug from work4, while empirical research states that it leads to an intensification of an “always on culture”, creating a vicious cycle, whereby one person overworking leads to colleagues feeling the pressure to overwork, and the cycle spreads to new employees5.

Evidence against:

On the other hand, it may only feel as if the work never ends because the employee is not great at managing their time and workload. An organisational psychologist explained6 that in order to manage time effectively, an employee must have a good understanding of how long tasks take to complete (temporal awareness), how they manage their time (prefer to work under pressure or have things done in advance) and how to ensure they don’t procrastinate (time monitoring). Without these skills, they might be left with long to-do lists which are impossible to accomplish, making it feel like the work never ends.

Inconclusive:

The evidence for and against this statement demonstrates that whether a remote worker feels as if their work never ends really depends on the person and their work context. Some people may feel like their work never ends because they cannot manage their time, they cannot switch off from work, or they feel pressured to be always available. Or they may genuinely have a lot of work. But it is really important to learn how to manage time effectively when remote working and set working boundaries for yourself, your family, and your colleagues to avoid burnout7.

Working remotely means having to be online constantly

Evidence for:

The nature of remote work means that employees use technology to communicate, which could make it feel like they have to be online all the time. This problem is exacerbated by an “always on culture”, whereby employees who are constantly online put pressure on their colleagues to be online also5. Furthermore, practices such as monitoring could exacerbate the situation by making employees feel that they have to be online constantly1. Furthermore, because of a lack of face-to-face connections, managers might start to micromanage employees to ensure that they are working, which could again increase the feeling among employees that they have to be constantly online8.

Evidence against:

While not much empirical research has been conducted on this point (to the best of our knowledge), companies that are considered to be remote work experts have argued that feeling like you have to be online constantly may be a result of micromanagement or monitoring, which could in turn result from a of lack of trust and communication between employees and their managers9. New empirical research conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic did find that in teams with high trust and psychological safety, managers allow their employees more job autonomy1. Remote work experts argue that job autonomy allows employees to complete work when it suits them best, as long as deadlines are met9, and consequently reduces the need to be constantly online - although there is no empirical evidence to back up these claims just yet. Again, best practices from remote work experts9, 10, as well as our own experience, indicate that the solution is to focus on deliverables rather than inputs such as time spent working, as a measure of productivity.

False:

The feeling of needing to be ‘on’ constantly has nothing to do with remote work, but everything to do with organisational culture. Empirical and anecdotal evidence suggests that it really depends on the work context, and a lack of trust is the underlying issue in organisations where employees feel the need to be online constantly. But, in organisations with high trust and psychological safety, employees don’t need to be constantly online because their managers know that they will complete the work in their own time.

Remote employees aren't productive

Evidence for:

On the one hand, research shows that employees have a tendency to procrastinate more or engage in other tasks when working from home1, 11. Furthermore, Harvard University researchers also found that employees who self-select into working remotely generally tend to be less productive than employees who choose to go into the office12.

Evidence against:

On the other hand, research also shows that newly remote workers experienced a rise in productivity, and focus, as well as better quality meetings11, despite the distractions at home. Harvard University researchers also found increases in productivity of around 8% when employees began working remotely, and this effect was the same for those who transitioned to remote work before the beginning of the pandemic and for those who began working remotely after12. Similar results were obtained in studies conducted before the pandemic: research on call centre workers in China found that WFH resulted in a 13% performance increase, 4% of which was a result of more calls conducted per minute and 9% was a result of more minutes worked per shift13. Likewise, professional research has also found that once employees settled into remote work, productivity increased14. A study by OWL Labs and Global Workplace Analytics found that 75% of US respondents believed that they were equally as or even more productive working from home during the pandemic3. Another Global Workplace Analytics report found that 72% of respondents claimed to be able to manage distractions and interruptions at home, while only 40% of respondents believed they could do so at the office15. A potential explanation for this could be that remote workers are better able to balance their work and home duties when they are able to work remotely and complete work tasks at different times of the day, rather than the standard 9-to-5.

False:

Productivity in remote work is relative and depends on the person. Studies often show that individual difference factors play a big role in who works more effectively remotely and who doesn’t. For example, qualities like self-discipline and extraversion can play a big part1, 16. Nonetheless, while evidence suggest that remote employees could get distracted, overall productivity actually increases when working remotely.

Remote employees procrastinate more

Evidence for:

Recent professional research on remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic found that employees were lacking focus and productivity as a result of an increase in distractions when working from home11. Another professional study found that 57% of 2,000 US respondents reported “staying focused” as a top challenge of working from home during the pandemic3. Similarly, academic research found that those who had a lower workload had more opportunities to procrastinate1.

Evidence against:

On the other hand, early research on working from home found that employees were able to concentrate better at home17. Another study conducted during the pandemic found that higher workload and more social support at work led to lower procrastination1.

Inconclusive:

The competing evidence suggests that there are underlying factors at play in whether remote workers procrastinate more or concentrate better when working from home. These could be personal factors, such as personality or time management. Or they could be more situational factors such as having to work from home in a pandemic, having caring responsibilities at home when working remotely, lack of training for working remotely - or even all three factors combined. Therefore, more research is required into the conditions under which remote work employees may be more or less inclined to procrastinate.

We are still looking for more scientific and professional evidence on this. Do you know any studies on this topic? We’d love it if you could share them with us!

Managers need to constantly check what remote employees are up to

Evidence for:

One study found that being monitored helped newly remote employees to stay on track with their work in lockdown during the pandemic1. Another study found that employees could easily become distracted with other family tasks when working from home11. Checking up on employees could help employees avoid procrastination.

Evidence against:

Again, this is related to the issue of trust. Micromanagement can spring out of a lack of face-to-face connections in remote teams8, whereby managers adopt the perspective that just because they cannot see an employee, they are not working. But this practice is counterproductive, and can lead to a further reduction in trust, organisational attachment, and work quality8.

False:

Instead of constantly monitoring employees, it is more productive to build trust between managers and employees. That way, managers will trust the employees to complete work on time, while employees will feel more loyalty to the manager and their organisation and produce good quality work, without feeling like they are constantly being watched. That being said - professional research conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic found that employees felt that they did not receive enough feedback from their managers18. Hence, managers need to find effective ways of providing constructive feedback without the appearance of micromanagement.

Monitoring remote workers increases their productivity

Evidence for:

A recent study conducted in China at the beginning of the pandemic discovered in interviews with newly remote workers that some employees found monitoring helpful to stay on track in their work1.

Evidence against:

The same authors then conducted another study in which they surveyed newly remote workers, and this relationship between monitoring and productivity was not confirmed. They also found that employees who were monitored felt that they had to constantly be online1. Other studies also found that employee monitoring is counterproductive for several reasons:

  1. Employees could find ways around being monitored by purposefully leaving digital footprints that make it look like they are working19.
  2. Monitoring may be perceived as micromanagement, leading to lower trust in management and feelings that employees are not being supported by their workplace, which could in turn lead to poor work quality and lower company loyalty8.
  3. It could lead to overworking, with employees suffering from poor mental and physical health11.

In fact, a professional study conducted on 2,000 Americans by OWL Labs in collaboration with Global Workplace Analytics in 2020 found that 32% of employees would be unhappy if their organisation started monitoring their activity, and 11% even said that they would quit their job because of it3.

False:

Empirical and professional evidence points overwhelmingly to the fact that monitoring is counter-productive and may result in a company losing talent.

Support at work helps remote employees cope better with working remotely

Evidence for:

Empirical evidence shows more extensive remote work can lead to lower perceptions of social support and higher emotional exhaustion among remote employees20. Social support simply defined is “the provision of assistance or comfort to others, typically to help them cope with biological, psychological, and social stressors”21. Higher social support from the organisation, on the other hand, has been shown to reduce social isolation, which in turn reduced psychological strain, and improved job satisfaction22. More recent research found that social support can help employees overcome loneliness, reduce emotional exhaustion by helping to reduce procrastination, reduce work-to-home and home-to-work interference, improve life and job satisfaction1. Professional research has found that employees who receive support from their management are less likely to experience burnout18. Some academics have even suggested that social support is instrumental in suicide prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic23.

Evidence against:

None!

True:

The evidence overwhelmingly points to the fact that social support does help remote workers to handle working remotely better.

Remote work ruins company culture

Evidence for:

Early research on remote work has suggested that physical separation between colleagues can increase psychological separation and restrict the development of cohesion24. In general, remote teams have weaker relationships with colleagues when compared to co-located colleagues25, 26, 27. Research suggests that how cohesive a team sees itself is a direct consequence of the methods of communication used by the remote team28, and the difficulties associated with them29.

Evidence against:

While remote teams usually start with lower levels of cohesion, these improve over time as colleagues exchange more social information30, 31, 32, 33. Communicating more frequently, more predictably, and providing regular feedback improves effectiveness of communication and leads to more trust and better remote team performance34, 35, 36, 37, and enhances cultural understanding38, 39. Social conversations focusing on shared cultural aspects can help build social bonds and relationships in people of different cultures40. More recent research also found that remote work was positively related to organisational commitment41, and that remote workers valued organisations that integrated their needs by allowing them to work flexibly42.

False:

This statement has evidence to support and weaken its argument, but in relation to different aspects of remote work. On the one hand, remote work can weaken company culture by making cohesion and collaboration more difficult to achieve between remote workers. On the other hand, cohesion is still possible to achieve - it just takes more time and effort. Also, remote work can improve company culture and organisational commitment because remote workers appreciate the fact that the organisation is adapting to their needs by allowing them to work when it suits them.

Remote work limits remote workers' career prospects

Evidence for:

Several studies have found that working remotely led to more negative perceptions of career development opportunities, prospects and aspirations43, 44, 45, while one study actually found that performance-based promotion rate of call centre employees decreased when they engaged in WFH13. A comparison between OWL Labs’ State of Remote Work reports between 2019 and 2020 found growing concerns among remote workers that working remotely will impact their career progression negatively, which increased from 23% in 2019 to 43% in 2020 of respondents expressing this fear3.

A potential reason for this is that working remotely is seen as a workplace absence inconsistent with the need for visibility in order to obtain career progression opportunities46. Also, remote employees may feel that their career progression opportunities are limited when organisations do not invest in training of remote employees45, 46.

Evidence against:

Contrary to remote employees, managers stated that they believed that remote employees had the same career opportunities as onsite employees47. Another study did not find any negative associations between remote working and career prospects44. Other academics have argued that this is because the study was conducted primarily with women who tend to benefit more from the increases in control over their personal and professional lives that remote work provides42.

Inconclusive:

The majority of evidence presented for and against this statement is relatively old and focuses on perceptions of remote employees and their managers, rather than actual practices. Therefore, more research is required to establish whether this is actually the case. Likewise, more research is required on career prospects in fully remote companies, where the division between visibility of onsite employees and invisibility of remote employees is non-existent.

We are still looking for more scientific and professional evidence on this. Do you know any studies on this topic? We’d love it if you could share them with us!

Diversity in remote teams leads to problems

Evidence for:

Various studies suggest that cultural and language differences among remote team members can negatively affect remote team effectiveness48 by leading to coordination and communication difficulties36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 49. Other researchers suggest that even subtle difference between people of the same country but from different regions can result in problems38.

Evidence against:

On the other hand, research also shows that trust can reduce the negative effects of cultural differences on remote team performance50. Other researchers state that the negative impacts of cultural differences can also be reduced by active efforts made by team members to understand the different cultures38, 40.

Inconclusive:

The evidence presented suggests that cultural problems can cause differences but that these can be mitigated by making efforts to understand different cultures and increasing trust between team members. But overall, the research on this topic is relatively old and may be outdated by contemporary standards where many organisations make efforts to ensure an inclusive culture for a diverse range of employees. More research is needed on this topic.

We are still looking for more scientific and professional evidence on this. Do you know any studies on this topic? We’d love it if you could share them with us!

Working remotely leads to poor relationships with office-based colleagues

Evidence for:

Research found that while remote workers tended to compensate for a lack of naturally occurring conversation with managers when working remotely by actively increasing communication - this was not the case for conversation with work colleagues51. The authors suggested that this could be because remote workers see relationships with work colleagues as less important and essential as relationships with managers. Other research found that office-based colleagues actually came to resent their remote working counterparts leading to a breakdown of relationships among employees52.

Evidence against:

Other research found that while relationships between in-office and remote workers may break down, relationships between employees working remotely/having a similar work rhythm actually improved53.

True:

Overall, evidence points to the idea that remote working leads to poorer relationships between office-based and remote colleagues. On the other hand, colleagues who are “in the same boat” may actually build stronger working relationships as a result of shared experiences.

Remote work leads to poor communication between team members

Evidence for:

Research generally points to the fact that remote work can result in poor communication between team members54, 55, caused by:

  • Time delays in feedback;
  • Lack of a common reference frame for team members;
  • Differences in importance and how text is interpreted; and
  • Employees interpreting virtual meetings as a license to multi-task56.

Also, computer-mediated communication that takes place between remote team members may lack the contextual cues that are present in F2F communication, making it difficult for team members to fully and correctly interpret the meaning of the conversation51, 57. This leads to restrictions in the information flow51, where computer-mediated conversations become long and confusing, hindering understanding58. This can, in turn, lead to lower trust, liking, and respect among remote team members51, as well as lower productivity1. It also leads to a lack of mutual knowledge, leading to ineffective communication8, 54, 59.

Research has also found that co-located team members despised communicating with remote team members52, leading to a breakdown in relationships between remote and office-based workers. Professional research suggests that this could be a result of irregular working hours of flexible employees, which may make them appear “irresponsible and uncommunicative to their co-workers on a standard clock”14. On the other hand, remote workers built stronger relationships with other employees working in a similar way53.

Evidence against:

Academic research found that remote workers recognised that working remotely could lead to ineffective communication and consequently actively tried to be vigilant in making sure they continue to communicate well and extensively with their managers, but this was not found for maintaining communication with other team members51.

On the other hand, other research found that remote working does not necessarily have to lead to ineffective communication. In fact, successful remote workers recognise the constraints of computer-mediated communication and actively ensure that social cues and information exchange is made more explicit, that information is communicated to all parties, and that everyone understands the information as intended60. Also, they are able to choose the communication tool appropriately based on the level of nuance and clarity needed to communicate a certain piece of information to others60.

Inconclusive:

While remote working can inhibit effective communication, experienced remote workers are able to understand these constraints and deal with them appropriately to ensure that the level of communication does not suffer. Furthermore, much of the empirical evidence presented here is relatively old, and therefore more research is required on how remote work technology developments are changing computer-mediated communication patterns in remote work settings.

Remote work hinders the development of trust in remote teams

Evidence for:

On the one hand, research shows that development of trust is challenging in remote teams where team members have not met each other in person, because assessing trustworthiness of a colleague is difficult when there has not been any face-to-face interaction26. Development of trust in remote teams may also be hindered by poor information flow and misunderstandings resulting from a reliance on technology for team communication28, 40, 51, 54, 58. Generally, in-office employees have been shown to trust remote colleagues less52.

Evidence against:

On the other hand, research shows that even if team members are not familiar with each other, they can quickly establish trust - called ‘swift trust’ - when they don’t have enough time to establish deeper trust, and assume their colleagues are trustworthy in order to be able to function effectively as a team61. Following swift trust, deeper trust may develop further down the line. Successful remote workers also engage in behaviours to encourage the development of trust and increase others’ trust in their own competence, by showing enthusiasm, engaging in informal communication, helping to deal with technological problems, communicating in a predictable manner, and showing initiative60. Generally, this finding is supported by other research which argues that remote workers put more effort into demonstrating their trustworthiness to managers62. Indeed, professional research conducted during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic found that 75% of survey respondents felt that their manager trusted them to work remotely15, and another professional study found that 75% of respondents felt that they were trusted more when working from home during the pandemic3.

False:

Overall, the development of long-term, deep trust may be difficult among remote workers who have not met in person and between in-office and remote employees. However, as in other potential problems associated with remote work, remote employees can avoid these pitfalls by engaging in certain behaviours that signal more trustworthiness to their colleagues.

Remote work increases loneliness and isolation

Evidence for:

Research shows that remote working can indeed increase loneliness and social isolation, with remote employees saying that they craved office-based interactions63 and experienced isolation when they could not share their problems with other team members64. This is echoed by research both old and new, with remote workers feeling more apart from the office and invisible65, 66. Professional research conducted during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic found that 58% of employees did not get lonely when working from home, while the same cannot be said for the remaining 42%15.

Remote workers also felt more professionally isolated, meaning that they felt that their absence from the office hindered their career progression opportunities65.

Evidence against:

Other research found that feelings of social isolation in remote workers were actually relatively rare and moderate in intensity67. Successful remote employees also took measures to ensure that they do not feel socially isolated when working from home by ensuring that they stay in contact with their office-based colleagues68. Managers also play a crucial role in ensuring remote employees do not feel isolated since previous research has found that manager support was related to lower isolation and turnover intentions, and higher satisfaction with the manager69.

Inconclusive:

Again, while working remotely may lead to some employees experiencing social isolation, experienced remote workers generally know how to deal with feelings social isolation by increasing communication.

We are still looking for more evidence on this. Do you know any studies on this topic that also measured if culture & company policies play a role in increasing or reducing employee isolation? We’d love it if you could share them with us!

Working remotely leads to more emotional exhaustion & mental health problems

Evidence for:

Early research on this topic found that remote workers experienced more negative emotions, such as loneliness, irritability, and guilt, compared to in-office workers64. More recent research by Gallup found that while before the COVID-19 pandemic remote employees experienced less burnout than their in-office counterparts, now it’s actually the opposite. The authors concede that this could be a result of working conditions during the pandemic (children staying at home, poor working spaces, lack of home/work boundaries), but they also warn that remote work can intensify root causes of burnout, such as14:

  • “unfair treatment”,
  • “unmanageable workload”,
  • “unclear communication from managers”,
  • “a lack of managerial support”,
  • “unreasonable time pressure”.

Gallup also found that remote workers were also experiencing increased levels of stress, worry, and anger14.

Evidence against:

But the majority of earlier research actually points to a reduction in negative emotional effects when working from home. Several studies have found a negative correlation between working remotely and exhaustion70, including emotional exhaustion45. Likewise, other research found that remote workers experienced more positive and less negative emotions associated with work, on the days when they were working from home, compared to days the spent at the office71. One researcher suggests that working remotely results in less exhaustion because it allows the worker to conserve their energy by not having to commute, being able to readily respond to family needs, and reducing the emotional drain of daily work activities72. More recent professional research found that remote work is particularly suited for millennials, with 54% of millennial remote employees claiming to have “thriving” well-being, in comparison to 47% of those who work in-office73. The same trend was also observed in Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers, but to a lower extent.

Inconclusive:

The evidence for this statement is two-sided. While earlier research suggests that remote working was associated with lower emotional exhaustion and more positive emotions, recent research conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic suggests that the opposite may be true. While these negative effects associated with remote work could be contingent upon the pandemic context, the researchers warn that working remotely may exacerbate other issues that cause burnout. Therefore, we think more research will be required on this topic in a post-pandemic context.

Remote work leads to more stress

Evidence for:

Generally, more days spent remote working was associated with increases in emotional exhaustion and cognitive stress in academic research20.

Evidence against:

Other academic research found that remote working actually led to less stress due to fewer demands associated with being at the office and commuting74, and by increasing job autonomy which led to perceptions of lower invasion of privacy75. More concretely, a professional study conducted in 2020 found that of 2,000 US respondents, 72% stated that the ability to work remotely would make them less stressed, while 77% claimed it would help them manage their work-life balance better3.

Inconclusive:

The evidence for this statement is two-sided. On the one hand, more days remote working can lead to more stress and exhaustion. On the other hand, it can lead to less stress associated with not having to travel into work and allowing workers to manage their own time as they see fit.

We are still looking for more scientific and professional evidence on this. Do you know any studies on this topic? We’d love it if you could share them with us!

Remote work leads to more technostress

Evidence for:

Research suggests that employees may face problems when using technology to communicate76. The inability to deal with technical issues has been shown to have negative effects on employee satisfaction and team experience and performance36, 39. Technology-related stress was also shown to increase strain, which in turn decreased job satisfaction75.

Evidence against:

On the other hand, the ability to deal with technological problems in a remote team can help the development of high trust among team members35. Interestingly, some scholars suggested that the previously mentioned technology-induced stressors of working remotely became less of an issue as millennials entered the workforce76, as they have the skills and abilities to deal with problems associated with communication technologies and are able to perform tasks easily and quickly77.

Inconclusive:

While remote working can lead to more technostress among the older or less technology-experienced employees, technostress becomes less of an issue as younger generations enter the workforce as they are used to using technology to communicate.

We are still looking for more scientific and professional evidence on this. Do you know any studies on this topic? We’d love it if you could share them with us!

Some personality types are better suited for remote work

Evidence for:

Several studies found that workers with certain personality characteristics and cognitive styles are indeed more suited to working remotely. For example, academics found that:

  • higher openness is positively associated with better decision-making and preference for working in virtual teams16, 78
  • higher extroversion is positively associated with participation in virtual communication79
  • higher conscientiousness is positively associated with motivation in remote workers80
  • higher agreeableness and low emotional stability are associated with more positive attitudes towards working remotely81.

Also, remote employees stated that self-discipline, self-motivation, ability to work alone, tenaciousness and good organisational skills were all essential to be able to work effectively away from the office43.

Evidence against:

On the other hand, not having the ‘desirable’ personality traits does not mean that an employee cannot work remotely effectively. A recent study found that psychometric characteristics of individuals could change following intense periods of remote working82. This study found that as individuals engaged in collaboration in a virtual team, levels of extraversion and openness increased, while levels of altruism decreased in participants between the beginning and end of the study. Also, they found that scores for people at the extreme ends (very low or very high) of certain personality characteristics shifted at the end of the study to more closely resemble the team average.

False:

The evidence presented here shows that while certain personality and cognitive characteristics are more favourable for effective work in a remote setting, engaging in remote work itself may help to develop these favourable characteristics. This means that favourable remote working skills are not necessarily inherent but can be learnt by individuals.

The more you work remotely, the more satisfied you are with your job

Evidence for:

Generally, much academic evidence supports the idea that working remotely leads to more job satisfaction42. Furthermore, some studies even found this effect to be more prominent for women than for men83, because it allows women to dedicate more time to caring responsibilities at home84.

Importantly, now that many employees have had the chance to experience working from home following the COVID-19 pandemic, a professional study conducted by OWL Labs in collaboration with Global Workplace Analytics found that 77% of over 2,000 US respondents stated that having the ability to work from home following the pandemic would make them happier3. In fact, 1 in 2 respondents claimed that they will not return to a job that does not offer the option to work remotely.

Evidence against:

Of course having the option to work remotely, and actually doing so all of the time are not the same things, and some academics caution about making sweeping generalisations about the benefits of remote work for job satisfaction. One study found that job satisfaction increases as remote working time increases but only up to about 15 hours per week - after which job satisfaction may decline51. More recent professional research supports these findings, with Gallup research demonstrating that those who work remotely 60-80% of the time have higher well-being than those who work in one place all of the time14. Other studies suggest that other factors may play a role in explaining whether remote working leads to more job satisfaction or not - such as, good relationships with co-workers85, 86, 87, compatible co-workers88, the level of autonomy a remote worker has over their work44, 89, etc.

False:

Overall, this evidence suggests that more hours spent working remotely does not necessarily lead to more job satisfaction as remote employees were more satisfied when working remotely only some of the time. Working remotely all the time may actually reduce job satisfaction. Also, studies have shown that it’s not necessarily working remotely that explains job satisfaction but the mediating factors in between, such as relationships with colleagues and work autonomy.

That being said, however, a large number of employees do want to continue working from home at least some of the time, and believe that this would make them happier, and more satisfied with their jobs.

Working from home decreases work-life conflict

Evidence for:

Previous research under normal circumstances (read: not during a pandemic) when employees had a choice about the amount of time they could work remotely, shows that work-family conflict decreased as the extent of remote working increased51. The same study also found that those employees with lowest work-family conflict had the highest job satisfaction. Recent research conducted during COVID-19 supports these findings to an extent: work-family conflict decreased for those with no children, or those with teenage children90.

Evidence against:

However, the same study found that those with children under 12 did not experience any decreases in work-family conflict. Another study in 2020 also found that working from home meant that there were more interruptions from family which could have a negative impact on work effectiveness, especially in places where schools were closed1. Furthermore, the same study found that work could invade employees’ home lives, and lead to more emotional exhaustion. This effect could possibly be explained by the fact that lockdown policies during the pandemic meant employees were stuck in their house, possibly unable to switch off from work and feeling like they live at their workplace.

False:

Overall, the evidence suggests that remote working can decrease work-family conflict, but this is dependent on the context such as pandemics, age of youngest child, and perhaps caring responsibilities.

We are still looking for more scientific and professional evidence on this. Do you know any studies on this topic? We’d love it if you could share them with us!

Working remotely means that you can spend more time with your family

Evidence for:

Academic research has found that more extensive remote working was related to higher drops in work-family conflict51. The reasons behind this could be more flexibility to align work and home demands91, 92, and the ability for more affective communication exchanges between family members face-to-face93. In fact, working remotely was more beneficial for women as they can devote more time to family responsibilities84. But working remotely also allowed men to connect more with the emotional components of family life which are typically associated with women94. Another important point to mention is that working from home during COVID-19 saved US employees an average of 40 minutes per day on commuting3. This is time that remote employees could use to spend more time with family instead. In fact, 70% of 2,000 US respondents stated that they want to work remotely because they can spend more time with family or have a better work life balance3.

Evidence against:

On the other hand, working remotely can lead to overworking by employees11, which could potentially lead to increases in work-family conflict (although the relationship between remote work, overworking, and work-family conflict has yet to be tested empirically). Also, the unique context of working remotely in a pandemic may increase work-family conflict as family members staying home may cause unnecessary distractions for the remote employee (i.e., young children).

Inconclusive:

While early research points to the fact that working remotely leads to less family conflict, more research is needed on the unique context that remote employees find themselves when they have to reconcile their work and caring responsibilities simultaneously.

Remote work reinforces outdated gender roles

Evidence for:

Qualitative research shows that women who were working remotely experienced lower restoration from work compared to women who did not work remotely95. Other academics have suggested that this may suggest that remote working reinforces outdated gender roles, as women working from home may also end up spending more time on domestic chores42, 96.

Evidence against:

For men, on the other hand, working remotely meant that they could engage more emotionally with their parental role94.

Inconclusive:

It is still unclear whether remote work serves to reinforce or diminish practices associated with outdated gender roles, since the evidence on this topic has, to date, been primarily qualitative with small sample sizes. Therefore, more research is needed on this topic.

We are still looking for more scientific and professional evidence on this. Do you know any studies on this topic? We’d love it if you could share them with us!