Prefer working remotely to a day at the office? You're not alone.
A study commissioned by technology solutions provider Softchoice reveals that 62% of employees say they are more productive working outside the office. Moreover, 70% would leave their jobs for an environment that offers more flexibility, including the ability to work remotely more often.
"We found most people really value the freedom to customize their workday -- to be able to run an errand, schedule an appointment, or pick up their kids from school, and catch up on work when it suits them. Organizations that enable that kind of flexibility have become highly desirable places to work," said Softchoice president and CEO David MacDonald in a report on the study, which is titled Death of the Desk Job.
Researchers surveyed 1,700 North American full-time employees about their work preferences and the role of technology in their professional lives. More than half of respondents reported that they have more choice over where and when they work compared to two-to-three years ago.
Researchers found that 78% of employees value the ability to access work remotely, and 86% value having flexible hours -- neither of which means people are working less. The vast majority of workers (86%) access files remotely at least once a week via email, cloud apps and remote desktops. Moreover, 57% work remotely on personal or sick days, and 44% worked on their last vacation.
"There just aren't as many boundaries," said Andrew Challenger, vice president of Chicago-based outplacement consultancy firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. "There really isn't this work life and home life idea that we used to have 20 years ago. It all blends together a lot more these days."
As to what has enabled this shift, the answer is technology -- especially when companies give their employees a device.
Some 59% of survey respondents said they are given a device for work, with the most common gadgets doled out being laptops (83%) and mobile phones (44%) as well as, to a lesser extent, tablets (21%) and wearables (1.5%).
And whether or not employees receive devices has a major impact on their attitudes toward work.
Of those with work devices, 55% believe they are given the tools necessary to be productive at work, 45% say they have an optimal work-life balance, and 51% say they are happy with their jobs. Of those without, just 36% think they have the tools needed, 27% report a solid work-life balance, and 31% are happy with their employment.
In other words, it appears employees with company-provided devices are generally more satisfied at work, even if that means they are working more. According to the Softchoice study, 39% of device-holding workers say they are expected to work after hours, compared to 8% of those sans gadget.
"You're expected to answer emails at 9:30 at night when they come in, and it's the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning. Employers are certainly becoming aware of that," Challenger said. Now, he added, they are becoming more tolerant of employees conducting personal business during the work day.
Research from enterprise management solutions provider Workfront corroborates many of Softchoice's discoveries that employees think work-life balance is improved by more flexible work schedules and remote work, both of which are boosted by technology.
At the same time, it identifies what workers believe most negatively impacts their work-life balance, which by and large is enabled by technology as well.
Over half of employees think technology has ruined the modern family dinner because employers and clients expect near-immediate responses to communications and blame bad bosses (whose behavior may be made inescapable through technology) for their at-work troubles. About one-fifth also note non-stop emails and employer-issued devices as especially problematic.
It is also worth noting that attitudes toward work-life balance, technology and remote work vary internationally. A 2014 global study from Dell and Intel found significant differences in thinking country-to-country.
For example, globally, 52% of employees surveyed for the study said they believe those working for home are just as or more productive than those in the office. However, 41% of employees in Turkey, India, China and United Arab Emirates think working from home means less productivity, while just 17% of employees are of that opinion in Brazil.
Workers in emerging markets are more likely to be optimistic about technology's implications in their work and lives. Those in more developed markets, such as the U.S., U.K., Japan and France, are more skeptical of the increasing role of innovation and prefer work maintain a human touch.
Many companies still prefer the human factor as well. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer famously caused quite a stir when she brought an end to the tech firm's work-from-home policy. And according to Challenger, she isn't the only executive who recognizes the value of bringing people together.
"These huge companies spend millions and millions of dollars building these offices that are like the Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory of offices," he said. "They know there's some intangible thing that happens when you get people together."