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Remote working during the pandemic appeared to have benefited executives more while many employees expressed discontent about their work-life balance, according to a survey conducted by Economist Impact.

Only 25% of employees said they felt a positive impact to their productivity levels as they worked from home during the first 18 months of the pandemic. Less than a third of employees said they were able to maintain a good work-life balance during this period. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum, 60% of business leaders said they felt positive about working remotely and had a good work-life balance. 

The survey was conducted between August and October 2021 about the impact of remote working on the personal and professional lives of employees and executives and was produced with the support of WeWork  (WE) - Get WeWork Inc. Class A Report. The questionnaire surveyed people from 10 cities in Australia, U.K., U.S., Germany, France and Singapore across various industries. The survey considered business leaders to be at the C-suite or director level and employees to be at the manager level or below.

Business leaders found that having the option to work remotely was an important factor for their work-life balance. Employees said that working in the office established boundaries between their jobs and personal lives.

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"At the beginning of the pandemic, when a huge number of the global workforce were forced to work from home, employees in less senior roles really suffered both in terms of their work-life balance and their productivity," said Jonathan Birdwell, Regional Head (EMEA), Policy & Insights at Economist Impact. "Business leaders, on the other hand, seemed to benefit: they reported better work-life balance and increased productivity." 

The discrepancy could be attributed partly to less flexibility for employees and to the fact that employees did not have as much access to remote working equipment, he said.

Hybrid working arrangements were the preferred option for both employees and executives. The survey showed that 81% of employees and 77% of business leaders who have flexible options on the number of days that are spent in the office believe their companies have found a good balance between work and personal hours. 

Employees who either have to work in the office full-time or fully remotely reported less satisfaction - only 54% of employees and 48% of business leaders are content with the workplace strategy.

The Economist Impact works with corporations, foundations, NGOs and governments conducts policy research and insights and is part of The Economist Group, which drives progress on the world's biggest issues with world-class policy research and global media amplification.