Robert and Amy are siblings, born only about a year apart. They also proudly admit that they are best friends. This surprises many, given that Robert is such a pessimist and Amy is the quintessential optimist. It is perhaps these characteristics that add the balance to their relationship, reminding Robert that the cup is (at least) half-full, and Amy that she needs a backup plan for when things don’t always work out for the best.
Their recent discussion over lunch about the current state of working from home typifies their opposing views. Amy had heard of a plan for their company to start offering a remote-work perk. For Robert, this was an insidious plan by upper management to achieve more work hours; employees would start work from home at the time they typically started their commute, and log out at the time they typically arrived home. Robert based this theory on a combination of gut feel and keen observation. However, Amy had the facts:
“Most people did not convert their commuting hours into working hours. Studies also show that those who did work longer were not much more productive, losing their effectiveness after working 8 hours,” she offered.
“So, what did they do with this ‘found time?’” Robert wanted to know.
For emphasis, Amy first responded with an exaggerated stretch and yawn and then replied, “Sleep.”
Recent studies evaluating what became of the work environment during and now post-COVID identified over 60 million hours repurposed by Americans not commuting. Overall full-time workers spent less time working during those months. Younger workers were more apt to use some of the time socializing and doing leisure activities, and older workers spent more time on domestic chores and taking care of children, all age levels reported having spent more time sleeping than before the pandemic.
“Ah, so that’s why so many people are resisting going back to the office or looking for a hybrid approach,” Robert asserted.
- Only about 15% of employees are working remotely and had previously been at the workplace full-time.
- Those with hybrid schedules are about 30% of the former full-time onsite workforce.
“Of course, ‘hybrid’ could mean as little as one day a week of remote work or one day a week at the work site,” Amy concluded.
While Robert was finding these study results to be counterintuitive, he wanted to know next what this meant for companies’ staffing efforts, especially in tight labor markets.
“Oh, this certainly confirms what staffing recruiters have been counseling HR managers all along: the more you customize job work location requirements to meet employee needs, the more attractive are your job openings, the happier your staff is and the less likely you’ll have staff turnover that creates those openings,” Amy explained.
“Wait a minute,” Robert jumped in. “It’s great that companies can offer employees more time to sleep, to be with their families, to exercise, or to party, but in the end, these companies have businesses to run and clients to serve. Offering employees work condition options may lead to happy and more committed staff, but not necessarily to happier customers or profits. Amy, there needs to be a balance.”
Amy paused, a little embarrassed that she had missed that angle in their debate. She was also thinking of her meeting the next day with the recruiter from Abel Personnel, who had asked her to consider the balance of needs that would be involved in identifying flexible work location arrangements for an IT opening the recruiter was about to undertake to fill for Amy’s company. Amy had been thinking about employee work-life balance, which the research she had just cited had addressed. Finding a balance between staff and company needs, and by extension, staff and customer needs, was a much more complex issue. Amy was grateful that she had a skilled staffing recruiter to guide her in finalizing those position requirements.
As their lunch concluded, Robert and Amy agreed the fact that American workers were now sleeping more had significant positive health implications for a workforce notoriously and chronically sleep-deprived. Even for workers who were back onsite full-time, perhaps the habit of sleeping more and spending more leisure time will continue past the health crisis. Companies will also realize that expecting employees to work more than 40 hours per week was not achieving greater productivity. Giving them more time away from work, even just to sleep, would have both morale and productivity benefits.
Sourced from Bloomberg, “Americans Reclaim 60 Million Commuting Hours in Remote-Work Perk,” Jo Constanz, October 18, 2022.