Across Europe, working from home became increasingly common during the coronavirus crisis: majorities of employed and self-employed respondents in Spain (53%), Italy (62%), and France (50%) say they have been working from home during the pandemic.
The high rates of working from home observed during the pandemic were largely a new phenomenon: in Spain, France, and Italy, the vast majority (81-85%) of those who have been working from home during the pandemic did not work from home prior to the pandemic. For most people, the ‘work from home’ arrangement imposed by the pandemic has been a novel experience, bringing with it challenges as well as advantages.
Of those who have been working from home, the plurality in Spain (45%), Italy (42%) and a majority in France (53%) believe they have been more productive than in their usual workplace. In Spain and France, less than a fifth (18% and 15% respectively) found that they were less productive working when from home as compared to their office or usual place of work. In Italy, approximately a quarter (26%) found they were less productive at home than in their usual workplace location.
Advocates for remote working have long suggested that the lack of commute and greater flexibility provided by remote working help employees maintain a good work-life balance without sacrificing productivity, an argument which appears to be confirmed by what employed and self-employed respondents in these European countries are reporting. Increased productivity (and other benefits that come from working from home) are encouraging a large proportion of Europeans to wish to continue with their current arrangements.
Majorities of those who have been working from home in Spain (60%), France (53%), and Italy (59%) intend to continue working from home even after the pandemic ends, whether fully or partly. A balance between working partly at home and partly in a normal workspace is the most popular potential working option among respondents. However, a significant minority (27-33%) do not intend to continue working from home, perhaps due to the nature of their work or the lack of social interaction with colleagues that inevitably comes from remote working.
Regardless of workers’ feelings towards future work-from-home arrangements, the majority of those who typically work in an office but have been working from home during the pandemic have now been asked to return to their workplace by their employer. In France, 84% of this subgroup have been asked to return to the workplace, while 69% of Italian and 64% of Spanish respondents who fall into this category have also been asked to return to their usual workplace.
Of those who have been asked to return to the workplace, only a small minority in each country have continued to work fully from home (10% in Spain, 3% in France, and 6% in Italy). While most respondents who have been asked to return to their usual workplace have done so, only some of them have returned on a full-time in-person basis, with an equal proportion now splitting their time between home and the office.
Many employers had introduced ‘work from home’ days in recent years, but the pandemic necessitated full time home working for many organisations, including those which had never previously allowed their employees to work from home. The majority of continental European workers echo the sentiments of British workers in that they also wish to continue working from home in some capacity in the future. Many believe that working from home has kept them just as productive, if not more so, than working in their usual workplace.
Working from home in some form may be here to stay, but employees are opting for a hybrid model that provides them with a workplace while allowing for the flexibility of remote working. European employees, like their British counterparts, want the best of both worlds.