Satisfaction with working from home is distinct from job satisfaction, new study shows

Research at the Universities of Leicester and East Anglia reveals that influences on the job satisfaction of homeworkers are no different from those normally associated with it; but influences on their satisfaction with homeworking are distinct from these. 

Led by Professor Stephen Wood at the University of Leicester, the research shows that having job discretion and supportive relationships at work are key to homeworkers’ satisfaction with their jobs, just as they normally are. Satisfaction with working at home, however, is more determined by factors that make for dissatisfaction, feeling lonely, not having an adequate working environment and family and non-work obligations interfering with work. 

People who are not lonely, have a good working environment in the home and have minimal interference when working at home are likely to be highly satisfied with their jobs. Indeed, the level of homeworking satisfaction was high with 76% of people saying they were either satisfied or very satisfied with working at home at the beginning of the study, rising to 81% in Autumn 2020

While homeworking satisfaction and job satisfaction are determined by different factors, the homeworking satisfaction adds to factors affecting job satisfaction. Employees who have high levels of job discretion, social support and satisfaction with working at home will be the happiest in their jobs when working at home. 

The research was conducted through different surveys in Spring and Autumn 2020, when the country was in lockdown, and involved 753 university employees of all occupations, academics and non-academics. 

The average job satisfaction level was identical in both periods but homeworking satisfaction increased slightly as people learnt how to manage it and perhaps made adjustments to their work space, internet provision or work schedules. 

The research helps to explain the heightened desire amongst professional workers to work at home. The positive experience of homeworking that many workers had in the lockdown fuelled an appetite in particular for hybrid working, whereby people work some of the week at home and some onsite. Hybrid working is a way of reducing the effects of potential downsides of homeworking, loneliness, family–work interference and not being readily able to do certain tasks.  

The implications of the research for employers is that organisations designing homeworking arrangements should pay special attention to mitigating the downsides of homeworking. Organisation policies need to consider carefully what can and cannot be done at home and to redesign jobs and working arrangements in order to prevent isolation of employees and increase the integration of staff into the organisation and their sense of community and belonging. This could be part of more general drive to increase employee involvement and act as a catalyst for rethinking organizational practices and norms more generally.

Professor Stephen Wood of the University of Leicester School of Business said: “The rise of hybrid working is the ideal compromise which enables people to manage the conflicts between the positive and negative sides of homeworking. It is not straightforwardly a matter of homeworking being the best of both worlds, or that people had pre-existing preferences toward homeworking or see it as inherently more effective. “

Co-author Dr George Michaelides, of UEA’s Norwich Business School, added: “As more organizations adopt hybrid working, it becomes important to appreciate the different factors that shape employees’ satisfaction with their job and working from home. Our findings can help organizations to design policies to support their employees and boost their satisfaction in what is likely to be a new normal.”

Professor Stephen Wood spoke at a Webinar on the Appeal of Hybrid Working as part of the University of Leicester’s events for the ESRC Festival of Social Science in October, along with Alice Arkwright of the TUC, Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development CIPD and Lotte Bailyn, Emeritus Professor Massachusetts Institute of Technology. A recording of this is available on Youtube.